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GDC: Q’s Utsumi Wants To Continue To Rock

Shuji Utsumi, CEO of Q Entertainment, provided a breakdown of where the company came from, from its roots in Sega's Rez, and how the company can evolve its mashup style while maintaining rock and roll sensibility.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi, COO of Q Entertainment, often frustrates Shuji Utsumi, Q’s CEO. In Utsumi’s analysis offered at the beginning of the panel, he noted that while Mizuguchi is charismatic, has fantastic vision, and is a great motivator, he doesn’t care for discipline or management. Thankfully, Utsumi is around to keep things manageable in an environment where everyone in the still small company of 60 people is allowed to “rock”. Lumines was Q Entertainment’s first product and Mizuguchi’s first effort after leaving Sega following the release of the critically acclaimed but commercially underachieving Rez. Spawned from late night discussions at Denny’s with the original core five people, it was Utsumi who insisted that they start small and build on the ideas present in Rez’s design sensibilities. In Asia, the company is dabbling in publishing and the PC market. In the MMORPG Angel Love Online, Q Entertainment is experimenting with microtransactions and thus far has found considerable success. Of the 100,000 players with a free subscription, 10 percent are paying money for in-game items and abilities. The average spending per person is nearly $50 dollars per month. In putting their products on mobile platforms, Q Entertainment is also making modifications that test their original designs. With fully half of the audience for Lumines Mobile being female, They’ve needed to redesign and remarket the game as more of an accessory, making it more “cute and lively.” Utsumi sees the future of Q Entertainment’s offerings as like a funnel taking entertainment concepts like games, online community, music, movies, and even advertisements, and having them “merged and mashed like a black hole, so it becomes a big bang.” The result is what Utsumi calls “A Hybrid Product for the Mass Audience.” Utsumi also envisions the employees of Q Entertainment as “digital backpackers.” By this, he means that they should travel constantly and explore new territories, willing to stick around when they find an exciting place, but also ready to go off in a new direction at any point. While it’s not a perfect metaphor for their business model, the company possesses that kind of attitude and spirit. As Utsumi ramped down the presentation, he reiterated the model of the rock band. “When you play music, rock music does not have a conductor. You just play together. But... as you get bigger and bigger, you need a conductor to work together in a really coordinated way.” Despite the company’s recent success, he does not see expanding the company size in the near future. “I am sticking to the idea that we should rock.”

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