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King of 2D: Vanillaware's George Kamitani
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King of 2D: Vanillaware's George Kamitani

August 3, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next

It may be a difficult question, but I heard that Vanillaware had to finish Muramasa before you felt that it was ready to go. Is there any possibility of upsizing the graphics, as you said, and releasing Muramasa 1.5 on XBLA or something like that?

GK: Well, you could say that we're officially finished with Muramasa at this point. We did have to cut out four bosses and a fair bit of the story, but if you asked me whether I want to make Muramasa all over again with that stuff included or not, I'd say that if I had that sort of time to work with, I'd prefer to devote it to some new idea instead. There are so many things I want to make, still.

What do you think about the downloadable platforms, like XBLA or PSN or DSiWare?

GK: I'd love to tackle them. I'd love to, but finances wind up being an issue still, at this point. We're a small company, and from an income standpoint, we can't really devote our full staff to a downloadable project yet. We'd run through our money in a flash.

Well, that's why something like Muramasa 1.5 would be a good idea, no?

GK: Ahhh, now I see what you mean! (laughs) Still, I don't think I can see myself doing that. If Muramasa sells a million copies and I get all the royalties from it, then maybe I can think about it. (laughs)

It's kind of funny that you'd say that about downloadable, because most smaller teams think that it'd be easier to release something on a download platform and get a quick return on it. Why do you feel it's not as possible to make money there?

GK: Well, ahead of any of that, the only real dream that my staff and I have is to keep making games for as long as we can. Me, personally, as long as I can keep myself fed, I don't mind devoting the rest of my time to game development. If we have enough capital to explore it, I would absolutely like to try the downloadable marketplace sometime in the future. Even if I made a ton of money off games, I'd just put it back into development in the end, after all.

I was just responding to the idea that you mentioned, unless I misunderstood, that it's not as easy to make money for a small team on the download platform -- because many small teams I've talked to actually think it's much easier to get a return on investment. I was wondering you may feel that way. Not that I'm suggesting you're greedy or anything!

GK: Well, we'd certainly like to become a big-name publisher sometime, but when it comes to game development, no matter what platform or service you're aiming for, you need some kind of monetary base for it. In our case, that comes from our clients, the publishers -- and if you want to catch the attention of the publishers and put them on your side, then you need to think big. That's largely it.

We funded the development of Muramasa completely off the royalties we received for Odin Sphere, which means that we technically earned zero profit off Odin Sphere. (laughs)

As you say, you want to eventually publish your own games, but that's what downloadable platforms offer to you. For example, [with your DS game] Kumatanchi, I imagine that wasn't all 21 Vanillaware staff making that game. If you could find some people to work on downloadable stuff, you could become your own publisher, you could get a more consistent revenue stream going. Just a suggestion. (laughs)

GK: Well, It's not that I'm against downloadable, keep in mind. In the ideal case, I'd like to grow Vanillaware up to the point where I was not the main guy responsible for every game we were working on; once that happens, I could devote myself fully to the ideas I find the most personally interesting, and that's where the download market might make more sense.

It does seem quite possible, especially with 2D. Have you played Castle Crashers?

GK: I have, yes.

It broke the million mark [on leaderboards]. It's possible, anyway.

GK: Yeah. Oh, it's very impressive, definitely.

Will Vanillaware be doing any more DS projects?

GK: Not for the time being, no.

Can you say anything about what you're working on next? Will it be hi-res?

GK: Well, we're experimenting with hi-res. I can't say that the next project is going to be hi-res, but we are experimenting. We don't have a lot of money, so we don't have a lot of leeway with our company's time.

Well, I hope that someone will give you enough money to do that sort of thing.

GK: Oh, yes!

We've been talking for about half an hour -- how much more time do you have?

GK: Could I--could I talk a little about Vanillaware's dream?

Yes, please!

GK: Well, I worked on Fantasy Earth for Square Enix a few years ago, and a lot of us on the team want to try our hand at another online MMO project -- 2D, 3D, whatever. We've got Fantasy Earth II running through our minds, all of us.

Before that, though, we'd like to make a few 2D online games first. To make that happen, we need money, but money has a habit of getting spent pretty quickly around the company. (laughs)

Well, maybe you can propose to Square Enix, because they are continuing to do more online stuff.

GK: Ahhhhh, I dunno. (laughs) We didn't exactly part on amicable terms. (in English) No, Square Enix good company!

Mmm, that's too bad.

GK: It was really a matter of them taking it [Fantasy Earth] from us. Moving on, though! (laughs)

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