Our interview with Tose last year was one of the first times the company was exposed to the West, which isn’t surprising considering their M.O. is still ‘stealth’ development in which the publisher takes the credit. Recently the company’s name has been featured on more box covers, especially in the West, with games like The Nightmare Before Christmas for GBA – or directly in the credits, as in Square-Enix’s Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime.
The company is still shrouded in relative mystery, but at GDC 2007, Gamasutra got its second chance for an exclusive interview with the company. Herein, we discussed the changing face of Tose and its business tactics, though the changes are slight, as well as increased exposure in the west, the benefits of next-gen for the company, and the company’s first-ever game, back when Tose’s founder was only 23.
Representing a large slice of Tose’s development, we spoke with Masa Agarida, vice president of Tose Software USA, Koichi Sawada, director of China Sales (also for Tose Software USA), and Tose Software Shanghai president and director Shigeru Chigusa.
Gamasutra: It's been one year since we last met, when you were trying to up your profile in the United States. How has that been going?
Masa Agarida: It's pretty good. We’ve added Koichi for helping our China business. He's doing very good, but I think you should ask him about it. Shigeru is actually handling Koichi's business. But he's doing very good, so we're doing well.
Koichi Sawada: We've been expanding our contacts in the United States the outsourcing side of business. We've been talking to lots and lots of companies, and we've started some outsourcing work with some publishers. We have lots of pending discussions going on.
MA: In addition to the outsourcing, we're currently working on a big DS title for a big company in the Bay Area.
GS: And has anything changed in terms of how Tose is presenting itself in the U.S., in terms of still being behind the scenes?
KS: We're trying to still stay behind the scenes, but your article was very helpful. You kept our policy straight, but we've had more exposure, and now lots of people recognize the name Tose. It's getting easier for us when we start conversations.
MA: The funny thing for me is when 1UP.com mentioned our name on their website, lots of people contacted me through e-mail. I asked them how they got to know us, and they said 1UP.com and Gamasutra. That is good for us, but I told this to our Japan side, and they said, "You don't have to mention our name on your websites. We ask you to keep behind the scenes."
GS: So is it sort of a different policy in Japan and China, or are you all trying to follow the same company line?
KS: It's the same, trying to stay behind the scenes. But you know, we have to make potential customers, developers, and publishers aware of the name Tose. It's hard, because we can't mention our portfolios and stuff, but your article was actually very helpful. So whenever we make presentations, we mention the article at Gamasutra and tell our audience to read it. They have a very good understanding of the company from that.
GS: I've seen your name a lot more on some U.S. products, and that's pretty different from how things were in Japan previously. Is that part of getting your name out a little more?
KS: Really? Like with Avatar, the THQ title?
GS: I've seen your name credited to The Nightmare Before Christmas, with Buena Vista for GBA. The name's right there on the back.
KS: Oh, I didn't know that.
MA: Actually, I have tried to expose us more in the U.S. than in Japan, but right now, everybody's getting to know us more than before. Right now I'm thinking of going back behind the scenes again.
GS: So you may start taking your name off of boxes again?
GS: When you did have the name on the box, were you also including employee credits in a staff roll?
MA: It depends on the project. If some company asks us to mention all the names, we will.
GS: How has the breakdown of outsourcing gone since last year? Previously it was something like 70% Japan, 20% or so to China, and then everything else went to the U.S. Has this changed?
Shigeru Chigusa: It's changed a bit for China, at least. I think we have more North American or Western customers as well, maybe a five to ten percent increase.