So what happened?
HM: And it was in the year 2000 that something... happened. There was a happening. At that time, it was right when the PS2 was looming on the horizon. There was a presence of this oncoming approach of the PS2 platform. So I said, "Let's all band together and work on this new hardware platform. Let's all make games for the PS2."
And it was at that time that mobile games were taking off in Japan -- like i-appli for the Docomo network -- and it was at that time that the CEO, my friend, and I had an argument. I had insisted that we work together for the PS2 hardware, but my friend insisted that everybody go their own separate ways, or separately work toward making video games for the mobile market.
And my response was, "Why are we dividing our strengths when we need to unify our strengths and bring everybody together under an umbrella? Why are we dividing this thing that we have? Why are we splitting up into different groups?" And so we had an argument because of a difference in opinions.
And so, this is not a story that you hear very often, but the CEO left the company. My friend. Normally what you could expect for a company of that size is that if the president just leaves, the company would end up just disbanding -- that would be what the expected result would be, and in some senses that is exactly what had happened.
At that time -- the headcount had been about 20, at that point in time at the company, and there was a discussion between everybody. There were a couple of options. One option was: OK everybody, let's go out and try working for a video game company; each go our own separate ways and we'll all try to find jobs within the game industry. You work for this company, I work for that company; we'll all go our separate ways.
Or, the other option would be: let's start over. Let's start over, but please let me do the job of a president. Let's get rid of this whole democratic method of doing things, where everybody gets a vote. And up until that point, all 10 of the people that had created the company each pitched in an equal amount of start-up money in order to found the company.
I had appealed to all of the other members that were remaining and said, "I will buy out your shares in the company and unify the shares into one share, and I will have total ownership of the company. But at the same time, I will take all the responsibility for what happens to you and to this company. But, I have the confidence to succeed, and I will make sure this company succeeds." And so I presented that to the remaining members of the people that were working for the company.
And so, all the people remained, except for my friend, the former CEO, who left. All of them, the 20 people, stayed on board, and it was decided that they would go forward with my proposed plan.
But we also, in order to move forward with game development, we were a new company -- but we didn't want to act like the previous company never existed, either. And so it's for that reason that we decided to stick a 2 on the end of the company and create the name CyberConnect2.
I had been wondering about that for a long time.
HM: So the birth of CyberConnect2, as we know it today, started with the development of .hack for the PlayStation 2. And so my history within the game industry is as long as my company has existed, so I have been in the industry for thirteen years; as long as CyberConnect has existed.
In Japan there are about a thousand small-scale companies overall, and this is true even among small-scale video game development companies in Japan, but development companies that are even now, to this day, the size of 10 people or so, the mentality of these companies is very similar to the mentality of CyberConnect, back when it made Tail Concerto and Silent Bomber -- it's almost the same mentality that they have.
There are only 10, so everybody sits down and says, "Let's do our best to create a video game that is creatable within the scale of 10 people. And if we do that, then we'll probably be able to come up with something good, right? And if we do that, then our fans will join us, and they'll follow us; they'll continue to purchase the games that we make; they'll be following in our footsteps, and we'll be able to succeed doing that."
So that's the mentality that they have. They say, "Let's make video games within the limitations of what we can do as 10 individuals." And my opinion is that that's a mistake.
But in this era there are a lot of companies, particularly now in America, that are starting up to make games for, like, Xbox Live Arcade, or such, that sort-of bring back the democratic thing. It's almost like it's a movement. So do you see a value in that sort of thing, or do you think it's just not possible?
HM: What I'm talking about, as far as 'mistaken', is that at the time, there was no such thing as Live Arcade or anything like that, so video games that were made by one hundred people and video games that were made by 10 people both lined up in the stores for $59.99.
And the reality is that the consumer doesn't look at the title made by 10 people and say, "Wow! For a company that has only ten people, this game is pretty good!" That's not how they vote with their dollars. They vote with their dollars by saying, "I like to play this game," or, "This game is fun," or, "This game is made well."
There is no, "Oh, it's pretty good for 10 people." There is a stone cold reality with the consumer, that it all boils down to, that you have to compete as a company of 10 with companies that are 100 in size.
The reality is that the consumer is going to end up buying what they like, and at the point where the company is making excuses for itself, saying, "Well, for 10 people, this video game is pretty good..." -- at that point, the company is making excuses for itself. There is something wrong with that.
The reality in the consumer market is that people buy what they want. It's a mistake to approach that market and say, "Well, what can we make?" You know, what is possible? What can we make? You look at what the consumer wants, and you say, "OK, I want to make something like that! But, oh... We don't have enough people. So we can't make it."
That frame of mind is a mistake. If that's the case, add more people; change the environment that you're working in enough to accomplish the goal. And so, it is with that mindset that our company has been evolving forward.