Xseed has a diverse slate of projects ranging from a PlayStation Network dungeon crawler to an ambitious Nintendo DS game from CyberConnect2. In this interview, Ken Berry, Director of Publishing at Xseed, talks about the publisher’s plans for Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, their relationship with Falcom, and why they brought Wizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls overseas.
How did Xseed pick up Solatorobo? I know you have a long running relationship with Namco Bandai, but isn’t Nintendo of Europe tied into the localization?
Ken Berry, Director of Publishing: Well, that’s sort of where the discussion started. We have been keeping an eye on this title for awhile. Thankfully, due to our good relationship with Namco Bandai, having done Fragile Dreams and Sky Crawlers with them before, we have an open channel of communication.
We were weighing before whether to do this title or not and once we found out Nintendo of Europe was already localizing this into English it made our decision much easier. This is a title the developer, CyberConnect2, are super passionate about and they really wanted to see it released in the U.S. and they worked with us to make it happen.
It’s great to see Xseed bring Solatorobo stateside, I know this announcement is going to make a lot of Siliconera readers happy who have been asking about the title for months. However, from a retail side, less and less shelf space is being allocated for regular DS games. Are you worried?
We’re definitely worried and that’s one of the things we discussed with Namco. We had to make sure that their expectations are inline with the realities of the market now. I think both of us, meaning Xseed and Namco, are going into this project hopeful because its such a great title, but we’re also realistic about the type of sales we may see due to overall environment of the DS market right now.
Did working on Solatorobo open channels of communication with Nintendo of Europe?
No, actually. Everything, all of our communication, is done directly with Namco Bandai of Japan. Yeah, we’ve never licensed a title from Nintendo before, so I would think the prospects of that happening would be very slim.
Wizardry: Labyrinth of the Lost Souls was another surprise. Why did you think now was the right time to release a first person perspective, text-heavy, dungeon crawler?
I guess you can say there have been various Wizardry games that were only released in Japan before. I think this is the first one to come out in the U.S. from Japan in about ten years, from what I’m hearing. The timing seemed right with digital downloads being as prevalent as they are now, being able to offer it to the people who want it without having to worry about retailer pushback on an overlooked game that has to live up to the standards as their other boxed products. We knew as a packaged product it’d be tough. But, with so many people on PSN, so many members, we knew the people that really wanted to pick up Wizardry would.
Did the PSN outage derail your plans for Wizardry?
A little bit. It was scheduled to launch during the outage and we were going to announced the exact release date and pricing beforehand. Once the outage started, nobody really knew when the [PlayStation] Store would come back online and if the product that was scheduled for certain days would be staggered or if everything would be launched together at once, as soon as the store came back online. It did sort of surprise us a bit that as soon as the store came back online Wizardry was live.
Sony, they’ve been a great partner, and we knew they were working hard to get the store back online. So, we just went with the flow. As soon as we heard it was online, we sort of scrambled to get a release date announcement out. Hopefully, there will be a lot of new people coming back to the [PlayStation] store. and maybe we’ll get some extra exposure that way. It could work out for the best.
We had a last minute E3 meeting and a last minute Wizardry announcement.
[Laughs] Yup. Well in terms of the Wizardry one, we couldn’t really help. In terms of the last minute announcement [Solatorobo], that more has to do with us not really having a consistent flow of product coming in.
Of course, all of the other subsidiaries they have products for at least twelve months in advance, most of them provided by their parent company. We don’t get many products from our parent company, AQI [AQ Interactive], so we have to go out there and scramble and look for titles. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have enough titles set up in advance of E3 where we could work out a booth or even a meeting room to show them all. Everything came through very quickly in the end.
It’s true that other companies like Atlus and NIS America can count on key series, but you do have a really good partner now. Xseed is tied with Falcom. They kind of give you a steady stream of products.
Somewhat, yeah. They have been a very good partner of ours. You know, they’ve actually gone in and localized everything themselves, which is new for them. All of their other projects that hit the US before, they’ve always left the programming or the porting to another company and quality did suffer a lot of times. We let them see a new model where they are localizing it to put out the best product possible.
At the same time there is a tradeoff is that if they are too busy working on other products, like they are right now, the flow of games sort of slows. They’re a small company and they are working on so many new products right now they don’t have time to assign a programmer on localization for us. That’s slowed up a little bit, but we think as soon as they finish up with some of their products they are working on now, hopefully we can get back to localizing some of their titles.
Specific to Falcom, many of their games for PSP and it is a difficult market for North America already. With PlayStation Vita on the horizon, I don’t think being a PSP publisher is going to be any easier. Xseed committed to localizing the Trails in the Sky series and there are so many other Falcom games like the following titles also for PSP. How are you going to handle this?
There are definitely a lot of challenges there. We actually went into the project the PSP still had a little bit more life in it than it does now. We’ve been experiencing some technical issues where the second chapter of Trails in the Sky – because it was released on two UMDs and because of the amount of time it takes to localize such a huge title like that, that the UMD format may not be available when it is ready to publish.
By that same token it’s so large and taking up two UMDs, Falcom is having some problem putting it on the PSN Store for digital download, as well. Those are some of the issues we’re working on and yes as you mentioned there are other titles after Trails in the Sky and those games are absolutely massive games too. We really need to just think about that some more and figure out how we can just translate so much text.
Have you thought about other options like the PSP remaster series, so the Falcom games would get more of a fair chance in retail?
Absolutely. You have to keep in mind that Falcom originally started on PC so they are PC experts. We’ve talked to them numerous times about looking at Steam and numerous platforms. That is something Falcom is open to. Hopefully, if their resources open up we can have more serious discussions about – maybe this franchise won’t be able to recoup the investment on this platform, but if we can spread that out on a couple platforms maybe that would be a safer bet for both of us.
Read part two where we discuss the Marvelous/AQ Interactive merger and Xseed’s plans further into the future here.