It seems that like, in particular with social networking games, that there's more of a difference between games in Japan and the West; there are different social networks, such as Mixi in Japan compared to Facebook in the West. It seems like it would be harder to do cross-cultural products. Do you consider that to be a problem, or is it about getting local talent?
YW: First of all, to avoid any misunderstanding, I mentioned social networking as just one example of a place where we might bring in fresh blood. Social networking is one of the skill sets that are missing, so that will be the kind of fresh blood that we may try and incorporate from outside -- I want to make that clear.
Having said that, let me tell you that I believe network communities are very local. And the newer the community, the more local it is, it seems. It looks like they don't tend to become global or international, but rather stay local. So when we try to launch such services, it would be very important to understand the local culture.
As the president of [Japanese publisher organization] CESA, you've been very vocal about the state of the Japanese industry. It seems that this year, we're seeing a lot of high-profile, Western-targeted games. Is that the shape of current generation development in Japan?
YW: Not necessarily so. I think that each developer will try to capitalize on their own strength and come up with different things. Some developers may be American, some may be Russian, but there will be diverse types of games.
What is true is that, until just a few years ago, Japanese game companies were really not making Western types of games at all, and it almost looks like, thanks to the pent up demand for Western-style games, that they are starting to do this today.
Part of the reason I ask is because it seems that, if you look at the sales of many of the games on the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 in Japan, it would be hard to make a profit just selling games that appeal only to the Japanese market, given the cost of development. Is that why it's important to target the West?
YW: Large Japanese publishers always had a pretty strong skill in making games that appeal to Westerners. But the trend that you are seeing now is motivated more by the desire of the creators, rather than those who are trying to sell the games.
Until about 10 years ago, Japan was the driving force for the entire game industry in the world. But that has not been the case for the past 10 years, so the Japanese creators are kind of exploring, kind of struggling, trying to think why. And so through their struggles, they thought that probably we can try and make Western types of games, and try and become the leader of the market.
So it is that, in Japan, those who are in the creative, production side at publishers are exploring what they can do to become the leader again, but they have not found the answer to that. And so it seems like the pendulum is swinging back and forth, and maybe when the time comes, they might go back to making extremely Asian games, too.
Now that Final Fantasy XIII has launched globally, in the end were you satisfied with its performance and the audience reaction to the title?
YW: Looking at the numbers alone, it is pretty good, because we were able to release the latest Final Fantasy in all three markets of Japan, United States, and Europe in a very short period of time, and we were able to reach 5 million units rapidly -- and I think this product will grow further. But when it comes to the customers' reaction to the quality of the game, some value it highly and some are not very happy with it.
What do you think about how the game turned out?
YW: I think this is a product that was able to meet the expectations for those who know Final Fantasy. There are all kinds of games around in the market today. Should Final Fantasy become a new type of the game or should Final Fantasy not become a new type of game? The customers have different opinions. It's very difficult to determine which way it should go.
You recently showed record financial results. What do you put that down to? Is it due to the breadth of content, now that you have Eidos? Obviously Batman: Arkham Asylum is a big boost, and you have Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest and Batman all in one year. Is it due to the mergers, or is it due to a larger strategy?
YW: [Our sales trend] shows steady growth, so I think it's strategy. Of course if you look at each year, some years had a better lineup of products than the other years. But if it were just driven by the quality of the products, it wouldn't have been this way. It doesn't happen naturally.
Of course there was a positive impact from the acquisition of Eidos, or the release of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But basically the strategy was to pursue growth, and that's the way it turned out to be.
It's interesting that you're working with Nintendo to release Dragon Quest IX in the U.S. Can you talk about why that decision was made?
YW: Final Fantasy sold evenly in Japan, U.S., and Europe. Batman sold in the U.S. and Europe. And Dragon Quest was not even released in the U.S. and Europe -- Japan is its predominantly strong market. In our thinking, this is fine for our purposes of globalization. It is okay to have some things lopsided in terms of the numbers sold, depending on the region. We do not believe that everything has to sell well and evenly in every market in the world.
In this environment, we feel that Dragon Quest is strongly Japanese -- the type of game that appeals to the Japanese more. We have made tremendous efforts to try and sell Dragon Quest in the Western market, too. And it was not a failure, but it's not that kind of success, either.
I talked about this with Nintendo, and they showed a strong interest in selling Dragon Quest in the European and American markets. So we thought we should try taking advantage of Nintendo's marketing power. Our expectation is that Nintendo may be able to do what we cannot do by ourselves.