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With the West taking over stewardship of the console marketplace over the course of this generation, and setting the tone of technical innovation and gameplay styles, some Japanese game developers might question their future in a global video game market.
Daisuke Ishiwatari, creator of the Guilty Gear fighting game series and composer of the music for its spiritual successor BlazBlue, has been working at Arc System Works for around 15 years. He took the company from an unknown contractor for other publishers to a studio with a dedicated, hardcore fan base around the globe.
While he's not working on any of the company's currently-announced projects -- that would be the Persona fighter that Arc is developing in conjunction with Atlus and the latest version of BlazBlue -- he does have his own project, which he teases in this interview. His goal is to ensure that his company gains a bigger global foothold while creating games that could not come from the West.
What game are you making?
DI: Ah, that I can't say right now. It's a secret.
Arc has Persona and BlazBlue in the works.
DI: With BlazBlue, I'm only involved with the music.
What role do you have in the company right now, as a producer? What is your title of the game you're working on?
DI: I'm working as a director right now.
Do you think the fighter genre is booming right now?
DI: That's a good question. I'd say the first fighter boom pretty well wrapped up around 15 years ago, but now we're seeing a lot more excitement for the genre, especially over in Europe. That's helped contribute to what I think is a becoming a growing scene for fighters.
I spoke with your colleague Mori earlier. He said that Arc may make fighting games normally, but the boom doesn't have anything to do with Arc. Arc is always developing fighters, so to Arc, the boom doesn't matter.
DI: Well, Arc has been making fighters for a while now, so that's the genre that we have the most knowledge about. Going into the future, well, Street Fighter is the most popular game in the genre worldwide, but we make our games with the goal of becoming a major player as well.
Recently you also made Hard Corps: Uprising, a downloadable title. What do you think of downloadable games?
DI: I think that download content, in itself, is a great opportunity to give users a lot of fresh and interesting stuff. However, I also have the impression that there are too many titles out there.
Everyone wants new things, but I also think there are a lot of fun older games that people have never really picked up. I think it'd be better if there was a way to reintroduce titles like those to users.
There are a lot of downloadable games, but do you think people can't find them through the current user interfaces?
DI: Yes, I do have the impression that downloading games off the net is still difficult for a lot of people; it's too much of a hurdle. That's about what I think.
Packaged software gets a lot of promotion, but downloadable titles don't get much promotion or commercials.
DI: I think the Castlevania downloadable game [Harmony of Despair] received a fair amount of advertising, but it's true that you don't see a lot of it. If there's anything, it's just little notices in magazines and so on. Back when we made Hard Corps, we had wanted to see more done along those lines for it.
Do you that modern consoles, with their ability to do DLC and game updates, has changed the development style of Arc?
DI: It has changed. The effect of DLC sales is pretty large, after all, in the end.
Do the fans like the DLC?
DI: Yes, and that's especially the case with fighting games, since everybody likes having more characters. That's the type of DLC that fans want the most.
The DLC characters were originally in the story mode, but players can't use them. They became DLC later on.
DI: Well, things like the story can get added on to later, but I'd like to try and provide better service for the fans.
Downloadable games are popular in North America, but I heard that they aren't as popular in Japan. Is that true?
DI: I think so. There aren't that many people in Japan who want to go through all of that in order to play games; they think it's too much work to connect to the net for that, or make an account, or pay money for something that isn't a package. That sort of thing is difficult for them.
Between the U.S., Europe and Japan, which region had the most people purchase BlazBlue characters online?
DI: Japan, probably. I don't recall the full numbers, but I think Japan has the most people purchasing.
Why do you think that?
DI: I think it may be because Japan has the most people who enjoy the anime or manga-like look that is prevalent in most of Arc System Works' titles.
Is that in terms of percentages?
DI: I think Japan has overwhelmingly the largest percentage.
What percentage of people who bought the game went on to buy DLC for it?
DI: There are a lot of different types of DLC, but new characters are something that really fills a need among users. I'd say over half of the game's purchasers have also bought DLC for it. They say that figure averages out to around 8 percent for games overall.
Has your development process changed with this new generation?
DI: Certainly. The scope has gotten a lot larger. The first original fighter that Arc made was Guilty Gear on the PS1, and that was made with a team of maybe 12 people. Now, though, we have teams of 30 or so working on projects, and we have other companies do some of the work for us as well. So we've definitely expanded, and the way we work has changed as well.
Do you have any news on Guilty Gear?
DI: A lot of people are definitely asking what's up with the series, that's true; a lot of gamers want to see it. I can't say when it may come out or anything like that, but I definitely want to answer the voices of the fans someday.
I heard rumors that there were problems with Guilty Gear in the past, with another company.
DI: Oh, right! Well, rumors are rumors. (laughs) I'd be lying if I said there were no problems at all, but much of that has been cleared away since. There's no impediment to making it now.