Talking to Gamasutra as part of a wider article
on publishing Japanese games in the West, GaijinWorks' Victor Ireland has been getting specific on advance amounts and his plans to return to game publishing.
After 17 years as president of Working Designs, a localization house for niche Japanese games, Ireland launched Redding, CA-based GaijinWorks in 2006.
These last three years, the company has functioned as a "localization developer," most recently on Hudson's Miami Law
, according to Ireland, who is the company's president. But he intends to begin publishing "eventually, perhaps in the next 18 months to two years," he says, focusing -- like XSeed and Atlus -- on RPGs.
These days the niche he intends to join is a much more crowded one than when he headed up his former company, "but there is still a huge amount of software in Japan that doesn't get licensed. So, yes, it's more competitive, but if you really know where to look, there's a wealth of titles available."
To be successful, Ireland explains, it takes the tenacity to play through the games to make sure you know what you're getting up front, it takes the ability to speak Japanese, and it takes a confidence in your ability to pick a good game. "If you have all three, the risk is low," he says.
Ireland isn't as reluctant as his competitors when it comes to discussing the cost of licensing Japanese games.
"For an A or B+ title -- not an AAA title -- it can go anywhere from $100,000 to as high as $800,000 depending on the game," he reports. "That's the minimum guarantee. If the title is a hit, you could wind up paying an additional two to four million dollars in royalties."
"But if you're doing the developer's first game, if they are a small company, if they are hungry to license, then the cost could be less. And there are different kinds of deals -- revenue-sharing or upfront deals; there are a million ways to slice it. It really depends on your negotiating skills."
It also depends on how much the developer trusts the licensee and whether this is the first time they are working together or it is an old relationship. Or the relationship could be with another company that is close to the licensor.
"There are really too many small developers in Japan for you to be tight with all of them," says Ireland. "But if you know the right people, you can get the 'golden introduction,' which is almost the same thing. If you can get a good introduction from someone who has the trust of the developer you're pursuing, then 'bam' -- you're instantly up on the relationship meter."
"So we have relationships with well-established companies that are willing to introduce us to the licensors. In Japan that goes a long way, and is certainly better than cold-calling. If you think you can cold call, you're really fighting a tough battle."
It's a challenging sector to join, the pros agree. It takes experience, lots of connections, and at least a half-million dollars or more just to get your feet wet, says Ireland.
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature on the subject
, including further comments from Atlus and XSeed executives on the state of the publishing market for Japanese games in the West.