A bit ago I interviewed Daniel Kurtz and Toshinori Aoki for Gamasutra. The article has just gone up, and shows MMV’s bid for retaking the global market, as they merge with AQI. The trouble is, many of Marvelous’ leading creators (Kimura of Little King’s Story, Wada of Harvest Moon, Ohshima of Sonic fame) have left, as has almost all of the Nier team (thus, all of Cavia), and much of the company line sounds like the same old things every Japanese company has said for the last 10 years. Global (read: Western) expansion, fewer, more specific core titles led by MMV’s production team and developed by AQI.
I’ve said most of this in the gamasutra article, but here’s some bonus text from the interview, since I cut a lot of it out. The discussion below starts out from the company’s discussion of creating and owning IP at Marvelous. It’s probably worth reading the Gamasutra post first.
Brandon Sheffield: I know that Marvelous has been very good at keeping control of IP when it makes, when it releases a game.
Toshinori Aoki (managing director of digital contents): You’ve been talking to Grasshopper haven’t you?
BS: I’ve been talking to everybody, not just Grasshopper. And I mean it’s something nobody’s going to answer, but I mean Natsume has that lifetime deal for distribution of any Harvest Moon content in America, so I’m guessing MMV’s hard-line policy on IP these days is a reaction to that. And you’ve had to partner with Western companies to publish, and then you can’t control the US rights there. I don’t have a question about that really, so I’ll just move on and ask what is going to be the global strategy for Marvelous going forward? I know there was Rising Star in Europe, I don’t know how exactly that is working, fitting into this new scenario.
TA: So basically global wise we’re thinking in basically, fundamentally in the western markets, you have the mass expansion and building up of the mobile base. You’re not just talking DS, PSP, Vita, and 3DS, but iOS and Android are taking a large share of the market as well. We feel there are going to be a whole lot of new chances and opportunities with Wii U, and other next gen or current gen PS and Xbox platforms. We want to focus on those platforms which we feel will be in the future very successful in the global markets. So I mean while we’re going to be maintaining the whole thing of, we’re not going to lose or get rid of that style of a Marvelous type game like the you mention before, Little King’s Story, and those sorts of titles, but we also realize that more than, now more than ever we need to be successful in the west, specifically North America.
So we want to start developing titles that actually focus and target for that North American gaming audience. As we’ve mentioned before, as we’ve been really relying on third party partners in the West and even in Japan in order to focus our strategy. Since we’re really going to be pushing a global strategy from here on out we’re going to be increasing the amount of partners that we’re working with in order to really bring forth games that fit this target demographic.
Daniel Kurtz (business development coordinator): This is adding something a little bit onto it, but the most important thing that we feel in order to succeed in the west is to rely on partner feedback. Their feet are on the ground, they know what gamers want much better than we do over in Japan so this is going to be something that’s very important.
BS: You mentioned a social strategy – do you want to elaborate on that? In that kind of arena you have to be extremely quick or else you may as well not bother. What is going to be your approach?
TA: I think for the first few steps that we’re going to be taking here, and that you’re already seeing in Japan is we’re going to be relying on strong IP that has a fan base built around it already in order to drive in those initial numbers and get in that initial market, such as on smartphone or even in the browser really where we have, we can’t say the name of it aside from bokujou monogatari ([aka Harvest Moon], because as you mentioned before the whole IP thing. That’s something that we’re making a very strong push for and other titles and IP that we have as well that we can’t right yet talk about that we’re going to be really trying to develop for on both smartphone and the browser to really build up that initial fan base and acceptance among western users.
The problem here is that everything they said, while it sounds nice, is stuff I’ve heard countless times before from countless other companies, and MMV has shown that it really knows how to over-manage things and lose money, but not that it knows how to grow and shepherd a brand. So how are they going to succeed, with the same mindset as Square Enix and Namco Bandai, who essentially haven’t merged in anything but name? I’m going to be watching curiously, but given what I heard, I’m not very confident. MMV had a very strong rise in the early days, but seems to have gotten bogged down by process. I’m not sure they’re nimble enough to recover – and that’s what they have to prove.