The Idolmaster series wasn’t always the shining media franchise that it is today. Like actual idols looking to make it big, Im@s started with a much lower budget and smaller audience. The Idolmaster Executive Producer Yozo Sakagami and Brand & Event Manager Kei Umeki talked about the series’ humble beginnings in a special interview.
The feature is part of Bandai Namco’s Asobi Motto video interview series. It includes Japanese and English subtitles. Check it out below:
Asobi Motto Special The Idolmaster series interview video
The interview took place during the Asobistore Expo on October 16-18, 2020. The creators started by sharing their thoughts about the series’ 15th anniversary. Since The Idolmaster debuted a long time ago, Executive Producer Sakagami expected some people to have forgotten about the series. However, he was pleasantly surprised to see the reception from all of the “Producers” (players) for the anniversary.
According to Producer Sakagami, not many people know that Kei Umeki had worked on the series from the very beginning. While Sakagami handled more work on the console games, Umeki has worked with the brand for 15 years, on both home console and arcade versions, so the two go back quite a bit. When they first started working on the series, funds were low, so the workers were practically volunteers. It required coming up with ideas to make up for what they lacked in funds. The work involved a lot of creativity and taking action on a whim.
When Sakagami was first assigned the role of producer of The Idolmaster on consoles, he almost ran into trouble when he went to the arcades to see what kind of game it was. It was around the time Bandai Namco was doing location tests for arcades. When Sakagami visited a Shinjuku arcade, he was surprised to see a group of high school girls playing The Idolmaster. Since the girls played for two hours, he wanted to speak to them about it and determine why they were playing a game he felt was made for the male audience.
However, when he approached the girls, a group of high school boys showed up, thinking he was trying to do something to the girls. Sakagami cleared up the misunderstanding by explaining that he was there for development research for Namco. After hearing that, the high school students happily answered his questions. As it turned out, the girls only started playing the game because they could sit down to play. On the plus side, Sakagami learned that the girls ended up continuing to play the game because they thought the idols were cute.