Falcom's secret to success: Care, not gimmicks

The president of cult Japanese developer Falcom (Ys series) tells Gamasutra in a new feature interview that the company has found success thanks to being "ca
The president of cult Japanese developer Falcom (Ys series) tells Gamasutra in a new feature interview that the company has found success thanks to being "careful" with games, and trendy ideas get "canned." "This is our current philosophy, but it's also a philosophy that we kept over the 30 years of our history: we carefully create our games with a lot of care and details. We're detail-oriented, and we've been doing that throughout the whole 30 years of our company history," says Toshihiro Kondo, president of Falcom and director of Ys Seven and other games for the Tokyo-based publisher. The studio has been seeing something of a renaissance in its home market since it switched gears to developing primarily for the PSP. The next game in the Ys series, Celceta no Jukai, is due for the PlayStation Vita later this year. "Falcom has had a philosophy, right from the beginning, that has been carried on to this day," says Kondo. "When we create a game design, the gameplay system has to be interesting, and if the gameplay system is not interesting, the designers get in trouble. There are people within the company who would say, 'Okay, let's use the character to attract the audience.' Those kinds of game designs would get canned. They would get in trouble." Kondo is speaking of how many Japanese games rely on cute girls, rather than quality gameplay, to attract a fan base. In contrast to many other developers, Falcom's games have had a consistent style for the company's entire history. Kondo compares it to "shinise" -- a Japanese term referring to shops with a long tradition of selling a specific, carefully-crafted product, sometimes for hundreds of years. "That's one of our strong, strong philosophies that has been helping us avoid going in the direction of those otaku, moe characters. If the gameplay system is fun and interesting, we value that the most. If the gameplay system is fun, then we probably might not mind adding those things as another factor to the game, but we don't want that to be the main pull of the game." The result? "We haven't made a huge change in the style of how we create games. We've been evolving the way we create games, but we haven't been changing the company's whole direction. "So I feel like, throughout the whole time we've been concentrating on creating these games, being a detail-oriented developer, and creating a perfect game. I feel like the game players are also realizing once again that's where a good game exists -- and that might be the reason why they're appreciating [the company's bestselling RPG] Zero no Kiseki." The full feature, which discusses the evolution of the company and more fully explores its creative philosophy and process is live now on Gamasutra.

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