Every 15 years, like clockwork, the Japanese gaming industry is disrupted by a new technology.  The console giants were crippled by the first generation of mobile games published by companies like DeNA and Gree. Now those companies are now losing business to smaller publishers selling through the Apple Store and Google Play.

Rintaro Oyaizu used to run his own game development company and now runs CyberAgent Game Headquarters, which oversees all of CyberAgent gaming subsidiaries, and he explains CyberAgent’s game development processes and the criteria they use to decide which games to develop and market.

We also talk about the the shifts going on now,  what lies ahead for both the current giants and new upstarts, and advice for people who want to break into the gaming industry.

It’s an interesting discussion and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Show Notes for Startups

  • The structure and strategy of CyberAgents gaming companies
  • Why Japanese game companies fail in the US – and vice-versa
  • What makes a game successful
  • CyberAgent’s criteria for selecting a game to develop and market
  • Why having a game portfolio is critical to success
  • How CyberAgent optimizes its games in real-time
  • Backend operations as a strategic advantage for mobile games
  • Why free-to-play games and in-app purchases are the future of gaming
  • What’s in store for Mario
  • Why console game makers have a hard time in the mobile space
  • Advice for those who want to break into the gaming industry

Links from the Founder

 Leave a comment

Transcript from Japan

Welcome to Disrupting Japan. Straight talk from Japan’s most successful Entrepreneurs.

I am Tim Romero and thanks for listening.

Today we’re gonna talk about gaming or rather, the business of gaming.

Rintaro Oyaizu, once ran his own gaming publisher and now manages all game development for CyberAgent and its subsidiaries. Overseas listeners may not be familiar with CyberAgent, but they are one of the most powerful internet content and venture companies in Japan and they run some of the largest blogging and gaming platforms here.

Now, I’m not really a gamer, but it’s fascinating how in Japan every new generation of technology cuts the legs out from under the market leaders and a new generation of companies muscles into that space and its happening again, right now, as the third generation of Japanese gaming companies are coming into their own.

We talk about CyberAgent’s internal processes for deciding which games get made and which get distributed and Rintaro also has some insights about what will become of the recent stock swap between Nintendo, a first generation game company and DeNA, a second generation game company and how they might compete against the new, more flexible third generation companies. Its great stuff and I think you’ll enjoy it. So let’s get right to the interview.

Tim: Okay, I’m sitting here with Rintaro. Thanks for sitting down with me and thanks for buying me the beer this time.

Rintaro: No problem. Cheers.

Tim: Cheers. Now, Rintaro is the Director of CyberAgent game headquarters and game headquarters overseas all of CyberAgent’s gaming subsidiaries, and there’s a lot of them. Why don’t you tell us, you know briefly, you don’t have to list all the subsidiaries, for the people especially overseas who might not be that familiar with CyberAgent, tell us a bit about the types of games CyberAgent makes.

Rintaro: Okay. Okay. Our company’s a bit unique because we have about ten subsidiaries within the group. The reason why is for example, there is a subsidiary called Greench which used to be a joint venture of Mixi because Mixi Platforms was big and we wanted to have strong connections with the platform. And for, there’s a subsidiary called Gree Forum. Gree Forum is a joint venture of Gree.

Tim: Right. Yes.

Rintaro: Gree is also a big platform.

Tim: So it seems that most of CyberAgent’s subsidiaries, they’re establishing companies for strategic rather than creative reasons.

Rintaro: Yes, yes, yes. Strategic reasons is like the biggest part. Another example, there is a company called Green Monster, this is a joint venture of Line. And there’s another company called Cygames, the state called their Cygames 22% DeNA.

Tim: Tell me, within each subsidiary, other than the charter of developing games targeted at specific platform, is there a lot of creative differences between the groups?

Rintaro: Yes. So there’s a lot of different types of people within the groups, for example, GCREST – one of our subsidiaries specializes in female targeted games.

