Inside Tose Software, the biggest Japanese game dev you've never heard of

"We develop with the utmost focus on quality. The thing that I focus on most myself, is always being aware of and keeping planning as the basis for development."

If you wandered around Kyoto, Japan, for a few hours you might stumble across the headquarters of Tose Software, a nearly four-decade old game studio that's worked on over 1000 games.

Since being founded in 1979, Tose has developed for more systems than you can count on two hands, pumping out big name franchise entries and smaller offerings for the NES, SNES, Gameboy Color, PlayStation 4, PSP, PS Vita, Nintendo DS, and everything in-between.

And yet, despite working on a slew of popular series including Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Dragon Quest, Resident Evil, and Star Ocean, you probably haven't heard of Tose until this every minute.

That's because the company has built up a reputation as a "ghost developer." It's almost always never credited on the games it works on, and usually operates behind the scenes under strict instructions from publishers. 

It's an intriguing business model, and one that's clearly brought Tose its fair share of success. But how exactly does the studio approach game dev, and from an outside perspective, what's it like working with a company that exists in the shadows? 

That's what Famitsu aimed to uncover during a recent studio visit. The resulting article, translated by OneMillionPower, is a predictably interesting read.

"We develop with the utmost focus on quality. The thing that I focus on most myself, is always being aware of and keeping planning as the basis for development," said Mr. W, the project manager-director for Tose's console games division (who had to keep his identity a secret). 

"In some cases, [new] ideas will actually be detrimental to the overall direction of the game. In order to not stray from the direction that we want to head in, I take great care to make sure that we don’t lose track of what we want to present to the end user and always keep the concept of the title in mind." 

The words "end user perspective" are bandied around the Tose office like a ping pong ball, and it's clear the studio is determined to ensure corporate aspirations don't overshadow player satisfaction. 

"We take great care to develop with the end user perspective in mind," added Mr. T, who works in the same department as Mr. W. "When development carries on for a long period of time, consideration tends to shift toward the company and making development more convenient. We’re always conscious of whether or not what we’re creating will make the end user happy." 

Be sure to check out the full translated feature over on OneMillionPower to hear more from the Tose dev team, and those who've worked with them.

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