Arc System Works Interview
Play recently had the chance to chat to Arc System Works – in particular, Toshimichi Mori (BlazBlue producer) and Daisuke Ishiwatari (Guilty Gear director) and found them both to be refreshingly honest and open. Read on to see what they had to say about everything from BlazBlue’s female fans to their regret over the DLC launched for their fighting game series…
PLAY: Is there such a thing as a Arc System style?
DI: Probably the essence of Arc you can see in the games we make. From now into the future you can see it is made by Arc just by looking at it. The reason why this is the case is our president.
TM: For me whatever I make, that defines Arc System
PLAY: Games like Street Fighter and Marvel Vs Capcom have gone for 3D models with their visuals, but you’ve stuck with 2D animation. What do you think of the changes they’ve made? Would you consider going 3D?
DI: I’m quite impressed by the 3D fighters [like Street Fighter and MvC3], but I’m not tempted to do one myself. If you look at May or Ky from Guilty Gear you can’t really imagine a fan of Guilty Gear being happy to see them moving in 3D. I don’t reject it and I think it’s a good thing, but the only time we can do 3D is when the 2D fans of Guilty Gear are happy and satisfied with the quality of the 3D artwork we can generate. Meaning that we are not there yet technologically.
TM: We’re making games for people who enjoy anime and manga and the visual beauty of those mediums. That’s the concept of our games so if we were going to create these 3D games it would have to be a different title. It might use some of the characters from BlazBlue, but it would be a totally different game.
PLAY: How do you feel about the way BlazBlue has been received?
TM: I’ve been surprised, but we had the foundation of Guilty Gear already so we could expect a certain level of response to the game. What was most surprising was how BlazBlue appealed to younger gamers and people who hadn’t played a fighting game before. That was a good surprise, but we’re now continuously thinking hard how we can appeal to that younger generation.
BlazBlue didn’t have very high expectations from the people surrounding it. In the beginning of the BlazBlue project I actually proposed the game to other companies as well as Arc. The idea then was that Arc would put in 50 per cent of the effort and another company would put in 50 per cent. I went to one company with my presentation and this company said ‘this game will never sell’. So, the expectation wasn’t great from the beginning even internally. My own marketing team didn’t believe in it and thought it wouldn’t sell. I needed to prove myself that BlazBlue would work.
If you persuade Arc’s president Minoru Kidooka your project is good, then it’s your project. That’s how I became a producer. You have to raise your hand with a plan and persuade him it can work and then you are the creator. It’s very different to any other company. Because of this I started the game directly with president Kidooka and the marketing team wasn’t happy with things going on above their heads. It wasn’t a happy start.
PLAY: What would you say is the biggest difference between Japanese and European BlazBlue fans?
TM: My biggest hope and dream is the increase the female fanbase for BlazBlue in Europe. In Japan if we hold a competition around 20 per cent will be female players. If you look only at fans of the game then it’s more like 40 per cent female. I’d like to be able to get the same thing here. When we had an event in France we were talking about only a few per cent being women and that’s the biggest difference.
PLAY: In bringing BlazBlue to PSP were you hoping to tap into a younger audience?
TM: Including the TV you need to play with, it’s just way too expensive for kids to play BlazBlue on PS3 and that’s why we brought it to PSP and also the 3DS. When we released Calamity Trigger on PSP we received quite a few questionnaires back from the users and the average age of the people who answered was significantly younger. They were between 13 and 18.
PLAY: You recently had Hard Corps: Uprising released on PSN. Are you keen to do more digital releases?
TM: I buy lots of things digitally, but generally in Japan people are not used to paying for things online such as downloadable content. When it started it was supposed to be a way to make things more accessible and for things to be more casual, but at the moment there is so much negative news, mainly involving kids spending too much without their parents knowing. Unless that is sorted in some way the negative image is running ahead of any advantages of the system. It works outside of Japan, but in Japanese market where we are I see a lot of issues.
PLAY: Does that discourage you from releasing things digitally?
TM: There is a issue, but business is business and we have to make money. We are actually selling quite a few WiiWare games and some of those haven’t reached Europe yet, but we will do that eventually. For BlazBlue it wouldn’t be feasible to have it be a download because of the size. It’s just too big to release as downloadable content.
PLAY: Didn’t the BlazBlue DLC do well though?
TM: Reception was not very positive, however we made lots of money doing it [laughs]. Looking back it probably should have been slightly cheaper. The limitations of downloadable content – for instance Microsoft’s is 2GB – meant we had to abandon a plan to sell the game with only four characters at a relatively small price and then sell the additional characters separately. That’s something I planned that didn’t materialise, but it’s something that I still hope to be able to do sometime.
PLAY: Are there any plans for Guilty Gear at the moment?
DI: [laughs] Do you want to play a new Guilty Gear? If you say so I will make one.
PLAY: Do you think with games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and more making a big impact the time is right for a new Guilty Gear?
DI: I can’t tell you when it’s going to be, not because it’s a secret, but because we just don’t know. I’m worried that we’ll catch this wave of the fighting game rise too late. It’s a difficult thing to see the timing and make a good game. It will be within this century [laughs].
PLAY: Where do you think Arcana Heart 3 fits in the Arc System family?
TM: All 2D fighting games come to Arc, but Arcana Heart 3 is slightly different. It’s not our own IP. We provided the port and all the network engines and so on at Arc. Quite a bit of our technology goes in and our know how, but it’s not really our game. It’s been released in Japan already and it’s doing quite well. It’s exceeded 50,000 units already.