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Idea Factory International Interview: On Steam, otome games, and the topic of censorship

Idea Factory International held their second press event at the Rickhouse bar in San Francisco last week. This was done two days prior to the kickoff of this year’s PlayStation Experience event held only blocks away.

After enjoying some catered food and fancy Hyperdimension Neptunia-themed alcoholic drinks (of which I may have drank one too many) and following their presentation, I was quietly shuffled into a not-so-quiet space behind the bar.

There I sat down to interview Idea Factory International President Haru Akenaga and guest-of-honor Masahiro Yamamoto, director of Trillion: God of Destruction and, more notably, Disgaea 4. After some nice pleasantries, we talked about the state of the industry among other topics in this short interview that was conducted through a translator.

RPG Site: Our first question has got more to do with how Idea Factory has been diversifying lately, getting out of the RPG stuff and moving more towards the otome genre. Do you have any plans to release more of those types of those games to the Western market, especially on Steam?

President Akenaga: We want to release a lot more otome titles since we have so many that we can provide. At the same time, it is a lot of work. These games are huge, so it takes a lot of time to localize and especially to break even through that work.

RPG Site: What do you look for in an otome game that you want to localize? Do you feel that this is an untapped market, and have you seen success here?

President Akenaga: It is hard to tell since it is still so early. We did see how well Amnesia: Memories was doing. With our label, Otomate, you can see on our site that a lot of the conversation that the fans are having are about Hakuouki. So we can’t tell whether a lot of that passion is around Hakuouki or if they are loving otome as a genre. That is still hard to gauge, and that’s why it’s still early.

RPG Site: There are two games that people wanted me to ask about. You probably can’t talk about it, but there are a ton of request for Date-A-Live. People really want Date-A-Live because of the movie, the anime - people seem to really like that series right now. Also, they want to know if Hyperdimension Neptunia vs. Sega Hard Girls has a chance of being brought over.

President Akenaga (who smiled after hearing the question): For Date-A-Live, we currently do not have any plans to localize.

RPG Site: Is that something you would consider at all?

President Akenaga: Well, it’s possible, but not on our plate currently. Neptunia vs. Sega Hard Girls is on the table.

RPG Site: One of the things people love about the Neptunia games are the 2D homages in the ending credits. Has there even been talk about those being made into actual games? I think fans would love that.

President Akenaga: I have actually never heard of that comment, so thank you very much. I am meeting with the president of Idea Factory next week and will tell him about this.

RPG Site: I think it would be great, even as a game you can play in a console at the Basilicom.

President Akenaga: I promise I will tell him.

RPG Site: How has Steam as a platform been treating you? We had three more games (Hyperdimension Neptunia U, Hyperdevotion Noire, and Monster Monpiece) announced for the service during the event. Do you see more of a simultaneous release happening going forward?

President Akenaga: To answer your question as to how it’s doing [on Steam], it’s been doing really well. As far as the simultaneous release is concerned, it’s really different. Idea Factory in Japan is a developer that’s focusing on Sony consoles. To do the games, Idea Factory works on those systems. Idea Factory International, sort of a separate identity, we do the ports to PC. To do [a simultaneous release] we would have to get with the developers to analyze it and re-release it on PC. It’s a little difficult.

RPG Site: XSEED Games had basically the same comment. They have a couple people doing the port.

President Akenaga: The problem is that the market in the US and Japan are totally different. The Vita in Japan is still totally alive because it is a country that does a lot of traveling. People aren’t nice to the PC or the Xbox.

RPG Site: One last question. This is something that has been all over the news. Today, we heard that Monster Monpiece would be coming to Steam with all of the Japanese cards. Back when it first came out in the West, it was missing some of the more risque cards. What is your opinion on the Western feelings towards censorship and the sensitivity towards this material, and the backlash of that material from some people? Specifically, the repercussion of censoring content and answering to your fans as a result?

President Akenaga: In short, we understand that this is a really sensitive subject and we want to approach it in a sensitive way. In terms of censoring someone’s creativity and having them be upset about it, we respect that and it is an obvious risk.

RPG Site: From my standpoint, I can accept something when it is censored but I can understand when people get upset about it. In some ways I am happy that I am getting it.

President Akenaga: So you know how you just said you’re happy to get it? That was the mentality when they released it previously. But we also saw the reaction and it became more that we shouldn’t have released it at all. That’s kind of the vibe we were getting so we have learned a lot from what fans have been telling us..

RPG Site (moving on to Yamamoto): Disgaea is a game that loves to go over the top. Trillion: God of Destruction goes beyond that with a character with a trillion HP. What brought up this concept of having a character that over-the-top?

Yamamoto: The whole goal of Trillion is the concept of repetition. In order to justify repetition is to introduce an enemy that is so powerful that you can’t defeat it at the beginning. That was the whole image that I had in my head and as a result it became sort of over-the-head.

RPG Site: From what I’ve heard from those who played it, there are people who also got emotional playing the game because it wasn’t just an overwhelming obstacle - you were sending characters out to die.

Yamamoto: Right. Disgaea was not as story-based but for Trillion my focus was to have a good story along with an awesome system. As a result, the feedback he got was exactly what I was looking for.

RPG Site: You’re known for making strategy games like Disgaea 4 and Trillion. These are more animated in design. Have you ever considered making a deeper, more tactical, more realistic game in the vein of Tactics Ogre?

"As a developer, we are going to make a pretty risque game. We would like to have it in the American fanbase’s hands the way we created it."
Yamamoto: This is actually interesting because within the team I have discussed this before. We are known to be that gag-centric, over-the-top designers. We excel in this. We understand that there is a fanbase that loves this. Someday I would really like to attempt that.

RPG Site: You hang your hat on strategy RPGs. Are there are other genres you would like to explore, such as horror or adventure games?

Yamamoto: I personally love baseball. One day I would love to make a baseball game and make it over-the-top like the games we make. So instead of throwing one ball, the pitchers throws 27 balls so that side can get 9 outs.

RPG Site: We need arcade baseball to come back.

Yamamoto: I would like to try it. I really want to do it!

RPG Site: I wanted to ask you as well, your opinion on the Western opinion on censorship. We heard from the business side who has to deal with different roadblocks on the way to release, but we also want to hear from the creative side.

Yamamoto: As a developer, we are going to make a pretty risque game. We would like to have it in the American fanbase’s hands the way we created it. Obviously we wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t feel it should be in the game. That is from our standpoint.

RPG Site: That’s pretty much all of my questions. I really appreciate the time you have spent with us. Thank you both very much.

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