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Emerging U.S. game publishing firm D3 continues to make inroads into the Western market. The Los Angeles-based D3 Publisher of America is the U.S. offshoot of Japanese publisher D3. Though the companies share some of the same funding, their aims are quite different. In Japan, D3 is known primarily for its value titles, with over 80 games for the PlayStation 2 alone, under their “Simple 2000” mark.
But in the West, D3 has been working on bigger budget releases, using both licensed and original IP. Gamasutra has had a couple of chances to speak with D3 Publisher Of America's EVP and COO Yoji Takenaka and his colleagues in the past. But as the company comes up on the early 2008 release of its Digital Extremes-developed Dark Sector, Takenaka has offered us a candid look at D3 Publisher's business strategy for next generation development and other fascinating nuggets of information on this unknown but significant publishing force.
In the interview, Takenaka explains how Puzzle Quest put them on the map, Naruto sustains them, and Dark Sector should throw the company into a whole new light:
How important was Puzzle Quest, in terms of getting D3 Publisher established as a brand in the U.S.?
Yoji Takenaka: Well, I think Puzzle Quest is the first original game -- one of the first games we published as an original IP -- and the first game where we felt we succeeded, and we got great support from users. I was reading GameSpot.com to see what people are thinking and doing and how people like the game. So I was kind of excited myself, too.
I don't beat very many video games, and I played all the way up to level 50 and I beat the boss.
YT: Oh, thank you. Great.
I played through the whole thing,
and a lot of my friends played it, too. It was a very good genre hybrid.
Has this strengthened your belief on the U.S. side in original games?
YT: Coming into the U.S., we started
original IP development such as Dead Head Fred, Dark Sector,
and other games in the future. I had some confidence when we started
those developments, because I liked the concept, and we really took
the concept very well internally. Also we had an external group view
the concept, to get an objective opinion about it.
From day one, I thought we had a good
chance with Dead Head Fred and Puzzle Quest. Puzzle Quest
is a title that we picked up from Australia, and we showed the game
to a few people, and those people could not stop playing. Right away
-- "Hey, this is something!" So that's why we did it. It's
not really just Puzzle Quest, but those games we bring in...
I was comfortable starting, with confidence about the game.
Were you at all surprised by its
success? It seemed to get bigger than anybody imagined, considering.
YT: I was surprised.
It didn't have a lot of marketing dollars behind it or anything, but still it was number one on DS and PSP for a while.
YT: One year and two months ago, we
had a meeting to kick off our fiscal year, and I presented how I thought
that Puzzle Quest would be our sleeper hit. It was! That's how
confident I was. But it was difficult, because before it came out, retailers
were not really excited, but press people like you changed the whole
dynamic around the game. When we had a street date for Puzzle Quest,
people were talking about Puzzle Quest so much.
Yeah, it was very much word-of-mouth. People made webcomics and blogs about it.
YT: It was the power of the Internet!
It wasn't like, "Are you playing
Puzzle Quest?" It was, "Which version of
Puzzle Quest are you playing and can we link up?" Because
everyone was playing Puzzle Quest. So now you're expanding
Puzzle Quest beyond its original three SKUs of DS, PSP, and PC.
D3 is still kind of a smaller publisher in the U.S. Do you feel like
that's something you're able to do because you're smaller?
YT: One thing about us -- maybe me -- is... I'm looking for the English word, it's like I don't realize how small I am. In a positive way -- kind of brave, but kind of stupid in a way.
What's the Japanese word you were looking for?
YT: Mukoumizu. It means you
don't look far ahead. [Ed. note: "mukoumizu" is translated
as "recklessness" by this online dictionary.] That's my philosophy to start this company. We started from ground zero
-- nothing. As I told you two years ago, we are not in a position to
bring a lot of games from Japan, so we really have to develop by ourselves.
In other words, I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain. I have
a little bit of something to protect right now, but we're still small.
What will happen when you have more to protect? Are you going to get nervous?
YT: Yeah, I'll get nervous, I think.
I'm more of an offensive guy than a defensive guy.
So is D3P in Japan going to publish Puzzle Quest over there?
YT: I think they are going to publish the game in the fall.
It's probably a good idea. I think
it'll do well over there too, especially on DS.
YT: Actually a lot of people are talking about Puzzle Quest in Japan, so hopefully we'll have good sales, especially on DS. DS is huge over there. [Ed. note: Puzzle Quest is being released in Japan as THE Puzzle Quest: Knight of Agaria in November.]