Tim: What is involved in a female targeted game? I’m praying it’s not just put lost of pink in it and…

Rintaro: It’s all about creating beautiful male illustrations.

Tim: Okay, so it’s very similar to the Manga that are targeting woman here.

Rintaro: Yes, yes.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: That’s right. Characterization of each of the character is really detailed, conversations we have with the game and the user is really, really detailed and real.

Tim: Okay, so you put a lot more effort in the drama, in the exploring the characters…

Rintaro: That’s right

Tim: Than you would a male targeted game.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm

Tim: I’m not a game person.

Rintaro: Okay, yeah.

Tim: I’m fascinated by the game business, but I know very little, I’m not a gamer. I think it is very interesting the variation we’re seeing, not only within a single company, but the way games play out internationally. You worked in New York City as well, right?

Rintaro: Yes, yes.

Tim: Did you notice a significant difference between the gaming culture in America, and the gaming culture in Japan?

Rintaro: Ah, yes, yes. Big time.

Tim: Okay, tell me about that.

Rintaro: I established a company called CyberXNYC with intentions to work with major league baseball, NFL, NBA to build sports oriented card battle type of games in the United States.

Tim: All right, all right

Rintaro: In Japan, card battle type of, where you collect cards, make up your team and battle with other opponents became a big market in Japan. From that information, I thought, you know, sport was a big thing in the United States. Sports and card battles should fit.

Tim: It seems logical right.

Rintaro: I want to become number one. The first one, to you know, launch that type of game in the States. I was CEO at the moment in Japan, but decided to leave my staffs and everything behind. Go to the States to do the negotiations with major league baseball and all the sports associations.

Tim: Licensing can be tough.

Rintaro: Oh yeah, yeah, it was my first time.

Tim: How did it play out?

Rintaro: The negotiations and you know getting the approvals went well. We were the first ones to actually launch, but it just didn’t go out well. My assumptions are that, the majority of the population in the States did not play games through their smart phones, yet.

Tim: What year was this?

Rintaro: 2012.

Tim: 2012.

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: still, that 2012 a lot of smart phones, good penetration at that point.

Rintaro: Yes, yes, yes.

Tim: I’m always fascinated with business ideas that seem great on paper, but don’t work out, have a special fascination for me. If you had to pick one or two reasons that it didn’t work out, what were the reasons for it?

Rintaro: That the market timing was too fast. After our launch, there were about three players from Japan doing the same thing with major league baseball and NFL

Tim: Interesting.

Rintaro: But they all failed. The second reason would be, we were spending a lot of money on smart phone advertising for our app. When we compared the metrics of user acquisitions, other fantasy games were better compared to major league baseball.

Tim: It is fascinating to me how, how gaming is very local. It seems similar to music, for example. Music in Japan, you’ve got a few international hits, but its primarily Japanese artists. Same thing in the States, there are a few imports but it’s primarily US artists and some British ones.

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: Gaming seems very much like that.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: I mean, we’ve got a few mega hits like Candy Crush or Clash of Clans, but what percentage would you say of Japanese gaming is Japanese home grown?

Rintaro: Probably 80% or 90% in Japan.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: Because looking back in history, Japanese consumer gaming was really strong, you know started with the Nintendo, Sega, Sony

Tim: What is it? Why do some games, just take off internationally? Whether its Super Mario or Pac-Man or Candy Crush, is it a simplicity, what makes an international mega hit?

Rintaro: Probably, one thing would be simplicity. The second would probably be non-verbal character, illustration characteristics, the third one would be perfection, I guess.

Tim: Perfection?

Rintaro: Perfection. Let’s say, for example, Clash of Clans. I think the game balance, really high level. It’s really close to perfection.

Tim: Okay I see what you mean. It’s just very well balanced.

Rintaro: Yes, well balanced.

Tim: Right, and then we have things like Puzzles and Dragons.

Rintaro: Hmm.

