Games That Can't Be Duplicated: Arc System Works' Ishiwatari Speaks
January 23, 2012 Page 2 of 4
There was the EVO tournament in the U.S. earlier, and there was a BlazBlue contest as part of that. A lot of Americans enjoyed watching net streams of the fights. What do you think of that?
DI: Well, there are events like Tougeki in Japan as well; that's a pretty large-scale event. There are a lot of events which are basically just fans kind of getting together, though, and I think it'd be better of games -- especially fighting games -- were seen more as sports. I figured that it'd be better if Japan had these sorts of events that brought all the best players together and crowned a champion, and that's why I like EVO because winning in that tournament really gives you a position of status. Looking at that, I think it'd be nice if we had something like that here as well.
It seems like e-sports are getting more popular overseas.
DI: Japan is definitely lagging behind in that respect, in the way that it's thought of here. We want to try to raise the value of e-sports.
I saw a little bit of the BlazBlue tournament at Tokyo Game Show. Are events like that important to Arc for the purposes of energizing and enlarging the fan base?
DI: Definitely, it's a very important thing. Tournaments like these attract a lot of attention and provide a chance for fans to communicate with each other, and it's also encouraging to physically see the sort of support we're receiving from them. Along those lines, I think it's been a great tournament.
Arc doesn't developer fighters exclusively; they've made more regular games for the DS, and so forth. Are both types of games still under development at Arc?
DI: Well, while I can't say exactly what we're working on, but I don't think most people know about the games Arc System Works makes apart from the famous titles, BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. We'll continue to make fighting games going into the future, but we also want to explore new possibilities. That's an ongoing topic within our company. So while I can't go into specifics right now, but we're always discussing with ourselves way to create a sort of third pillar, another title that puts Arc on the map.
Japan's game industry has a long history of developers making games in secret, without credit. Arc has done that as well, for example with the PS2 version of Ys IV. Do you still do that sort of work?
DI: Well, secret games are secret, so... (laughs) I can't say what, but certainly.
From a business perspective.
DI: Well, the company is gradually getting bigger. The success of BlazBlue has encouraged that, and we'll keep on striving to make more titles like that.
Independent developers in the U.S. and Europe have closed quite a bit lately. Does Japan have that kind of problem?
DI: There has been that, yes.
Arc is a publisher in Japan, right, publishing its own games?
And you also have relations with other publishers. I heard you developed a game for Konami recently.
DI: Certainly. We have a lot more experience with the fighter genre than other companies, so it's often the case that companies come to us when they want to make a fighting game.
Hard Corps: Uprising
Japanese fans buy a lot of books and other goods. Is that an important business for your company?
DI: It's certainly the case that you can't make money off a game purely by selling retail packages. That's why you devote a lot of time to things like characters and setting, content that even people who don't play games would like.
Are these ideas a part of the initial planning process?
DI: Yes, we do think about that, especially for the Japanese audience. A lot of it doesn't seem to work for the overseas market, though, and that's one issue we're grappling with at the moment.
Not a lot of goods like that go on sale overseas. Just a little bit.
DI: Would they want more of that?
Hardcore fans would.
DI: Yeah, just the hardcore fans. (laughs) So we're discussing making a new setting in the future that could work in all the world's markets evenly.
There isn't that same kind of fan culture in America. Fighter fans probably don't worry much about that.
DI: That's something we're definitely aware of, yeah. Still, the way we use Japanese culture is one of our primary weapons, and that's not something we want to just do away with. Games developed overseas have progressed massively in terms of technical skill, and I don't think there's any way that Japan can win in that battle, so I think it'd be nice if we can approach the world market in a Japanese kind of way.
Do you play games from other companies?
DI: Yes, I do.
Which do you think is better?
DI: Well, I definitely like overseas games better. If I'm just playing, then do you know Wolfenstein? There's also Operation Flashpoint and Gears of War.
A lot of shooting games.
DI: And also Diablo and Oblivion. Fallout 3, as well. I like games like those a lot; RPGs and FPSes. I also really like RTSes like Warcraft.
That's rare among Japanese creators. Those are hardcore Western titles.
DI: They don't sell games like Warcraft too often in Japan. (laughs) I go to Akihabara and buy import copies. I have an English dictionary by my side as I play them.
I'm the same way in reverse, using a Japanese dictionary. That was how I played through Final Fantasy V for the first time, in 1992. I used a kana chart to decipher item names and menu options.
DI: Yeah, I'm the same way.
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