GS: You may not be able to answer this question, but who do you think will come out on top in the next generation, in terms of console?
TM: Yeah, I want to know that too.
GS: Any company you’re hoping for?
TM: In next gen? Not especially.
GS: So back to companies losing all their talent, when I talked to Masaya Matsuura recently [see ‘Parappa’s Papa’ in the August issue of Gamasutra sister publication Game Developer magazine], he said that game companies couldn’t hold on to their talent because a lack of “something.” What do you think that something is? What are they lacking?
TM: It’s really difficult to answer. I don’t know about everyone, but from just my case, I felt like I didn’t have freedom. I was in Sega. At the time, I don’t know now, but at the time, that was a big client for me, and I had a studio called UGA, United Game Artists. And I had seventy people. I had many visions, like to make casual games. Not big stuff, but small games. Not Lumines, but many other ideas. If I made a presentation to Sega executives about this kind of thing, and if they said no, that’s over. That’s it.
But beyond Sega, looking beyond where I was, there were many, many possibilities in the world. Not only game console, but also mobile, and other markets that exist. I wanted to make a new phenomenon, not only traditional games. So I felt this was the limit. But I don’t know what other people were thinking about.
GS: Was it difficult to get funding for your new company? It seems like there are fewer revenue streams for starting new companies in Japan.
TM: I founded Q Entertainment with a few people, on our own. We started very small, with a small number of people. We had no office, and we had meetings at a karaoke box.
KY: I just found out that the Lumines concept was actually started at a karaoke box!
TM: Nobody sang!
KY: They had no money to rent office space, so that’s why.
TM: Yeah, because we can watch visuals, we can make sounds, that’s ok.
KY: They brought demos of Lumines on their laptops, each of them brought their ideas into the Karaoke box and then had music playing in the background, and tried to match the images on their screens to the music.
TM: Anyway, so that was a very slow, small start. I learned a lot from the Sega era. I was the head of UGA, and I didn’t want to manage people, or manage a company. Creativity and management skills were kind of like accelerator and brake pedals. This wasn’t healthy. So I wanted to focus on creativity, so my partner Shuji, is really good. He’s got really good management skill, and business. So I think it’s really good now. I think that within game developers, some people try to manage their company also. That’s really not good.
GS: It seems difficult to do both.
TM: Difficult, very difficult.