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Switching gear JRPG publisher NIS America is shifting focus for its upcoming releases, as gamers are eager to play more games on the ultra-portable Switch. MCV talks to CEO Takuro Yamashita and producer Alan Costa THE world of JRPGs is changing. Players are flocking to the Switch thanks to its portability, and they want to take their epic 100-hour experiences with them. We talk to CEO of NIS America, Takuro Yamashita, and producer Alan Costa, about the company’s Switch strategy. Where do you feel NIS America sits in the global games market?

Takuro Yamashita: Our positioning is that we try to be the biggest fish in the small pond. We are not a key publishing company like Bandai Namco or Square Enix, we are second tier and we are focusing on releasing JRPGs in the western market and I think we are getting a better position in such a niche world. That’s NIS’ vision. There’s a lot of room for second tier companies to survive and we are now covering the console market. We’re on PS4, Switch and we are now releasing games for PC via Steam. We have a good translation team in-house and a supporting team in-house. So we can cover our different areas. Due to the small market of Japan and the smaller market of the Switch in Japan, Japanese companies normally don’t want to port their game or IP onto Switch. But we are very proactively working on that idea. We are porting lots more games, in-house titles and licensed games from third parties and other companies to Switch versions. That’s our new strategy. That’s what we are doing for the next two or three years. You are working much closer with Nintendo recently. How did that come about and what benefits have you seen as a company? Yamashita: I’ll give you a scoop! Originally we signed with SNK on SNK Heroines just on the PS4 format. Then last year an opportunity happened at Gamescom, two third parties happened to meet all together outside Nintendo’s meeting room. The first meeting was between NIS America and Nintendo of Europe (NOE) and the next meeting was between SNK and NOE. Of course, these two were separate meetings. Then after their meeting influential people from SNK came to our booth and said: “Hey, Mr. Yamashita, is it possible to cancel our contact on PS4? Nintendo wants to work on this title on an exclusive basis!”

So these third parties come together and the team at NIS and SNK decided to go with Nintendo for the western market. Physical copywise, it’s going to be a Switch exclusive. PS4-wise it’s going to be just digital. That’s the deal. We will not release a packaged version for PS4 format. Then Nintendo will act as a distributor for this game. Then they promised to buy a lot of units. I can’t reveal the number of units they’ve guaranteed, that’s secret talk. What is your strategy for Europe moving forwards?

Yamashita: For the JRPG market, the biggest country is France, so most of our key titles, such as Ys VIII and the Disgaea series, we localise the game in French to get in a much better position in Europe, because the French market is the biggest for JRPG titles. We’re starting to do more on Nintendo Switch. SNK Heroines is not the only one. We’ve teamed up with Nintendo Europe for our other Switch titles. They support us in a good way. Compared to that, Sony is not friendly with small publishers like us. They just care about big Japanese companies. Also, if we simultaneously release a Switch version and a PS4 version of the same title, currently the sales trend is two to one. That means the Switch version sells twice as much as the PS4 version. Physically and digitally. A lot of PS4 titles are coming up, so the market is very competitive. Compared to that, the Switch market still has lots of room for publishers to make money. How have your Switch releases been doing so far? Yamashita: For Disgaea 5, Switch sold very well. It sold just under 200k units just in the west. Maybe 40 per cent of these people already have the PS4 version. Why do they buy the same game again? Because it’s the function of a handheld that the Switch has. And Sony decided to withdraw from the PS Vita market. The memory size limitation of the Vita is just one gigabyte, right? But Disgaea is 8 GB. So Disgaea fans want to play on a handheld, but there is no handheld Disgaea 5 on a Sony format. So this is a perfect platform. We can play at home and we can play outside using the handheld function of the Switch. That is why the Nintendo Switch platform is growing naturally.

38 | MCV 934 April 2018

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MCV April 2018  
MCV April 2018