Tim: Huge, monstrous success in Japan. It seems to meet all those criteria. It’s simple, it’s well designed, it’s addictive, but it doesn’t seem to have much success outside Japan.

Rintaro: Yes, it would probably be the character or the tone of the illustration. I don’t think it fits the Western countries.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: Yeah.

Tim: You know, this is something I have always kind of suspected. I’m a B2B guy. All of my companies and most of my time is spent selling software and technology to other companies. I get that.

I can look at a piece of technology and I can say ‘Ah, this time of person needs it and he will probably pay this much for it. Here’s how you sell it to them. Now when you get into consumer brands, it’s a little fuzzier. To me gaming, seems almost like voodoo. It seems very unpredictable for what will be a success and what won’t.

Rintaro: You’re right, you’re right.

Tim: Okay, so it’s not just me.

Rintaro: I think, there’s one flow, for instance, fashion, there’s a big flow coming from Europe, or maybe the United States, Japan. Then from Japan to Taiwan or Japan to Korea. From, in music, Japan to Taiwan. Japan to China, Japan to Korea, Japan to Asia itself.

Tim: Yeah, yeah.

Rintaro: From Japan to Asia, I think there’s a big flow in terms of like animations, comics, games. We’re starting to see that wave going from Japan to like, for example, Taiwan.

Tim: Right, right.

Rintaro: We’ve launched a copy of games in Taiwan and we’ve seen a couple, small hits, but growing.

Tim: Interesting.

Rintaro: Yeah.

Tim: I also know, a lot of game developers here, CyberAgent included has been making big investments in Thailand, Singapore, is this primarily a marketing function, where they’re trying to sell Japanese games there? Are they trying to cross pollinate and get local games developed in Thailand back into Japan?

Rintaro: It’s more about exporting of games to Asia.

Tim: Most of the market?

Rintaro: Yes, yes. Interesting thing is, for gaming, there’s no successful Japanese developers in Korea.

Tim: Really?

Rintaro: Yes. I don’t know, so Korea might just be the unique.

Tim: Korea is very into Japanese culture in general. They have a very, very dynamic gaming market on their own.

Rintaro: Yes, yes, exporting games to Korea might not be a good, you know, idea.

Tim: Tough local competition.

Rintaro: Yeah, China, Taiwan and Malaysia, Singapore, Thai, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Tim: Tell me then, even if we’re admitting that developing a game is like signing a new rock band, it’s unpredictable. What’s the debate that goes on inside CyberAgent? When you guys are decided whether to fund a new game, when you’re deciding to market a new game? How do you weigh the pluses and minuses, what’s that equation?

Rintaro: Within our company, we make a lot of prototypes, and we check it out. A lot of people say ‘Oh, this is cool’ or a lot of people would say ‘I don’t this will work out’.

Tim: Do you do that testing just internally or do you buy a bunch of college students and pizza and say?

Rintaro: We do it internally.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: It’s up to the Producer. Even if there is a like negative opinion, if the Producer has the will, then the project proceeds.

Tim: All right.

Rintaro: Yes, because we, we just never know. The most important thing is the motivation or the vision of a Producer.

Tim: I’m having flashbacks to my musician days. It’s very much the way it runs, just its finding key people who believe in the idea and the people behind it and say ‘we’re gonna put this out there’ and then, once it’s out there, it either sells or doesn’t. I guess until that point, until you put it out there in front of the customers, you’re never really sure which way its gonna go.

Rintaro: Yes. No one has the right answer. It’s just up to the person who wants this project out in the market.

Tim: All right. Does that process leave CyberAgent to focus on simpler games with shorter release cycles or do you also do multi-year development cycle games?

Rintaro: The average pace would be one year for development. Yeah.

Tim: All right,

Rintaro: We don’t have the experience of taking risks, similar to that consumer gaming where, you know, for example, Final Fantasy probably takes about three years, 50 million dollars. We can’t take that kind of chance because you know, within the two or three years the market trend just changes. We do need to invest in a certain time so that the quality of the content is ready for the market or you know.

