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Q&A: Liz Buckley On Majesco's Nintendo Love

Following the company's strategic refocus on mass market titles like Cooking Mama, Gamasutra spoke with Majesco's Liz Buckley, confirming one new in-development Wii game, discussing why the company is attracted to Nintendo's platforms, and asking a
North American publisher Majesco has certainly seen its share of ups and downs in recent years, including a largely failed attempt to publish high-budget console games such as Advent Rising and Psychonauts, a move that resulted in much lower revenues than predicted. Following this, the company announced a shift in strategy away from premium titles, instead focusing on budget and handheld releases, as well as more recent plans to support Nintendo's Wii platform. The move seems to, at least in the short run, worked out well for the company. Majesco's most recent fourth quarter earnings reflected rising sales and drastically reduced losses thanks, to titles like the multiplatform Jaws Unleashed and Cooking Mama for the Nintendo DS. Therefore, Gamasutra submitted questions to Majesco's Liz Buckley via email regarding the company and its plans going forward. As the senior product manager, Buckley oversees all areas of Majesco's catalog of releases. This includes getting a game on the shelf and raising awareness for it, as well as marketing, public relations, packaging, and cross promotions. As a company, your last handful of announcements have been for titles exclusively for Nintendo platforms. Specifically, Majesco has announced three titles for the Nintendo DS, one for the Game Boy Advance, and another for the Wii. Is the company interested in the PSP, or are there plans to phase out PSP support? Liz Buckley: Although our current product line is composed of SKUs for Nintendo’s platforms, we are by no means phasing out support for Sony’s systems. We continue to evaluate new products on a regular basis to determine whether they’re a good fit for our line up. Our focus remains on handheld systems and the Wii, though we do opportunistically pursue titles on other platforms if it makes sense for our business model. Is Majesco planning additional Wii titles besides Cooking Mama: Cook Off and Bust-A-Move: Bash? LB: Most definitely. We have another Wii title in development now and are looking to expand our line-up with additional SKUs for this promising platform. Majesco CEO Jesse Sutton was quoted recently as stating, “we believe there are synergies with our current products and other digital entertainment mediums such as cell phones and portable media players.” Do you have any additional information or insight into Majesco's plans in this area? iPod games perhaps? LB: Nothing we’re ready to announce at this point, but suffice to say we’re exploring a lot of different mediums through which we can leverage our content. In reporting Majesco's fourth quarter earnings, the company noted that for 2007, the core of its line-up would focus on handheld title, in particular games developed for the Nintendo DS. Why specifically has Majesco chosen to throw so much support behind the DS? LB: Majesco recently refocused its product line on more affordable, lower risk titles with mass appeal. DS development is much less expensive which allows us to risk less and ultimately be more profitable. Lower development costs also let us offer consumers more value at retail so we continue to build a quality library of $19.99 DS software including Cooking Mama and the upcoming Cake Mania. The unique design of the DS and Nintendo’s efforts pushing the demographic have resulted in a very healthy installed base that continues to grow. All of these factors combined make the DS a perfect fit for Majesco’s strategic objectives. Despite what was probably less than ideal performance at retail, there is still a great deal of fan interest in Psychonauts. Does Majesco currently own this IP, and if so, is there interest or intent in bringing Psychonauts to another platform, perhaps to the handheld environment? LB: At this point Majesco has no plans to bring the property to other platforms. Recently Majesco began releasing some of its titles over Valve's Steam digital distribution service. How has that been performing for the company? What are Majesco's expectations of the service? LB: We’ve been pleased with the initial results of our Steam partnership and similar digital distribution deals we have in place with companies like Trymedia. This type of distribution helps extend a title’s life cycle and bring in incremental revenue for the company. And as the proliferation of broadband and wifi increases, this channel will become even more important. For these reasons, we will continue to explore additional partnerships along these lines.

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