That happened at the company I worked at, at the same time.
HM: In my mind I was thinking, "There's got to be something wrong with the people that work here! It's the people that work here that are screwed up! This is messed up... There's got to be something wrong with the staff..."
And so, I would go on meet and greets to other companies in Tokyo, and learn what they do, and just tour their office, meet people, and network with other people in the video game industry. Everyone was doing the exact same thing, everywhere I went. Except for Nintendo. Nintendo was the only one. But everybody else, what are they doing? They're playing Diablo.
My office starts work at nine o'clock in the morning, and so other companies -- other deskwork and video game companies -- often start work at 10 o'clock. That's pretty normal, pretty standard practice. I start at nine. So recently there have been some cries from staff members in my company, you know, "Why don't you change the hours from nine? Nine is early! Change it to 10 o'clock, please!"
And my response is, "Well, I hear Nintendo's hours are from 8:45. Maybe I should set you up with an interview with those guys..." And at that response, everybody just shuts up, and they back off of that -- but that's been a cry that I've heard from my office, and that's my response.
It's not like the discussion that you heard with Hideo Kojima: the sad reality of the video game industry is that everybody is a slacker. Nobody is able to accomplish anything. That's the reality. And I think that that's a wrong reality.
The reality is that people say, "Oh, well, I'm no good, and so it's understandable that what I make is also no good." And so everybody is just complacent at accepting this low quality standard, this bar that has been set because everybody has said, "Oh, well, because everybody is a slacker, clearly nobody is able to accomplish anything. So, it might not be good, but it's understandable that somebody would be able to not accomplish much at work." And that mentality is screwed up.
People need to take the attitude of, "I can." We need to have this attitude of being able to accomplish something; having a positive attitude of, "I'm going to go, and I'm going to do something." They need to change out from this whole attitude of, "I don't care," or, "I can't do anything, because I'm no good, and therefore I don't care." Either mentality, even if it's understandable from the low bar that's been set by the video game industry, is unacceptable.
And so, at the time when CyberConnect2 was founded, that day, I set up rules for my company. Until then, I had been at the very bottom, and so everybody had been calling me "Matsuyama-kun" -- and so I said to everybody, "From now on, you're callin' me shachou." You're calling me "president". Don't anyone ever call me Matsuyama-kun ever again! Furthermore: Office hours start at nine o'clock. They end at six o'clock. No eating candy at your desks!"
I set rules, and I said, "Everybody will abide by these while at work. When you're at work, do work."
Namco Bandai/CyberConnect2's .hack//G.U. vol. 3//Redemption
It seems like some of the other companies that were started up around this time that are being successful -- it's your company, and also in Fukuoka there's [Professor Layton creator] Level-5, and as I understand it they have a similar philosophy to work/life; and there's also [Sands Of Destruction developer] ImageEpoch, which started recently, and they have a similar philosophy, is my understanding. And they've been very quickly pretty successful too. Do you think there's a connection to this philosophy and these companies also being successful?
HM: Just to clarify, so that there is no misunderstanding with the American public, here: Level-5 and ImageEpoch, and CyberConnect2, yes they are successful -- all three, just as you said -- however, their philosophies, and way of operating, are completely different.
They are not similar. They are not the same. My rule is that there's no staying up all night; that doesn't mean that there's no overtime. There is overtime. In fact frequently there is overtime.
[People are coming in] nearly every day. People work really hard, but they go home on the train. They don't stay all night; they do go home at the end of the day. So I don't allow people to stay there all night. They have to be able to get on the train and go home.
But I do work my staff. And I work them hard. When they're doing work, they're working, you know? So there is definitely that rule, that mentality there. When people from Bandai Namco Games visit my office, [they say] my office resembles a military unit from North Korea.
It's not that I'm a slave driver or a militaristic and controlling person, it's just that people are doing what every other company in Japan does, outside of the video game industry. They greet each other. They're polite; they bow. They're basically doing everything that every other Japanese company aside from this industry would do.
If you go to other video game companies in Japan, they don't greet customers, they just act like they don't see them. They don't bow to one another when they greet each other in the day; when the president walks by, they might just do a little thing where they awkwardly look down and shift their focus away.
They don't do what every other company does. So I am simply making sure that people are doing what they're supposed to do, in the framework of a video game company.
Just to be clear: Level-5 and ImageEpoch both have people that stay all night. And there are employees that destroy their health, and even leave because of the fact that they've been worked to the ground. So that is a reality with both companies.
But then the question returns, back to the original question: What is the secret to success that all three companies have shared? Why is it that these three companies are succeeding? And the answer is that each of these three companies, operating in their own respective styles, are doing things that no other game company is doing; they're operating in ways that no other game company is operating.
Each of the three different, distinct in the way they operate, yet different from the other companies in the video game industry -- and that's the key to their success, that they're doing things in a different way than the status quo.