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EA Takes Japan: An Interview With Rex Ishibashi
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EA Takes Japan: An Interview With Rex Ishibashi

October 16, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 5 Next

Obviously this generation, Japanese developers have had some difficulties getting to where the West was, because the West had that PC heritage that allowed people to really transition, but there's no doubt there are a lot of really talented people in Japan, that have the abilities. So with a company to support it, like EA, I can see the potential.

RI: Right. And the argument I give is -- and at the risk of sounding overly dramatic -- the Japanese games industry, by history, and by the success of game publishers and developers, is like the Hollywood of the games industry. There's no other collection of developers who have had true global success -- in Japan and outside of Japan -- except for Japanese developers.

Even in EA, historically, with all of our big budget titles, etc etc, and an eye toward cracking Japan, has never had huge success in Japan. So, my own perspective is, while there are games that are a challenge, that don't do well in the West, and never make it to the West -- while there's certainly difficulties in making that transition, and appealing both locally as well as globally, we believe that we can tap into a network of great games developers initially, and eventually start to bring them in-house, who know exactly how to do that.

I'm always amazed when I sit down in a room with Suda-san and Mikami-san, with their perspectives about games, and how different it is, from what I hear at EARS, for example -- where I spend one week out of every month, by the way. And it's not better, it's not worse; it's different. It's just Japanese perspective, and Japanese approach to games, that, again, has shown a long history of being able to sell well here, and sell well globally.

And how big is your organization, EA Japan?

RI: Yeah, EA Japan in total is about 65 people. It's marketing; it's the local development team which is relatively small; we have a dedicated CDS localization team that's working with all of the studios about everything from game tweaks to game localization, from simple language and audio, to something deeper.

We have the challenge of also dealing with CERO, which is the ESRB of Japan. Japan, Korea, and Germany are probably the most stringent in terms of ratings, and the ability to get violence and sex through in a way that allows the game to even be released in Japan.

So, you know, again, part of our job in identifying the right titles, is to say, "Some of these titles may have to be tweaked a little bit to even be releasable in Japan." And we'll do the tweaking. We'll do the tweaking along the way. And the goal is, of course, a simultaneous ship, globally. Even if the version here in Japan is slightly different.

MySims Agents

And you're refining that process, I'm gathering from what you've been saying.

RI: Yeah. Absolutely. We've already had a couple successes with it this year, and we're refining the process even more. And the beauty is, I think finally the studio teams are looking at EA Japan and saying, "We have a team over there that communicates well, that understands our business, and is asking for the right things." And clearly the market is there, the ducks are quacking, we should feed them.

When it comes to games like Need for Speed, that are not as culturally steeped -- compared to, say, Battlefield, I can see that not playing in Japan. That's just my own estimation.

RI: Sure. Sure. Battlefield 1943, which we released download-only in Japan, is our best selling title in the last 12 months.

I'm sure you've spent time in Japanese retail, here. Store shelves are incredibly crowded, turnover is incredibly important. It's hard, frankly, as a Western publisher, to get the attention that a Dragon Quest is going to get -- a game that is specifically made for this marketplace.

So, eliminating some of the retailer biases, and being able to go direct to consumer, is an important step for us. And I don't think we're publicly discussing the downloads, but again, a tremendous number of units over literally the first six days after release. We're getting upwards of 60~70% conversions on trial-to-buys.

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