'You can't get caught up in making games for yourself'

Enix America existed in the NES and SNES eras before shutting down. Producer Robert Jerauld talks lessons and history in a new interview -- and spills the beans on a Dragon Quest localization that wasn't.
"You can't get caught up in making games for yourself believing that you speak for the consumer. You have to take the time to really hear what people have to say, read all the feedback, read all the comments, truly understand what people seek in their experiences."
- producer Robert Jerauld Robert Jerauld was a producer at Enix America, home to the Dragon Quest series, during the company's first go-round in the West -- the NES and SNES era (at which time it was called Dragon Warrior, of course). The company couldn't make a success of many of its RPGs, and Jerauld admits a number of missteps he made at the time, in a brand new interview at Jerauld is now an executive producer at Microsoft Game Studios, and has worked on titles in the Gears of War and Alan Wake franchises -- but lessons he learned in the old days still stick with him: "Above all, I learned that you have to value the consumer above all else. If you don't take the time to listen, to hear what people are saying -- you are putting yourself ahead of your customers. That's a mistake I never choose to make again," Jerauld says. Here, he refers to the decision to turn cult-hit SNES simulation/action hybrid ActRaiser into a pure action title for its sequel -- which was a bomb, as fans of the first ignored it in the wake of this change. Jerauld also speaks frankly about the failure of the company's final SNES title: King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, a cartoon-licensed action RPG that also tanked: "I had to face that failure and really think about what boundaries I, as a producer, needed to define in order to retain a certain level of creative excellence in the things I work on." "It's vital that you really take your time to find the right design, to find the right developer, to ensure you have the right budget, to retain creative control, etc.," he says. The entire interview is a frank look at the learning process that shaped how Jerauld approaches creating games. It also contains one bit of startling news: Dragon Quest VI was localized into English, but the company shut down before it could be released in the U.S. That's because "Nintendo simply didn't have an answer for the PlayStation," and Enix decided to shut down its U.S. branch -- Enix was "committed to their partnership with Nintendo," and the SNES was too challenging a business environment to sustain while waiting for the Nintendo 64 to get off the ground. The N64 launched a year after the PlayStation in the U.S. Of course, Enix had decided to jump ship to the PlayStation by then -- but that's another story. The full interview is both a fascinating look at at the history of the video game industry and a source of inspiration from a veteran who's seen the effects of decision-making, both good and bad. You can read it all here.

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