Tim: I guess that CyberAgent’s overall strategy is, in your position, you’re overseeing nine subsidiaries?

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: Within that portfolio of games, some will be hits, some will be terrible and no one will like. On average, you guys will still make money.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: Have learned from that experience.

Rintaro: Our strategy is basically doing everything.

Tim: Seeing what works.

Rintaro: Its make different types of games, make development in-house invest outside. We basically stick in Japan, but we try some in Asia, we tried a lot in the United States before and we want to seek some revenge there in that market.

Tim: Japanese gaming companies have a hard time in the US recently.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm. Yes, the other way around too, I think.

Tim: Yeah, it’s very, it seems to be a local business.

Rintaro: We just don’t stick to one thing, we don’t decide top down, it’s more of a bottom up kind of culture.

Tim: Excellent. The game designers have a lot of autonomy.

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: If they could find people within the company who understand their vision, the game gets made, and then the users make the final decision whether they like it or not.

Rintaro: Yes, yes. Our strength actually is ‘Daily Ops’ or operations itself, because internet gaming is all about operation.

Tim: In what way?

Rintaro: Check the data, assume what the users are feeling and answer to them

Tim: Okay, can you give me like a, a specific example of how this is useful.

Rintaro: It’s mostly about data mining, for example, there’s a fantasy RPG card-battle game. We decided to, you know, sell female character kind of card within the Gacha.

Tim: All right.

Rintaro: Do you know what a Gacha…where you pay like 300 yen for a receive one card, randomly.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: But the main incentive would be like ‘this strong card’ or ‘this cute card’.

Tim: They’re drawing cards for 300 yen per draw, trying to acquire a particular card or a particular set of cards.

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: When you’re mining this data, what are you looking for? What are you optimising?

Rintaro: To see whether, for example, we check to see whether this certain Gacha incentive was effective or not.

Tim: For example if you put together a certain, a certain Gacha, a certain collection of cards that they’re trying to draw, you use the backhand data to determine whether enough people have interest in it?

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: If they don’t, you make it a little more attractive, either cheaper or maybe more powerful.

Rintaro: Uh-huh.

Tim: You’ll tune it in real time, as people are playing.

Rintaro: Yes. Certain Gacha would last for like 7 days.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: Then we’ll look at the data and say ‘Oh it worked’ and the reason it worked is probably because of the illustration, because it was really cute. It might be a reason because the card was really strong. Then we would try to seek for more cuter, in a taste which is similar to this one.

Tim: I see, I suppose the same data mining, the same analytics, the same engines will work exactly the same way across many different games.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: You can share that knowledge of your consumer behaviour across different games and different companies within CyberAgent.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: Okay, I get that.

Rintaro: It’s similar to you know running a convenience store.

Tim: Well no, when you explain it as gaming as a front end to back end analytics, it makes a lot more sense to me.

Rintaro: Oh okay.

Tim: That’s amazing.

Rintaro: Consumer gaming is all about investing into this big project to make the perfect game then launch into the market and just market it. You can’t change afterwards but interment gaming, you can always change the content.

Tim: Right, you can tweak it.

Rintaro: You can add on, change. We just look at the data and seek for what the users are really, user perception and we just try to answer out best.

Tim: With a typical game, how many, in a given week, on a typical game how many of these perimeters are you playing with? Is it 4 or 5? Is it hundreds?

Rintaro: Hundreds.

Tim: Really? Okay, well this actually brings up another point which I find both interesting and horrifying about gaming today. These ‘free to play’ games with micro payments built in.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: These games are everywhere. For our non-gaming listeners, it’s basically a game that is ‘free to play’, and you pay a little bit extra to get more gold in the game or a nice sword or sometimes just a nice looking hat that your avatar can wear. This particular type of game seems to be taking over the gaming world. It is that very data driven, highly optimised back end that’s driving the vending behaviour.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: That CyberAgent, a lot of games fall into this category. What’s your take on it? Why is that so appealing to people?

