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EA Takes Japan: An Interview With Rex Ishibashi
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EA Takes Japan: An Interview With Rex Ishibashi


October 16, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5
 

People in the West are well aware that Japan has its own pop culture, but I don't think until you come here, you really experience how vibrant and pervasive it is. Everyone knows, "Oh yeah, people in Japan watch our sitcoms, or our movies, or whatever." But you come here and you see just a wide, wide variety of domestic content, and you realize...

RI: It's something that the head of our EA Sports label, Peter Moore said -- who used to work with Sega, used to work with Microsoft, of course, has done plenty of business in Japan. It's so true. The good and bad about Japan is: when the Japanese move to the other side of the boat, they all move to the other side of the boat.

So what's incredibly interesting to me, and to your point about vibrancy, is the reinvention that Japan continues to go through. The fashion that, literally, I was seeing at the beginning of the year -- and again, seasons aside -- the fashion that I was seeing at the beginning of the year is no longer relevant.

The long lines that I was seeing outside of H&M, for example, as young girls and boys in Tokyo were learning about H&M, and the coolness of the fashion, those lines are gone, and those lines are all in front of Forever 21 now. And so, it's amazingly vibrant, and reinvents itself; it's not afraid to change.

I was running into a few of the EPs, and I didn't know their experience in Japan, and they said, "Oh, yeah, I was here three years ago, and I kind of understand what goes on at Akihabara, and what to expect at Shinjuku," and I'd say, "No you don't." I mean, it'll look familiar, but at the same time, fundamentally, it has changed dramatically.

No different from the fact that, calendar year to date, the Japanese games industry is 70% handheld. You know, when I say that, people at EA say, "But that wasn't true two years ago," and it's... Of course not!

So, to your point: pop culture, just the overall attitude of the Japanese, is one of newness, freshness, willingness to change. No problem with throwing those old pair of jeans away and buying a new pair that I feel I should be wearing.

And I think, from a content perspective -- save for of course the great loyalty of franchises like Dragon Quest; frankly, Need for Speed has done very well here; our belief that we have all the pieces in place to get FIFA back on its feet here, relative to Winning 11 -- the Japanese are willing to change, and we need to know that, from both taking advantage of it, as well as making sure that we're developing the best games on franchises that have historically done well here in Japan.

Speaking of the fact that 70% of the market is handheld based: is that a strong focus for you? Obviously the first title you've announced under is, but...

RI: Yeah. It is. You know, we're realizing, too, that there's a lot of attention, and a lot of debrief and education that I provide in some of the market information to the executives at Electronic Arts worldwide.

As I like to say, "gaming on the go" -- the combination of mobile, and the fact that there's 135 million people in Japan, and 115 internet enabled handsets. The fact that there's 45 million DSes; so basically a third of the population has a DS. The fact that there's 16 million plus PSPs here -- relative to home console, which is: 10 million Wii, 4 million PS3, and 1 million Xboxes.

Is gaming on the go a trend that we're going to continue seeing spread to the West, and how deep will it really go here in Japan? I know, culturally, why gaming on the go is popular here: long train rides to work, long train rides to school, public transport is very efficient and reliable, the internet-enabled subway stations.

It's market trends that I think EA has to react to -- to be successful in the marketplace, but also that EA is monitoring closely as potential harbingers of what the rest of the world might start doing.

I don't know if you can speak to this, but obviously the PlayStation brand has always been very, very strong in Japan. There has been a downswing on the PS2, but not yet a reuptake to the PS3. But it's been strong, and it's hard to say how much of that was based on the fact of content, pricing, and availability and stuff like that, and how much of that was actually just a cultural shift away from TV gaming.

RI: I think it's a combination of factors. I think the most complicated is time and place. History doesn't necessarily repeat itself here in Japan, because, again, the mentality, the willingness to change, the willingness to adopt new ways of playing games -- handheld versus home, for example, you know, might be much more active than we're seeing in the rest of the world.

If you look at overall interactive entertainment revenues in Japan, including mobile, including online, the industry is growing. So, PS2 certainly got up to, I believe, what, 22, 25 million? Something like that, here in Japan. Relative to the 4 million or so [for PS3], based on Famitsu data. So, there's some catching up to do.

Price has a lot to do with it. There's just a number of factors that have to be considered. It's a very long conversation around Blu-ray; it's a very long conversation around DVD players, which the PS2 was, of course. There's a number of factors, I think, that play into the dynamism of the Japanese industry, and why we're not seeing 25 million PS3s in this marketplace right now.


Article Start Previous Page 5 of 5

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