The Evolution Of Grasshopper: Suda Balances Social, Core, And Growth
December 16, 2011 Page 2 of 3
It's been interesting to see how that's shifting. You have a lot of Western people in the studio so they may not have that mentality of, for example, not leaving before the boss does, since that may make you look bad.
GS: That's true. I do think we've got room for improvement when it comes to our office environment. I get tours of Western game studios now and again, and a lot of them seem like really incredible places.
How long do you think the package retail business will remain successful or viable in the market? Some people say the social scene is going to explode, for example.
GS: You're asking me? (laughs)
Grasshopper is making more original packaged games that are intended to really appeal to Western markets than other Japanese outfits.
GS: Well, retail is definitely still strong overseas, isn't it? It's the same case in Japan as well, and I think any big change related to that in the industry is going to inherently take time to unfold. However, this is the kind of industry that can also change instantly whenever some new giant trend hits.
We've seen that already with social networking services, and you see it with the music industry very well these days, the changes it's been forced to go through. It's an industry driven by hits, and when the next giant comes along, it'll change things.
We want to be in a position where we can work with that, where we can look ahead and take action rather than stay on the tried-and-true paths of console or social or whatever. So while we can't take action on this immediately, I would like Grasshopper to be able to provide an idea of what video games are going to be like in the future, beyond packaged software and beyond social -- something that gamers haven't imagined yet. I think it'd be neat if Grasshopper could act as dynamically as that, and I hope people are willing to expect that from us.
Speaking of the music industry's evolution, the closest analog seems to be free-to-play titles. In the past, you had to buy a whole CD if you wanted the one hit song, but now you can just buy that song. While they aren't selling a lot of CDs, they're selling a lot of that one song. In games, it seems like titles where you pay for the certain parts you want are the closest thing we have, and that seems to be an area that's taking off. Have you looked at that arena?
GS: I think that as we get into social games, or start to build the basic development structure for them, we'll start to look into experimentation like that. I think that Valve has given the industry a good example of the way to go with that. They really care about their customers, they have a unique and successful distribution system, and I get the impression they always have the player's perspective in mind as they make their games. Although maybe there's nothing inherently unique to Japan in this idea, I think it'd be great if that sort of marketplace made its way over here. Team Fortress is free, right?
That, and League of Legends. That game is very popular and profitable right now. In your mind, what kind of shape would a Grasshopper social game take -- how does the studio esthetic apply to this space, which usually doesn't accept core developers much?
GS: It's a label-by-label process. Frog Minutes on iOS, even though it's a pretty small project, is the start of the approach we're taking, a sort of entrance into the space for us. It's a new kind of title for us, one with an educational aspect to it, and it'd be nice if it could turn into a new label or franchise for us. We have our core titles, and we have more family-oriented titles like Frog Minutes, and if we can build these labels, then that's a good way to go for us.
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