Recently, Gamasutra had a chance to speak to Keiji Fujita, Taito's senior producer for mobile products in the U.S. The Japanese company has found success with its evergreen franchises -- such as Bust-a-Move, Bubble Bobble and Space Invaders -- on mobile platforms.
But that's hardly all there is to the company. Acquired by Square Enix in 2005, the company has currently found success on Wii and DS with the Cooking Mama series. Here, Fujita reveals details about its current operations, its relationship with Square Enix, and other fascinating insights as the company gears up for the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders.
Can you tell me your personal background and how long you've been with Taito?
Keiji Fujita: Sure. Actually, I joined
Taito in September 2004. I spent three years over there, then I was
transferred from Taito to Square Enix here in Los Angeles to be a staff
member for all aspects of the mobile gaming business, especially for
Taito's content. So it's been about one year since I came to the U.S.
I originally belonged to Taito Corporation [before the merger] so I'm
taking care of all the Taito game titles for the U.S. market.
What are Taito's operations like in the U.S.?
KF: Taito used to have an office in the United States more than 15 years ago, I believe. Then they closed down the running of the company, actually. The company was called Taito Corporation of America, and I think they were more for the arcade machines, to sell and distribute them in the U.S. Then they closed down, and since then, Taito has sublicensed our games for consoles to other local game publishers here. Even now, we are still working with Majesco, Codemasters, and Natsume.
Since then, Taito became one of the Square Enix group in 2005. So now we are a subsidiary of Square Enix. That's how I was requested by my big boss to transfer to Square Enix U.S.A. to be in charge of our titles, because I was doing exactly the same business when I was in Japan.
But I realized and believe that it
is much better to be stationed here and to be in contact with the mobile
game production, because it is very difficult to develop the games for
the U.S. market in Japan. We are completely unable, because we can't
conduct proper QA, network-to-network programs aren't there. Time difference
is a problem, actually. It is good to localize the production from Japan
to the U.S., and that's how I decided to come here. Of course, I also
take responsibility for the sales and marketing of the Taito game titles,
so all of the U.S. mobile carriers are in the States, so it's good for
me to meet up with them to discuss our roadmap and business strategies.
So how many people are there working on Taito?
KF: In Square Enix, actually I'm the
only person taking care of the Taito mobile games.
So you're the Taito person?
KF: Yeah. The other Japanese guy came from Japan, and he's from Square Enix. He's now responsible for the Square Enix game titles. I think everybody knows Square Enix doesn't launch many games in the U.S. market, for mobile, so they're pretty quiet.
Is it actually going to be Taito's
brand on the mobile games when they come out?
KF: Actually, most of Taito's arcade classics are already live on most of the major mobile carriers here, but I'm still trying to add new content. Especially in 2008, it's the 30th anniversary of Space Invaders, so I'm planning a new version of Space Invaders for the mobile phone. And I hope you know about Cooking Mama. We've made the second version of the DS title, and we're trying to launch the mobile version of Cooking Mama in the first quarter of 2008.
We are going to launch the multiplayer
version of Bust-A-Move. It's also known as Puzzle Bobble.
So you can play with your friends on the mobile phone, and we actually
provide a lobby, so you can find your friends or whoever, as a player,
message to him or her, and fight against each other. You can also register
your friends, so you can see whether your friend is online or not.
Interesting. So it is Taito self-publishing these games?
KF: Yes. It's self-published. Basically, the publisher is always Taito Corporation. We don't leave the name Square Enix for Taito game titles.