Rintaro: This mega, paradigm shift of the smart phone and internet combined together. Smart phones it’s just really easy to access the internet, you know.

Tim: Right, right, that makes a lot of sense of why mobile gaming. What is the appeal of this ‘free to play’ style of gaming?

Rintaro: ‘Free to play’ style.

Tim: Why is that becoming so dominant?

Rintaro: Compared to like paid games.   I mean there are a lot of people who play for free.

Tim: Right.

Rintaro: Yes, for example in China, 99% of users don’t pay money.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: Maybe 1% or 0.5% of the very rich people pay a lot of money, is the reason why the Chinese developers are making money. For the 1% or 0.5% people who pay a lot of money, there needs to be a lot of people in the game and a lot of connections, a lot of chance at beating other people or being you know, stronger than other people online.

Tim: It’s important to have the free players around to give the paying players a good experience.

Rintaro: Yes, yes.

Tim: Well, that makes sense

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: It seems that all those mega hits we talked about before, Candy Crush, Clash of Clans were all ‘free to play’.

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: Are fantastically profitable for their makers.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: If only .1% of the people that are paying, they must be paying an awful lot.

Rintaro: In terms of Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans, number of users, ten times, a hundred times compared to normal games. The vast amount of users is their success and for example, Candy Crush Saga, once you start getting concentrated into the game, you pay like 10 cents or 20 cents, but that’s it. The ARPU – Average Revenue Pro User – is really low. The daily active user number is just really vast, that’s why they’re making a lot of money.

Tim: Okay. Because, so many games seem to be going that way. Do you see that as the future of gaming or is that just a niche of gaming?

Rintaro: I think there’s gonna be two models you know. 90 percent of the games probably would be ‘free to play’. In terms of paid games, publishers, it’s not gonna be ready for sale in the app store for over a year.

Tim: You think the paid games will be necessarily more complex, bigger productions, bigger budget items.

Rintaro: Really simple, casual games like you know Angry Birds.

Tim: Oh okay. Yeah.

Rintaro: In other different areas.

Tim: Right.

Tim: Well, before you were mentioning CyberAgent really does not want to finance multi-year development efforts. I guess you guys will be focussing more on the ‘free to play’ style of game.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm.

Tim: Let’s talk about some of the big things that have been going on in gaming Japan.

Rintaro: Okay.

Tim: It seems like every ten years there’s a massive transition in how gaming is done. One of the most telling things that happened recently was the big stock swap between Nintendo and DeNA. What I think is fascinating is because you know, we’re all about Disrupting Japan.

It seems like Nintendo still had some incredibly valuable properties with Mario and Donkey Kong and you know. They really missed that move from console gaming to the web.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm, Mm-hmm.

Tim: They never caught up

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: DeNA seems to have caught that wave of browser based games, but they largely seem to have missed this big wave into mobile.

Rintaro: Yes.

Tim: Into open mobile gaming.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: What is your take on this? Are they going to come out with something really new and interesting? Are these just two already disrupted companies that are trying to figure things out?

Rintaro: The answers probably going be really hard, because it’s really hard to come up to a ‘free to play’ model of Mario. It might be a really casual game, but it might be more of a mid-core type of RPG type of Mario game.

I think DeNA’s on their way to becoming successful within app store and Google Play nowadays you know because they’ve had like a couple of hits. We’re hoping that you know, people who play console games only will come into smart phone games segue, and the population of smart phone segue will increase.

Tim: Well, that makes sense.

Rintaro: Yeah.

Tim: Well, I think the one thing that everyone expects out of this, is seeing Mario on the smart phone, but beyond that, do you think there’s something that is new and innovative that will come out of this alliance?

