The Draw Of Osaka Through The Eyes Of A Game Developer

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Localization firm, Active Gaming Media, are based in the city of Osaka in Japan’s Kansai region. Home to developers such as Capcom and Square Enix’s Osaka division — who you might know as the developers of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep — Osaka has been playing an increasingly important role in the games coming out of Japan, with various developers in the city having had a hand in some of the most interesting products of late.


Prior to setting up base in Osaka, Active Gaming Media were based in Tokyo until 2008. We asked localization manager, Justin Potts, what the appeal was in Osaka, away from Japan’s capital,
which is the centre of several businesses.


“From what I understand, I believe it was primarily a lifestyle choice of [company president] Ibai’s,” Potts told us. “Tokyo is a great place to do business, but it isn’t necessarily a great place to ‘live’ — not for everyone, at least, and having a family certainly plays a role in influencing these kinds of decisions.” 


“Those who visit on vacation tend to find the city to be pretty fascinating, overwhelming in a somewhat awe-inducing way,” Potts said of Japan’s capital, “ but the day-to-day grind can be a different experience. Having previously moved down from Tokyo to take a job at AGM myself, while there’s a lot to love about Tokyo, the Kansai region can definitely be more conducive to a somewhat more balanced lifestyle.”


“Osaka itself is a fine city, a reasonably good-sized business centre,” Potts feels, “but it’s having Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, the Wakayama coastline, and other distinct regions within a quick 30-40 minute train ride — about half the time of most peoples’ daily commutes in Tokyo — that’s the real appeal, I think.”


Game development talent is abundant in the Kansai region as well. Aside from more recognizable developers like Capcom, Kansai is where some of the interesting up and coming Japanese developers are based.


“In the Kansai region, you have the newly established GIPWest1, with companies like Hexadrive (The 3rd Birthday, RezHD), Access Games (Deadly Premonition), Q Games (Pixel Junk series), and System Prisma (ClaDun, Dot Defense) who are making really great games and are in a position to do some new and interesting things,” Potts offered as examples. “These are the kinds of groups and developers where I hope to see a lot of exciting change coming from in the near future.”

1. GIPWest is a voluntary association of game developers based in the Kansai region. All of the companies mentioned by Potts above (and more) are part of this group.


Another region to keep an eye on is Fukuoka, the capital city of the Fukuoka Prefecture, Potts believes. “GFF (Game Factory’s Friendship), a collection of developers in Fukuoka including Level-5, CyberConnect2, and others, has been incredibly proactive,with many of the region’s studios seeing a great deal of success across different platforms working on games of varying scale,” he told us.


Potts specifically pointed out Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm and Ashura’s Wrath developer, CyberConnect2, as an example of Fukuoka’s talent: “If you’ve ever had the opportunity to hear [Hiroshi] Matsuyama-san (head of CyberConnect2) speak or present, you’ve gotten a taste as to the kind of energy that’s driving the region.”

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Image of Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.