At the recent MI6 marketing conference in San Francisco, Gamasutra had a chance to catch up with Konami's U.S. PR head Marc Franklin, a long-time employee of the company, and an enthusiastic believer in the blend of Japanese and Western titles which the home of Metal Gear Solid
is increasingly putting out.
During the course of the conversation, a multitude of topics were touched upon, from Konami's ramped-up support of the Nintendo and the Wii, to whether Elebits
creator Shingo Mukaitoge is being groomed as a new face for the firm - read on for the answers.
Konami is having a lot of Wii and Nintendo console support right now, moreso than big-budget stuff. What is the rationale behind that?
Marc Franklin: Konami has always been a strong supporter of Nintendo platforms. We were one of the first companies to come out with original titles on the DS, we were a supporter of the GameCube, and made lots of titles for the GBA.
The Wii, I think, embraces a lot of the innovation and creativity that Konami is known for, and provides an amazing outlet for our developers to design incredible games. You're seeing games like the next generation of DDR
come out on the Wii -- called Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party
-- to provide full-body immersion in a dance game.
We also partnered with Hudson recently to do some Wii games like Wing Island
, and Marblemania
, which is doing well. The Wii platform in and of itself echoes and provides really great creativity for Konami developers.
Do you find that it's difficult to make multiple titles on the larger consoles, given the prices associated? Or is that not a factor?
MF: We look at every franchise and console, and make our decisions appropriately based on the market and how well we can do with the business. Konami is a multiplatform publisher. We make games for every system, and when we make the games, we come out with high quality content backed up by innovative marketing.
We believe in the titles that we publish. We've got strong games on the 360 like Winning Eleven
, and we've got strong games coming out for the PS3 like Hellboy
and Metal Gear Solid 4
. We've also got lots of games coming out for the Wii.
Is Konami still using its own proprietary tools, or have you licensed something like the Unreal Engine yet?
MF: We're always looking at ways to make our games better, but primarily our engines and mechanics are proprietary. You can see that in a lot of the IP that we've already created, like Metal Gear
and Winning Eleven
In the U.S., it seems like developer names are getting more and more important. Is Shingo Mukaitoge someone you guys are grooming as a new face for Konami?
MF: Konami certainly has many world-class developers, and we don't single out anyone in particular. With that said, Mukaitoge-san is certainly a rising star. He's improved himself with Elebits
, which many people believe was one of the most innovative games that came out for the Wii.
He then announced a new game called Dewy's Adventure
, and that is a very promising title. It looks extremely good. In fact, many of the press, when they first saw the gameplay, thought it looked like a first-party title. I think there is a lot of talent with Mukaitoge-san, and we're all looking forward to what he's going to be able to produce.
There haven't been any original Live Arcade or PlayStation Network downloadable titles from Konami yet. It's mostly been remakes. Is that something that you are looking at for the future?
MF: It's the same way we look at how we make games on each platform. We evaluate each one as a business proposition, and consider what makes sense for the game, for the consumer, and for Konami as a business.
So far, we've done very well porting many of our classic arcade games to the Xbox Live Arcade environment. Consumers are extremely happy about that, because in many cases, the games have been enhanced, and it provides an excellent outlet and an easy way to distribute games and for people to play them. Symphony of the Night
, for example, has done very well, and Frogger
has also done well on XBLA. Those are areas we see as opportunities.
Any chance of the Snatcher show coming out here in the U.S.?
MF: I have no idea. I don't have an answer for that one.
Do you feel that Nintendo has properly marketed the Wii to expand its demographic?
MF: They did a great presentation. I think they hit the nail on the head. The industry, overall, if you look at the publishers, is really starting to take a better look at the mass consumer, because that's where we're going to get our growth.
Nintendo did a really great job with their marketing campaign with the Wii, and you're seeing other people do that too. They're not avoiding the core consumer, but they're also thinking about how to get to the mass consumer in innovative ways that make sense to them, whether it's through social networking or speaking to the consumer in ways that they identify with.
Do you think that the Wii's success is sustainable?
MF: You just need to look at the sales so far. It's done extremely well, and it's a great machine. So is the 360, and so is the PS3. They all have their own positioning. It goes back to the publisher, though. It matters how we create the best games possible for those systems that fulfill the needs of our fans and consumers, but that also help promote the industry and push video game sales and hardware sales forward.