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What's next for Puzzle & Dragons and GungHo?

March 28, 2014 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Speaking of game design and types of games and how they fit, would you like to see free-to-play become more prevalent on consoles, or does it not matter to you?

Definitely we would like to keep doing free-to-play, even on consoles. That's a good focus to go on with. We really think there is pretty big potential for free-to-play on consoles. But we also feel that it's not a thing to do just because it's a thing to do.

It has to be done in a way that core users are able to understand and agree with, because a lot of people don't agree with the free-to-play model. If you do it just because it's a trend, or just because everybody else is doing it, they're going to point that out.

Many of our readers, who are game developers, are skeptical of the free-to-play trend, because they have a background in traditional games. You see it with the players as well.  What do you say to the skeptics, now that you've been on both sides of it?

As a company it's not that we're totally fixed on free-to-play. It's definitely a viable business format. But, for example, Puzzle & Dragons Z is completely retail.

The biggest difference between retail and the free-to-play model is that retail is about having an endgame, whereas free-to-play does not. What the company provides in place of that would be the service. And I think that once you understand the service part, people will more understand the free-to-play model -- how that works with the game and service combining together. It becomes a completely different product. Around 2005, 2006, on the personal level, I was against the free-to-play model.

In terms of Puzzle & Dragons there are still a lot of people who haven't monetized at all yet. They've been playing completely free. If you calculate it, we are giving out one magic stone pretty much every day to users for free, which is the equivalent of 99 cents. There are a lot of people who just hoard that, they keep it and they put it to the side, and they just use it once in a while when they need to. So there are a lot of people who use the premium currency in the game -- yet they haven't monetized.

A game becomes a product the moment I provide it to someone; once they begin playing it, it becomes an actual product. To the people who don't play the game, it's just my ego taking form on a phone, for example.

From a creator's standpoint, the more people who play and enjoy it -- actually enjoy it -- that's the end goal for me as the creator. Until someone plays the game, the product itself doesn't exist. Obviously we want people to play and enjoy the game, but unless they play it, it's just smoke and mirrors; it doesn't exist as a product.

Morishita's paths from start to goal: Free players on the left, and paying players on the right. 

Monetization is sort of like a tutoring service. Basically to go to college, for example, some kids need tutors and some don't. They're both trying their best at what they do: Studying. Some people have to pay to get to a certain level; some people don't. We believe that's sort of similar to the monetization model.

I believe that gaming is all about the goal and how you get there, how much work you actually do to get there. The reason people feel like completing something is fun or enjoyable is because you've worked hard to get there. It's the journey.

The word in the center is "努力" or doryoku, defined here as "great effort."

That's a very Japanese concept, but it means something like "working hard." That's the core in the middle that both free and paying people have to go through.

Let's say the goal is to get into college. Some people do it by just working hard and studying hard by themselves. Some people take the route of hiring a tutor and paying. Either way, free people and paying people, they all have these levels of where they're learning grammar or doing calculations. They need to take those steps. It's the same steps that they have to take -- it's just that one person is paying and one is not. The end goal is pretty much the same.

I keep on saying that we're a tutoring service, model-wise. We don't want them to just pay and have fun, we want them to work hard and practice themselves. If you need to pay once in awhile, you pay. If that's how you enjoy the game, then that's how you enjoy the game.

I believe it's always about the starting point, and also the goal, and how you get there -- it's the journey there. That's what I think about when I create a game. If that's fun, that's our job -- to create something that makes the journey there fun.

You might not believe it, even though I keep saying it, but I do not think about the sales when creating a game, because that would get in the way of making the game fun. It's about blocking certain stuff so that users will pay, right? That always ends up into a not-so-fun game, pretty much. So that's what I try to avoid, and why I really do not think about sales when I am making a game.

That's my philosophy I came up with when making free-to-play games, and I feel that's the base model that we should continue doing as GungHo. 

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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Luis Blondet
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What's next? Hopefully the player base wises up to their evil game design and go support game devs that respect them instead of treating them like digital cattle.

Christian Nutt
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You could at least read the article before commenting :3

Luis Blondet
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I did read it. Just another fluff piece enabling exploitative game design and no, the DS release doesn't even come close to redeeming them.

Tuomas Pirinen
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Excellent article. It was very interesting to find out that the same team did both the console and the mobile version of the game, even though they use a different business models.

Lihim Sidhe
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A CEO that carries around a laptop with Rockstar and P&D stickers? Either that's a brilliant marketing move on the part of GungHo or this guy is authentic. I'm going to go with the latter because as an avid Puzzles and Dragons player everything he said resonates with how I feel about the game.

@Luis Bondet: I am the one that liked Christian's Nutt comment. It seems to me you at best hastily skimmed through the article in a rush to be the first snarky comment against successful F2P games. If that's your thing direct your energy against King for trademarking the use of the word Saga in a video game title for Christ's sake. Anyone that partners with Grasshopper Manufacture to simply gain their experience deserves a more open minded outlook, don't you think?

