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Inside PSN Store – MonkeyPaw Interview

Inside PSN Store – MonkeyPaw Interview

PSN Store is made up of big IP, indie curios, PS2 classics and ports of niche import titles. It’s the latter point where MonkeyPaw Games has made its name, bringing PlayStation classics and curios such as Arc The Lad, Alundra, Galaxy Fight, Vanguard Bandits and more to PlayStation 3. MonkeyPaw publisher, John Greiner, sheds light on the process.

MonkeyPaw Games has brought a lot of PSOne imports to PSN Store – Arc The Lad being the most popular one so far. MonkeyPaw Games has also developed its own titles such as BurgerTime World Tour. Was the plan always to bring a mix of PSOne classics and your own titles to PSN Store?

Yes, some games are suitable to be brought over without translation, meaning they couldn’t be published if localizations costs were incurred.  Other games with great history or mechanics deserve a full evolution to bring them to modern gaming levels.  BurgerTime was such a classic.  How many coins did it rip from your pocket growing up?

How do you select the PSOne imports you bring to PSN Store and how big a role does commercial viability of those titles play?

Licensing is an extremely tricky trade in Japan.  You get a lot of “No, thanks” in this world and persistence is a necessary quality.  We first target titles that we consider to be of very good to excellent.  We never want to just bring games because they are available.  So that thins the selection even further.  Commercial viability does not come into focus until the game actually releases as their is no way of knowing how some titles will perform.  In the US, Magical Drop didn’t go well for us while Yakiniku Bugyou does well.  Who could predict that?!

There was some frustration at the Arc The Lad delay before the title finally hit PSN Store. What’s the process behind bringing a game like that to PSN Store and what’s the main obstacle?

As a publisher, any delay causes frustration and consternation, mainly because our Japanese licensors don’t understand the delays.  But reality is we are taking 10-15 year old games and going through an emulation and intensive QA effort.  So problems will arise.  Lots of parts have to align and there invariably obstacles that get in the way.  Did I mention persistence being a necessarily quality in this business?

Which of the PSOne imports has done best for MonkeyPaw so far?

Our RPGs have done the best, since they are most well-known.  Alundra, Vanguard Bandits and the Arc Series were all big name titles in their day.  Working Design’s excellent translations have brought these titles to Western viewers so that we can all enjoy Japanese RPG classic without having to study kanji.   Our shooters have also done very well.  Shienryu, Sonic Wings Special, GaiaSeed, the Dezaemon build-your-own series and of course Cho Aniki have also fared well.  Puzzle games have not.

I do have to say, our European sales have been much weaker than our US sales.  Not sure why since the population sizes are equal.  But I’m hoping the word will spread and more gamers will come see what we have to offer.  Spread the word.

The Class of Heroes 2 Kickstarter is interesting in that it plans to ‘prove that a physical/digital hybrid can work’. The Kickstarter also notes that a lot of PSP J-RPGs never make it out West, as rightly or wrongly, they’re deemed unprofitable. There seems to be a lot of love from you guys for physical releases. The industry as a whole seems to be moving towards a digital distribution model, so how can actually physical releases survive? What do they offer that digital downloads can’t?

Do you ever look at your stack of old records and think about booting one up on the turntable?  There is something nostalgic about a physical product.  That, in a nutshell, is it.  The world is moving toward digital so there remains a unique niche for the collector of original product.  The reason we’re doing this is because our partners at Gaijinworks are extremely good at creating deluxe version of packaged product and have much success at including nice swag that increases in value over time as they are all well-made and are of limited production runs.  Can’t do that with digital.

MonkeyPaw is more familiar with PSN Store releases than most. Looking towards next-gen, what’s the one thing you’d like to see change with PSN Store?

More sales is what we’d like to see most!  It is a very low margin business and we need more downloads to continue to bring more games.  More downloads means more publishers are willing to gamble with us.  It’s a simple formula for success.   And like any business, success breeds success.  It’s a virtuous circle.  But we need more help from fans of Japanese games.   Help us get the word out. We believe there’s just so much more on the horizon, but we need all of our fans and other retro gamers to help back our cause.