Rintaro: I don’t, I don’t know. Probably would be a model where you know, a lot of users, low ARPU types of games. I think that would be good for the market itself because it will probably bring a lot of console players to the smart phone. That will end up enlarging the market itself

Tim: We talked about that disruption that happened. DeNA and Gree, I said that they weren’t prepared for mobile gaming but that’s obviously wrong because they were big on mobile gaming. It seems to me where they got surprised was the open platforms, the iPhones, the Google Play, the Android.

As the gaming platform becomes more open, and the distribution becomes more open. PlayStation, Nintendo, they owned it. It was a full stack. You bought their development tools, their hardware, their software.

To the current state of things where you don’t distribution, everyone’s got the same distribution, you go through Apple, you go through Google. Do you think that weakens the position or even eliminates the need for game publishers?

Rintaro: Well, actually the cost of developing one game is increasing and increasing and increasing year to year. It just becomes similar to console gaming. You know, the content becoming much more richer.

Tim: Okay.

Rintaro: Meaning we need to build a game that is much more beautifuler. Meaning we need a lot more graphics, artists. The market right now is really, you know a red ocean, similar types of games everywhere. We, there’s two ways, to make a much more richer game or come up with a much more unique game itself.

Tim: What this sounds like is the exact same arms race, the same escalation that caused so many platform game publishers to go out of business.

Rintaro: Yes, yes.

Tim: It’s a rough business.

Rintaro: Yes, it is a rough business. You’re gonna need much more money.

Tim: It sounds to me though, that one of the big advantages of publishers, just from what you were saying before, it is in that back end, in the analytics, the expertise of optimising games in real time. That’s something that probably a small studio wouldn’t be able to develop expertise on very quickly right?

Rintaro: I guess, yes. Because daily ops and analytics, it’s about data, data about successful things and data about unsuccessful things and all the experience, the more data you have, the more possibility you have of coming up with the right answer.

Tim: Right, right.

Rintaro: Yeah. In Japan we call it Operational Power.

Tim: Operational know how…all right. Do you think, are consoles going away?

Rintaro: No, no no no. What’s happening in Japan is, back in like 2012/2011, a lot of console publishers launched their games within the smart phone segment, but didn’t become successful.

Tim: Right.

Rintaro: Because they don’t have the operation power within internet segment. They don’t know how to run, you know, day by day. Nowadays, console game companies, started building their own, you know, daily ops power segments. They are better at producing games actually.

Tim: Sure. Well, they certainly have more budget.

Rintaro: Yes. Budget wise or experience wise, in terms of the game itself. Nowadays the console game companies are starting to do well within smart phone segment by producing rich games which the internet companies cannot do, like 3D.

Tim: Do you think that’s because of the mobile games, these internet games are becoming richer and richer and more like what the console game companies are used to producing.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: Is it that the console game companies are taking this threat seriously and learning how to better design for mobile games?

Rintaro: Both.

Tim: Okay, so they’re kind of meeting in the middle.

Rintaro: Yes, yes. Both but, there’s always gonna be a need for both very rich high end games and very casual easy to play kind of games.

Tim: Sure.

Rintaro: From an internet company point of view, its probably going be very hard for us to come up with high end console games, type of smart phone games.

Tim: They always will have that strong position to push down from.

Rintaro: Yes, but there’s always going to be need for simple game play or mid-core game play, because you know smart phone, you know. Because when you play games on a smart phone, the games session would be like 1 minute to 3 minute.

Tim: Yeah, I can, so like a console game can be much more immersive, it can have much deeper graphics, people play for hours at a time

Rintaro: Yes, so if it’s too rich its just gonna take too much time to look one scene. The smart phone gaming should be, not too causal but not too heavy.

Tim: I suppose that’s a lot of what your data analytics people are looking for, getting game play right in that sweet spot and being able to adjust it in real time is pretty amazing.

