Back at Tokyo Game Show, Konami producer Tak Fujii and I had a casual conversation about bringing Japanese games overseas. The first part where we discussed licensing deals and localization is here. Our conversation continues with Fujii’s views on how to compete with a certain top selling FPS franchise.
When you think of strategy what are your plans for the West aside from more Metal Gear Solid? Are you looking at more licensing opportunities?
Tak Fujii, Producer: The Western market is getting bigger and bigger. On the other hand, the Japanese market for console games is shrinking. The SNS and mobile games are expanding right now. For the console business, we just cannot ignore the Western market. That’s why I’m here! [Laughs.]
We are always looking for new franchises. And it’s just begun, it’s been one or two years since we started this business for licensing deals like with Ninety-Nine Nights and No More Heroes. It’s still new a very new experience for us. We are still evaluating what is good and what is bad. What was a success or failure from the E3 conference and other events like that.
Since you’re working on a 3DS game how do you feel about the system?
It’s exciting new tech and hardware with glasses-free 3D. Everyone is talking about 3D here and the West, as well. It’s a good innovation and an improvement for the game business. We can design new kinds of games on it. Unfortunately, the market is not doing really well right now. Hopefully, they will get through it and we can make a another interesting game with 3D later on.
Wait another one?
Yeah, Frogger 3D. [Laughs] Another one? I can’t say anything about that yet. You’ll see. You’ll see.
GREE seems to be dominating the mobile market. I mean, they have one of the biggest booths at Tokyo Game Show.
Nowadays what is a game? Especially with SNS. Those are games too, but it’s not a console game. It’s derived from experience. It’s light and all of the people play those kinds of game while at the train station or waiting for friends. It’s quick to open and quick to close.
Unfortunately, you can’t play games while driving a car in California. Google made automatic driving technology. You know, they tested it already. Who knows, in five years later you may not have to drive anywhere and can just play games in the car. Who knows!
Five years later, we’ll have GREE dominating then?
Well, maybe then you’ll have big needles you put into your brain and then… [says in a joking voice] "Yes, I’m in the game! It’s a totally new experience and I can feel it! I can touch and smell!" It’s just electric signals, after all.
Yeah, ion channels and impulses. I have to ask because this because my readers…
[In a joking voice] No, you can’t! [Laughs]
… some of them are fans of the Hudson IPs. What are you doing with them? Like Bonk [Brink of Extinction] is done, but got bonked off the release schedule.
Hudson is part of our company now and they have a big advantage with us as a partner. We are under discussion on what we can do with their IP and what we can do with our IP under their development. We love their IP and they love our IP as well.
Hudson has legacy IPs like Bomberman. Maybe you can do a crossover like Bomberman Solid?
[Laughs.] You don’t need to combine Bomberman because it’s big. Everyone knows it, everyone loves it. We still have the team from Hudson. We have those people working in the development division.
In Tokyo now?
In Tokyo and Sapporo [Hudson’s former headquarters.] We’re trying to bring together the best people, the best teams, and the best concepts. We have so many different product different departments. When you’re working on a basic game design document you don’t need an entire team. Scenario writer, character designer, concept artist, producer – four or five people is enough to get started. When you get into mass production you need a tons of artists and tons of programmers. Before that you don’t need 108 people sitting down at a table saying I like this character or that character. That would be a mess.
When it comes to releasing Japanese games, I think one problem is Japanese games don’t get as much coverage in the West now.
You guys at Siliconera, I know you guys love Japanese games. I was at a big party two days ago and what I heard from them is we love Japanese games in the West, but I don’t like Japanese games being made for the Western market because it’s not a Japanese game anymore. Just keep concentrating on Japanese games for the domestic market and import it. Don’t even think about the Western market. It’s a big turning point right now, like what Capcom does.
Frontier Gate, one of Konami’s upcoming RPG projects for PSP.
Capcom feels pretty much international now, aside from Monster Hunter.
They divided into two development methods like with Dead Rising or with Monster Hunter which is a domestic product. For me, I’m concerned with what direction I should turn to. Should I go straight to the Western market and forget about the Japanese market or somehow mix everything together for the global market? I still don’t know.
I think one hurdle with Japanese games is the "one sentence pitch." If you can’t explain what the core of a game in one sentence, it’s glossed over and with Japanese games there are cultural differences like moe which aren’t ubiquitous.
Again, it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. The people who play that FPS don’t care about Japanese games, oriental stories or oriental books. They just don’t care about it.
That group may be difficult to convince, but I do think a subset of that audience may buy similar games in the genre perhaps even Metal Gear Solid.
I would say used to. It looks like the market is shrinking, right? But the total number of sales are not really shrinking. Metal Gear is still a multi-million selling title. Pro Eleven Soccer is still a multi-million game too. It’s a big number, but compared to the big franchises in the West our numbers are not shrinking. It’s just that people’s interests are expanding and they never play Japanese games or care about them. That’s the market we’re aiming for.
What can we do to get them to buy something other than a FPS? What kind of game is close to a FPS? How can we get shelf space? I’m not talking about shelf space in stores. I mean bookshelf space at home. If they never pay attention to Japanese games, they don’t even know what Konami’s logo is. They love Western publishers, right? If we can make a good Western game planned at Konami they’ll put that game on their shelf. Then they’ll know us. They won’t care where Konami comes from. That’s our goal and we’re a global company now. We all know EA is an American company and Ubi[soft] is a French company, but gamers don’t care about that.
That’s an astute statement and I agree. Before people didn’t care where games come from, it wasn’t a prominent topic and there wasn’t a divide between East or West.
Those FPS franchises are bigger, so the games they play are just shooters and they don’t buy anything else. We at Konami could provide something else they love. What is that product? I don’t know, but I’m trying to create it.