Tuomas Pirinen
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Well said, especially if you consider that I think Grasshopper would have been in significant trouble without becoming part of the GungHo family. Now we can look forward to more mad Suda51 games.

I also agree on your assessment on the article in general. I am really puzzled (pun intended) by all the anti-P&D comments. I find it an excellent game that I am happy to support with real money now and then.

Lihim Sidhe
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I've been playing the game since mid fall semester. I've come close to making an IAP more than a few times. Especially considering all the Magic Stones I could have bought instead of you know a value meal at Burger King and little junk purchases that we make everyday.

I'm eventually going to give in. Until then it's my Frugality vs P&D.

Luis Blondet
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yeah, ok, i'll just leave this right here:

Larry chau
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a user blog from a full time employee at war gaming has no relation to puzzle & dragons or any insight on how GungHo operates. I'll take the word of their CEO, who Christian has interviewed multiple times according to his Twitter over someone who is has no ties to GungHo. So unless you have other "evidence" for your bias and trashy first comment, I'm siding with Tuomas and Lihim.

Tarinel Lifebringer
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That was a great article. Thanks for posting. I do agree that the F2P model is exploitive and GungHo has been very successful in taking advantage of that model. Personally I don't have a problem with a game company gaming me. Its really a metagame of sorts, and definitely a real life PvP or I should say Player vs Corporation. My personal hope is games like these will help people develop the mental skills early so that by the time they are even older they have the wherewithal to resist being gamed by telemarketers or whatever their equivalent is by the time they reach that age.

Companies exist to make money. We are lucky when we find a company that appears to truly care about their products versus just making money. As you point out it is possible this is just another fluff piece. But like anything you read or hear. The real test is based in the actions of the people speaking or being spoken about. So far it seems GungHo's heart is in the right place with regard to gaming.

Lihim Sidhe
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First of all thanks for the article link. I'm always happy to learn more about game design principles and from intelligent people like you. I believe you're view is a bit skewed but hey... we all have our opinions right?

Your argument's base principle seems to be against capitalism in general. I mean it's pretty simple - all games are forms of entertainment. Consumers choose the entertainment they want. Successful games persist and the less fortunate ones fade.

The resistance against F2P seems to be based on the premise that these F2P developers have discovered the secret to mind control and we are all unwitting victims pulled into their deceptive master plan. I say mind control because we don't have a choice right? As soon as one installs a F2P game on our device of choice it's over. Their spell takes hold, I become enthralled and fast forward a few months and I'm homeless and naked on the streets selling by body for IAP.

Either that or F2P isn't mind control, it doesn't magically take away one's decision making process, and isn't some magic trick of mental domination.

It's FREE TO PLAY. FREE! And if one doesn't like the IAP model by golly one does not have to make a single purchase, ever.

As much as I want to believe there is more to this world than death, taxes, paperwork, and chaos... Telepathic Overlord F2P developers are not. It would be awesome but alas... they are not.

Luis Blondet
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Nice strawmen, bro.

How about you read the article, specifically the parts where P&D uses exploitative game design.

David Takishi
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Sorry, but you're wrong Luis. The article you mention has a clear agenda to push Wargaming in favor of other F2P companies. I have to agree with the others in this pointless debate that the point-of-view of the CEO of GungHo is much more legit than someone from a rival company trying to spin their competitor's game as evil and exploitative.

Until you have legit research on the topic from someone who has nothing to gain and is out to teach/inform rather than someone with an agenda that is based on hunches and a narrative that is purely beneficial for the individual or the company they work for, I suggest refraining from trying to spin it as a positive in your light as your bias has shown through and there's no convincing you otherwise as you are dead set on pushing an agenda, too.

If you feel lost, re-read the interview with a clear mind rather than thinking about the propaganda from Wargaming.

Rosstin Murphy
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Freemium is a reality of the gaming world right now. I appreciate Morishita's positive take on it.

Ara Shirinian
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It's great to have a positive take on things, but Mr. Morishita's comparison of monetization in PAD to a tutor service is not really an accurate way to describe the dynamic.

People generally pay money to tutors in order for them to learn skills faster than they would be able to accomplish on their own.

In PAD, people pay for the premiun currency to advance in the game faster than they would be able to accomplish on their own.

However, the critical difference that is missing here is that when you pay the tutor and do the hard work, you have increased your own intrinsic skill and ability further as a result.

When you buy things in PAD with real money, you are increasing statistical values that effectively permit further progress, but that is an artifact of the statistical structures of the game, and you have not increased any of your own skill and ability at all.

I do not believe that Mr. Morishita is deliberately trying to mislead however. I do believe that many developers who have devised successful F2P games have in fact done so without fully understanding all the psychological effects and consequences of the resulting dynamics, perhaps even Mr. Morishita.

Edward Magee
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I really think this is a good article. It gives me a lot of detail as to why the game looks good. One question I have for you would be: Is there going to be a time for you selling this game in Europe and China as well as U.S. and Japan?