Rintaro: I want to give you a quick example. Last week there was a launch from Square Annex ? called Mobius Final Fantasy. This game is a really, really rich, high-end, Play Station 4 kind of game on mobile.

After the launch this game just went through the top ? It went to like number 5. If you look at the ranking right now, it’s doing good but it’s probably too much, it’s over 100 megabytes, and if it’s over 100 megabytes, you’re gonna need a Wi-Fi to download.

Tim: Right, right. Maybe the initial success was just on that Final Fantasy franchise.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: We’ll see if it has staying power, as people actually try to play it.

Rintaro: Yes. We’ll just look at it for another half a year.

Tim: Keep an eye on it for a while.

Rintaro: Yeah, yeah.

Tim: Let me ask you this then, before we wrap up. I do a lot of coaching and teaching for entrepreneurs and start ups here in Japan and an awful lot of college guys, they’re into gaming, they want to start gaming companies or gaming related companies.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to get into the gaming industry as a designer or as a developer? What’s the best thing they could do to put them on a successful course?

Rintaro: It depends whether they want to go to console gaming or the smart phone gaming. If you want to go to the smart phone gaming, play a lot of games.

Tim: Really?

Rintaro: Play a lot of games, in Japan.

Tim: I think they’d like that advice.

Rintaro: Yeah

Tim: I think they’ve got that part of the advice covered actually. .

Rintaro: . Play a lot of games, not just in your company, in your country, but like Chinese games can be helpful, American games, um just look at the global trend. See what is the next big thing, you know.

Tim: Try to get a really wide perspective, different types of games.

Rintaro: Another thing is success doesn’t always come from what you want to make, but you always have to seek what the users in the world might want. There are always people who fail, by producing what they want.

Tim: Not listening to the customers.

Rintaro: Yes yes and so maybe Hollywood’s the same way.

Tim: Yeah, I’d say it’s a lot like music, yeah.

Rintaro: You know making a hit is mostly about answering towards the market.

Tim: Hmm.

Rintaro: Yeah, so probably young students would think ‘I really want to produce this kind of game or design this kind of game’ but that might not be the major answer.

Tim: It sounds like the thing they need most is an open mind.

Rintaro: Oh yes.

Tim: Open minded enough to look at different games from around the world.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: Different types of genres.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: And they need to be open minded enough to listen when people don’t like their games.

Rintaro: Mm-hmm.

Tim: Take that feedback.

Rintaro: Producing is all about building new values into the world. You always have to listen to the market, you know, walk one point two steps ahead of them, I guess.

Tim: Yeah.

Rintaro: Yeah.

Tim: Yeah, well that’s true in all business. Listen to your customers, they’re the ones that are paying you.

Tim: Okay, listen thank you so much for sitting down with me.

Rintaro: Oh no, no, thank you.

Tim: It’s been a great conversation.

Rintaro: Thank you very much.

We’re back. I have to admit, I was a little relieved to learn that even the leaders inside the gaming industry find it very hard to know what products will be a success before they are launched.

Although, I’m sure Rintaro is right, There will always be a place for rich immersive console gaming, I can’t help but think that mobile, online games have an unfair advantage. Thinking of games as start-ups.

The online games ability to pivot, to change the balance of game play, to introduce new incentives in real time and perhaps eventually player by player basis, will allow them to run more experiments, cut their losses early and make their winning games even better. It looks like both Mario’s future and that of Japanese gaming as a whole are going to be very interesting.

If you’ve got an opinion about gaming and the gaming industry and I know a lot of you do, please drop by DisruptingJapan.com/show024 and let us know what you think. When you drop by this site, you’ll be able to see the links and sites that Rintaro and I talked about and much much more in the resources section of the post.

If you get a chance, please leave us an honest review on iTunes. It’s really the best way you can support the show and help us get the world out. Most of all thanks for listening and thank you for letting people interested in Japanese start ups know about the show.

I am Tim Romero.

Thanks for listening to Disrupting Japan.