Companies like GREE, DeNA, Zynga, and others are typically founded by people with web services backgrounds; game people only come in later. Have you seen many game indsutry people coming to GREE, or is still primarily web-background people -- or is that characterization even accurate?
TT: Well, I don't know what the current situation is across the board, but right now GREE is in this phase where lots of game people are coming in, one after another.
They aren't immediately contributors to the company, though, and in that respect, the web and internet people -- the people who created this whole model -- they're still at the core of the company. A ton of people here love games, though, including a lot who played my games when they were kids or in college.
Obviously GREE has OpenFeint in the US; do you think you have any games which will launch in the U.S.?
TT: There is the potential, I think. Obviously the purchase happened in order to make the most of both companies' strengths, and if there are GREE titles that work on that platform, I definitely think talks will proceed along that way. I think it'd be particularly great if the smartphone title I'm working on now could have that happen.
Nowadays companies like Square Enix are themselves entering the social space. Do you think outfits like GREE have more of an advantage here than the large publishers?
TT: Well -- just talking about Square Enix because I know them the best -- Square Enix's social group isn't anywhere near as big or well-funded as what they give Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. The focus is always going to be on their main franchises, because that's what they're good it.
I think what's going to happen is that they'll find ways to extend those franchises in social, which is good for both Square Enix and GREE, because the social market is larger than the console audience at the moment.
So you think it's a better strategy for companies to work with GREE directly than try to enter the social space on their own?
TT: I think their core strengths lie in their creativity and ability to attract a really dedicated fan base, and I think that's where they'll devote their energies. It's difficult for a company to start from scratch in social and slowly build up an audience; if they devoted energy to that, that'd affect the creative side to the point where it'd be meaningless. In that respect, we can work faster.
There's a danger that if you don't do monetization right, not only will the game fail; you might alienate users. How have you thought about that?
TT: I do think about that, but there are assorted ways to approach that. Every gamer is going to get excited about different things in the game, and I doubt we'll be continuing with the current style forever; there'll be a wider range that will allow more freedom for the creators in terms of being able to obtain budgets for their games. This may be a bit of a dangerous topic, but...
You're saying that there are assorted types of monetization possible, and having more of this will allow for more freedom.
TT: Yes, that's correct.
That's true. I don't know if the mechanics are all the same here, but in the U.S., there's "appointment gaming" where you do something and can't play again until later, there's "energy", and items you can buy. And then that's it -- there aren't that many choices. Are you hoping to develop more choices or mechanics that way?
TT: Definitely. That sort of variation will become even more important, and we'll need to think more along those lines in the future, as the games themselves grow more complex and monetization becomes more important.
We've seen the core game market in consoles and portables really trend downward in Japan; do you think it will continue that trend?
TT: [pause] Yes, I do think so, and there are two reasons for that. First, you have smartphones which are perfectly capable of matching the needs of gamers that would've used consoles before.
Second, talking from the business side, the costs associated with high-end game development are getting really high. We're at the point where, depending on the scope of the business, there's just no managing the risks involved with a potential sales failure. I do think it'll remain a difficult market for consoles going forward. I don't think it'll simply go away; it'll retain a user base.
When you say "matching the needs", are you referring to graphics?
TT: That, and the complexity of the games. Compared to web apps, native smartphone apps can do quite a lot of what game consoles can. You can create simple interfaces for complex games, and it's a lot easier to make games with real depth on them.
Are you planning to oversee an entire project yourself while at GREE?
TT: I'm really not sure about that, but I do want to be really involved in whatever titles I work on. This will depend on how my duties here unfold, but I'd like the ratio to be greater than it has been in the past. It's still up in the air, though.
You come from a company that had a lot of success in the U.S. market. Do you look at GREE and see a company that can achieve the same thing?
TT: I hope so. I'd like to see that happen, and I want it to be the sort of company which can make games that achieve that goal -- making games that capture the hearts of people in the U.S.
Final Fantasy X screenshot taken from the Final Fantasy Wiki