Konami has dabbled in the wrestling genre a few times, most recently with Rumble Roses
, so it wasn't a huge surprise to see that the company had picked up the publishing duties for Lucha Libre AAA 2010: Heroes del Ring
. Lucha libre
, for those who don't know, is a highly acrobatic and over-the-top form of professional wrestling in which the combatants often wear masks.
What's more interesting is that this is the first AAA console game developed exclusively in Central and South America. Konami will publish the game everywhere except Mexico and South America, where Mexican-owned publisher Slang will handle publishing duties.
Central and South America have traditionally been very game friendly, and the console industry is no stranger to the regions. For years, Tec Toy has distributed Sega Master System and Genesis games in Brazil, creating several new titles of their own for the consoles. That company recently helped launch the new Zeebo
In Mexico, development company Evoga helped SNK create Rage of the Dragons
and ES: Evolution Soccer
for arcades. But this is the first game of this scale to be created for consoles exclusively in those regions.
Colombia-based Immersion games is developing the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, while Argentinian Mazes of Fate
developer Sabarasa will handle the Wii, PSP, and DS versions.
We spoke with Frederico Beyer, first party liaison and director for Slang, about what this all means for Latin American game companies and gamers, who the company is targeting in the U.S., copyright differences across regions, and quite a bit more.
The Latin American game development community is in a developing state right now, with companies like ACE Team in Chile bringing out Zeno Clash. As a publisher, how do you perceive that environment?
Frederico Beyer: Right now we're pretty sure we've teamed up with the best developers there are. They're very experienced. They have worked with other publishers in the past doing console games. Immersion specializes in Unreal Engine 3. They are really talented, with awesome artists.
The fact that they're Latin American was very good for the game. They understood it from scratch, from day one. We made them travel to Mexico -- from their top execs and CEOs to everybody else -- just to capture the essence of the game. They're very involved in the project, and they nailed it perfectly.
That's how mechanics like the popularity gauge came about. As you wrestle, you will see your popularity level growing to portray the virtual inspiration of the luchadores. As the crowd supports them and their popularity level goes up, they perform more risky maneuvers. It's amazing how well they nailed it. We couldn't be happier. To me as a Mexican, we're thrilled to be offering a lucha libre experience to the gaming community.
Luchadores are some of the most athletic sportsmen out there. The only thing you can compare it to is puroresu in Japan. How tied do you have to be to the reality of it before you can go too crazy?
FB: All the way. We take it to the extreme. High flying maneuvers, special grapple holds, submission holds. You will also see all the luchadores' personality, which comes in very important.
Luchadores literally risk their health and their lives on the ring. Making a video game out of that is a lot of fun. Being there and learning about it -- and driving it yourself -- is the best.
Do you license actual fighters?
FB: Yeah. It's licensed from the triple-A [Asistencia Asesoria y Administracion] league.
How close do you have to get with the costumes and other elements? I noticed that you had the Batman symbol on (luchador) El Elegido's back. In the game it's just the outline, but on his actual suit, it's a filled-in silver Batman.
FB: In Mexico, the trade laws are somewhat different than in the U.S. They can come out with a Batman logo, but that [exact trademark] cannot be placed in the game. We're keeping consistent, or mostly consistent, to the actual reality. The wrestlers are there, their tattoos are there, their personality is there. We are giving the best experience for Lucha Libre possible.
I used to run a website called Insert Credit, and we had a lot of fans from Latin America. I noticed that that group of gamers pays high attention to detail. If you're playing a soccer or football game, it's important that the details of the jerseys be totally right. Do you think they will be understanding of these concerns, that there are some issues with certain symbols?
FB: Completely. We've market tested it and made sure the game is consistent with what lucha libre hardcore fans expect. For one thing, the fact that they're getting an actual lucha libre game is off the charts. It's the first Latin American game to be built ground-up for next generation console platforms. That's a huge step for Latin America. And we're delivering content that clearly wasn't out there before, or even considered.
You have these things, like the Batman logo, or maybe a tattoo that might not be included in the game because of another copyright infringement, but that doesn't mean the wrestler won't be there with his actual name, his actual personality and moves. We are feeding a hungry audience with this product.
On top of that, it's a fun experience. It's fun for people who know lucha libre, but also fun for people who like wrestling games and fighting games.
Who do you think your main United States audience is? People who already know lucha libre?
FB: From a market research standpoint, our primary target is the wrestling gamer. The wrestling gamer is huge. It's out there. And we built the game to be a fun wrestling game.
From a native standpoint, obviously it's also Hispanic Americans. The Latin culture here is low-hanging fruit. They understand it way better than anybody else, and that is obviously very well taken care of within the game. We are delivering an experience that they understand. They are probably our ambassadors, who we focus on when we are delivering the edgy experience. They know they are the experts.
But it's also an offering for the broader market of wrestling gamers. This is unique for them, and it's the best. We have invested a lot in this main field.
Latinos have been traditionally underserved in terms of in-game ethnicities, but that group plays a huge amount of games. And some of the major game industry hubs are California, Texas, and Florida, where there's a very strong Latin American culture.
FB: Well, at Slang, we have a Hispanic origin. We are headquartered in Redwood City, California, and our parent company's offices are in Mexico City. We spun out of a video game distribution company, Game Express, which has been the leading distribution company in Mexico for 20 years. So, basically, we work for an industry. We understand what the gamer in Latin America wants. Mexico represents 75 percent of the video game market in Latin America.
Then there's the growth of the Latino culture here in the U.S. The projections say it's going to be 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. population in 2050. There's a very important opportunity there which we are approaching as pioneers. That's clearly something we're betting on at Slang. You will see titles that deliver Latin authenticity -- culturally relevant content for the Hispanic community.
But we also intend to deliver this content for the rest of the world, because they don't know it yet. They don't know [Julio] Cortazar's books, or other authors from Latin America. It's really rich. There's a huge opportunity for us to bring that into the video game business and transcend borders in many different ways.