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.