In mid-2000, Kemco the developer behind Shadowgate for NES and a number of titles starring Bugs Bunny, exited the business of making console games. However, they didn’t quit the video game business altogether. They focused on the feature phone market in Japan designing games for feature phones. Why did they focus on JRPGs?
"Feature phones cannot support 3D graphics, so we had to make to make 2D style games," said Masaomi Kurokawa, Manager of the Mobile Business Department. "We have more than 100 JRPGs. We have made a lot of these games with different concepts. There is an audience that supports us and likes JRPGs with fantasy story lines."
Kemco began porting their library of feature phone JRPGs to iOS and Android devices after seeing the iPhone launch in Japan. Because the iPhone eases distribution they decided to focus on localizing games for the Western market after nearly a decade of absence.
"In the case of JRPGs, we know that there is a huge audience outside of Japan," said Matteo Conti from the Mobile Business Department. "Each month we plan to release two titles, one for Android and iOS." Kemco counts the iOS and Android ports as separate games, so their goal is to release twelve games, one per month, in the West. For Kemco, Google Play and selling for Android devices has been better than iOS. Their best selling game is Symphony of the Origin pictured above.
Kemco is also working with Natsume on the PSP game Mystic Chronicles, which is actually a port of the iOS game Fantasy Chronicles. Natsume is redoing the game’s text and I asked Kurokawa how he felt about the translations Kemco has been doing.
"Our company wants to make games profitable and so far the translation budget it very small," Kurokawa explained. "Natsume wanted to revise the text and polish it. That’s good for us and the audience. So far, Kemco doesn’t have this kind of budget and we have so many titles and RPGs have a lot of text. I have to say I’m sorry about that." Kemco said they are working on localization improvements and mentioned that one of their games has a translator that worked on high budget projects, but could not name the writer due to contract reasons.
Twelve JRPGs are coming this year and Kurokawa said not all of them will have the same 16-bit style look Kemco’s games are known for.