CyberConnect2 - A chat looking back on the company's self-publishing journey with Taichiro Miyazaki
The last time we, as a site, attended Anime Expo was in 2019; for obvious reasons, of course. One of my favorite memories from that year's expo was always the interview that I had with CyberConnect2's Vice President, Taichiro Miyazaki; and so, when we got the chance to talk with him again during this year's Anime Expo, I jumped at the chance to ask him about how the company and their self-publishing efforts have gone over the last 4 years.
RPG Site: The last time we spoke was 2019; a very pivotal year for CyberConnect2. It was the first in-person showcase for your at-the-time upcoming Fuga: Melodies of Steel, and the first time it was playable in public. Obviously, lots have changed - Fuga 1 and 2 have both been released, how has it been these last few years, from your standpoint?
Taichiro Miyazaki: These past 4 years have been a really exciting journey with lots of discovery and learning; we pride ourselves as game developers who have been in business for over 28 years, but as a publisher, we’re still learning new things. It’s been a learning curve; when it comes to sales and promotions as a publisher we’ve had a ton of trial and error. I feel like we’ve learned a lot, and with Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2’s release we feel comfortable and confident about our publisher business.
RPG Site: One thing I didn’t get the chance to ask the last time around, since Fuga: Melodies of Steel hadn’t launched yet, and as such the company had yet to self-publish a title yet - it always struck me how fascinating it was that from even your very first self-published title you were aiming to publish on essentially every platform outside of mobile phones. Fuga 1 and 2 were released on multiple PC storefronts, Xbox, PlayStation, and of course Nintendo Switch; just, everything. To be honest, taking on that many different platforms for your first release as a publisher seems like it must have been daunting. How do you feel about how things went?
Miyazaki: We already had expertise in developing games for multiple platforms, so we didn’t actually have too much difficulty with that aspect of the release; what was more challenging was taking on the responsibilities and duties that our publishing partners such as Bandai Namco and Aniplex took on for us. For Fuga: Melodies of Steel that was our first time taking on that role as a publisher, so there were a ton of discoveries and a newfound sense of gratitude for those companies that have handled publishing duties for us in the past. It was a very new experience that we still, ultimately, enjoyed. The other difficulty came from the global release; we released the titles globally at the same time, and trying to match the timing and setting the pricing for all of the available countries and areas was one gigantic challenge we had to deal with.
RPG Site: An aspect that strikes me about Fuga: Melodies of Steel’s release was that initially, it wasn’t really successful for CyberConnect2. I’m still shocked that you were all so open about the development costs and how much you had recouped; yet, after the fact you partnered with Microsoft for an Xbox Game Pass release, and seemingly that was enough to put the game’s development back into the black. I’m sure you can’t disclose anything specific, but what was the experience like releasing a title on Game Pass, and working so closely with a console manufacturer like that?
Miyazaki: Yes, it was challenging when we first released Fuga: Melodies of Steel. Our prospect is that we’ve continued to sell both Fuga 1 and 2, and the trends are promising. When it comes to Game Pass, it was a brand new opportunity we were granted with Microsoft; as a platform-holder, they’ve been very supportive from day-1, and they still continue to be. They provide positive and very forward suggestions to release this game and distribute it more effectively. We’re very grateful for all the help.
RPG Site: When Fuga: Melodies of Steel was first announced, it was meant to be one title out of a trilogy of releases, as part of a “Trilogy of Vengeance”. When I asked about those other two titles in 2019, and what had happened, you mentioned that the plan was to revisit them after Fuga had finished. I’m assuming that since Fuga: Melodies of Steel has now become a trilogy, the plans have at least slightly changed. Are these other two titles planned for development, or has the “Trilogy of Vengeance” now just become a Fuga trilogy?
Miyazaki: Those titles are still in production, and the original plan for the Trilogy is still in motion; that being, of course, Fuga: Melodies of Steel, Tokyo Ogre Gate, and Cecile. Development for the remaining titles of the trilogy has resumed and we hope to share information on their progress soon.
