Art-Media Innovation: Yudo's iPhone Success, Natal Dreams
November 27, 2009 Page 5 of 5
Windows 7 has multi-touch tablet functionality. You could make a game like this with that. That might be good.
RY: I wrote my first project document at the age of 22, right after I joined Sony; I still have it with me, although it's kind of embarrassing. It was for this really big white tablet with a bunch of big buttons on it; instead of just pressing them, you could sort of grip them and move things around that way, like the nub on a ThinkPad. The project was just for that peripheral, and we thought a bit about the game potential for it, but it didn't go anywhere.
At the time, there was a big boom in PC sales in Japan, but most people just abandoned them in their homes, not using them for anything. PCs were too tough for them to use, and I was really obsessed with making a system where all you needed was a controller and a CD-ROM, and you could immediately play PC games.
The edutainment genre was really popular for a short period of time in Japan, back when "multimedia" was still a buzzword, and within that environment I wanted to do the things I'm finally doing now. So you could say this project's been 13 years in the making before I could finally do it, thanks to the iPhone and to Natal. It's really great.
Do you think Natal will sell in Japan?
RY: The biggest worry I had is that Japanese rooms are pretty small, you know? I asked if that would be an issue, and they assured me that it wouldn't, partly because it's so accurate, like I said earlier. So to deal with the space issue, I'm making our stuff so that it can work mainly by detecting your upper-body and midsection movements; that way you can play it even if you're sitting down or don't have much space to work with.
But the 360 itself doesn't have a big audience in Japan. They only recently just passed a million consoles.
RY: That's why they'll need a lineup of software similar to what made the Wii a sales success -- health aids, party games for the family, that sort of thing. You know Buzz? That's a lot of fun. If Microsoft can get a lineup like that going in first-party and support the other companies along the line too, I don't think support will be a problem.
Every platform has its good and bad points; but I think Microsoft has the power in hand to take a peripheral like this and really make it a multimillion-selling device worldwide. If they can build up a launch for Natal up to the point where it's as important as the 360, not just a peripheral, I think that'll open up a whole new world for them.
First-party games will definitely be vital. That goes back to what you said about leadership.
RY: Absolutely. You can't have people making stupid stuff. You can't have every company out there making the same fitness and casual-sports collections, or else it's all just going to confuse customers. Microsoft needs to step up and work on that. I don't really see why anyone besides EA or the first party should be doing "real" sports games with Natal; the third parties should stick with what they know how to do best. Sega should make Sega-like games, in other words.
When you say "stupid stuff"...
RY: Games with bad control; games that are just like first-party titles but would be declared worse by 99 out of 100 users. That sort of thing.
Sort of like with all the DS brain-training clones.
RY: Right, yeah. The first party needs to get high-quality stuff like that out right away. Things that anyone could enjoy. Meanwhile, third parties can work in the genres they're best at.
You could say it's the first party's responsibility as the leader to spread the word on Natal and establish a base; once they do that, it's our job to keep the torch burning with our own titles. You do need third parties to come up with the more out-there ideas, like maybe mahjong for Natal. I think that could be fun! Lay out the tiles with your hands, like this.
How big is Yudo?
RY: This company has seven or eight people in it right now. When we put up our first synthesizer on the App Store, it sold pretty well -- it was a quality product, after all -- but we also put a lot of work into promoting it.
We went all out with it for about a week, asking for help from assorted friends Nagumo and I have in Japan. We're a tiny, tiny outfit, so everything from marketing to user support to development -- we all do a little bit of everything here.
My title says creative room manager/cross-media department head, but to put it simply, my job is to keep this room looking nice. (laughs) To create an environment where everyone can do their best work.
If we wind up with an impossible schedule to keep or something going the wrong direction, I bring it up with Nagumo. So I've got that, and I also have the artistic aspect of my work. That and marketing. Everyone at Yudo pitches in a little bit with that, but it's Nagumo that puts it all together.
RN: Right. I let them take care of it.
RY: So everyone splits up the work here. The name Yudo comes from the Japanese word yudou, meaning "lead" or "guide," but later on we also realized it could be read as "you do." That sort of came afterward, though. (laughs)
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