In today's Gamasutra feature, Ryan Winterhalter introduces us to two Westerners
who've set up shop in Tokyo: Dutch-born British citizen James Kay and his partner Paul Caristino, founders of Score Studios.
The two both say the fact they established their business in Japan was practically incidental, but not without a unique set of concerns.
From the feature:
There are many areas of the law in Japan that are vague and governed by multiple executive bodies within the government, which offer conflicting interpretations of the same regulations.
"It seems there are rules, but rules are often just guidelines," says Kay. "By law, you need to enroll in insurance through the company. When we asked what happens if we don't do it, we were just told 'you should'. There's no penalty if you don't. We want to do it aboveboard. So we paid our accountant to do it."
There are many aspects of the law that can only be handled by specialist lawyers -- which is exactly what Score did. "A friend of Paul's put us in touch with a Japanese lawyer who spoke English. When it was time, we called him to set us up," says Kay.
This was Kay's first step into the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of Japanese business. In just a single meeting, "there were 30 pieces of paper I had to stamp." What all that paperwork was for wasn't clear even to Kay and Caristino. "We let him [the lawyer] do everything. He asked for information, we gave it to him."
"It was 60,000 or 80,000 yen (about $675 to $900) to incorporate. We only needed of one yen of capital. All together, with a lawyer fee, it was less than 200,000 yen ($2,250.)" The company enters a legal grey zone at this point. According to some laws, it doesn't exist, and according to others it does.
But although some aspects of adjustment to running a business as foreigners in Japan were difficult, the pair have acclimated, and now the real work begins:
The bright, clean and visually appealing look that Score's games have owe something to the time Kay and Caristino spent slaving away in a studio. "We like to add Japanese veneer. Not like manga/anime style, I mean -- more than photorealistic. It's more design-based," Kay says.
This Japanese attention to design shows through in their games. In the studio's Game & Watch-inspired title, Bail-Out, putting pressure on the screen will cause the image to warp and bend as if it was a real LCD game.
The fusion of elements of Japanese design and Western flexibility and pragmatism is something few studios could replicate. It comes directly from the duo's experiences. This allows them to bring a level of polish and design to a casual market that is sometimes in desperate need of it.
The full feature provides a fascinating look
at Kay and Caristino's work and experiences in Japan.