RPG Site: I know that Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2 has just released about a month and a half ago; but obviously there’s a teaser for a 3rd game in that franchise present in Fuga 2, if you go through the process of unlocking the secret movie. The turnaround between Fuga 1 and Fuga 2 was about 2 years, is the plan for the next game to be a similar gap of time? The reason I’m curious is that going by what you see in that secret movie, whatever the gameplay of Fuga 3 is would have to be a fairly radical departure from the framework that Fuga 1 and 2 set.
Miyazaki: To preface; we haven’t officially announced anything regarding Fuga: Melodies of Steel 3 quite yet. So consider the secret movie as a hint, and nothing more. We’re still in the process of promoting and analyzing the sales of Fuga 2. We’re still monitoring the player and market reception before we officially embark on the production of Fuga 3. If we do, we plan for the title to take a similar development timeline as Fuga: Melodies of Steel 2.
Miyazaki (Cont.): After Fuga 1 was released, we continued to monitor user feedback and we continued to release patches to improve the gameplay experience, and of course, we incorporated the feedback during the development of Fuga 2. So if we do get the opportunity to develop Fuga: Melodies of Steel 3 we would have the same stance, while also ensuring that we can match with what our fans want to see in a sequel; we continue to monitor the reception of our games so we can endeavor to deliver a similar level of quality. We want to also stress that whether or not we embark on Fuga: Melodies of Steel 3 will of course depend on the market situation, too.
RPG Site: Speaking about market situations, here’s a random question; I know that both Fuga 1 and 2 are Steam Deck Verified. As we discussed earlier, CyberConnect2 has plenty of experience developing for multiple platforms. What’s your stance on Steam Deck as a platform, then, now that it’s been formally released in Japan?
Miyazaki: We welcome and encourage every opportunity that our players have more options to play video games. In that sense, Steam Deck is another positive option we get to enjoy. That being said, it’s still not quite in wide circulation, so we still have to see how much of our playerbase is on the platform. That will impact any decision we might make to specifically optimize our games for the platform. Above all, we do like the platform!
RPG Site: I understand that 2019’s panel at Anime Expo was very striking for essentially being an open recruitment call for folks worldwide, to apply to CyberConnect2. Is that worldwide focus still something the company is actively aiming for? I understand that recently you shuttered a Canadian studio, which does bring to question if things may have changed moving forward.
Miyazaki: We do remain open to global recruitment, and yes we did have to make the unfortunate decision to shutter our Montreal studio in Quebec. However, even beyond the Montreal studio, we do still employ international staff at our Fukuoka headquarters. And besides our Tokyo studio, we’re soon launching a new studio in Osaka, Japan. So, yes, we do remain open for global candidates. If anybody is interested, we encourage them to apply!
RPG Site: As I opened the interview; a lot has changed in these last 4 years. Is there anything you would tell yourselves before you started work on publishing your own titles?
Miyazaki: If we were able to talk to ourselves 4 years ago - we focused a ton on development, and while we’re proud of this, we would’ve stressed to ourselves to focus on the global release, to prep, as it required a lot of learning for us; setting the prices, of course, as we’d mentioned. Prep early, and prep well.
RPG Site: That reminds me of a question we asked in 2019; back then, you were originally planning on releasing Fuga: Melodies of Steel as a physical release, and even hoped to have done so all on your own. I assume that’s one of those things that fell by the wayside when you realized how much work that would entail. Is there any possibility to revisit this plan for a collection whenever the Fuga series is fully completed?
Miyazaki: It’s still an option, and we want to see the reception from our players to see if that’s indeed something they desire. Again, our mission is to deliver meaningful experiences to players - so it’s their opinions that matter the most to us. So if maybe releasing the games as a collection is what players wish for, we’d like to try hard to make this come true. Maybe packaging it as a collection and adding more value to it - we hope to bring more satisfaction and meaningful experiences to our fanbase.