Interview

#PGCHelsinki speaker Shin Kanaoya on why western games need to be more shinsetsu to Japanese gamers

#PGCHelsinki speaker Shin Kanaoya on why western games need to be more shinsetsu to Japanese gamers

For the second year in a row, Pocket Gamer Connects is visiting the ever-dynamic game development city of Helsinki, Finland.

Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki 2015 is happening on 7-8 September at Wanha Satama exhibition centre.

And tickets are still available.

So to give you a hint at what you can expect, we're shining the spotlight onto our speakers to provide a deeper look at the personalities who will be taking the stage.

  • Shintaro Kanaoya is the CEO of Chorus Worldwide, which publishes western-developed indie games in Asian markets, notably Japan and China.
  • At PG Connects Helsinki 2015, Kanaoya is talking this process in the East meet West track, which runs from 10am to 5pm on 8 September.

PocketGamer.biz: At the conference, you're talking about how to enter the Japanese market. So, without giving away your talk, what sort of areas are you planning to cover?

Shintaro Kanaoya: I think most attendees and PocketGamer.biz readers understand how big the Japanese mobile market is. But what I'm going to do is to try and look at what the successful games are doing - from a creative point of view - that allows them to capture that market.

This means looking at it from the perspective of attracting audience via art style, game concept, etc, through to how to retain and monetize them through deep meta-game structures.

How Glyph  Quest changed for its Japan release - original art style for west is on the left

I'll also talk about how meta-games structures in the west are different from those in Japan, and how it's worth knowing about these to make games more successful in both east and west.

Aside from Japan, Chorus Worldwide also publishes in China. Do you see any similarities and differences between the two markets?

From a macro point of view, the Chinese market skews towards Android so iOS has a smaller market share.

But two things have really stood out for us:

  • Even with the smaller installed base of iOS devices, China is still huge and profits can be had there;
  • The ease of getting titles onto iOS vs. on Android means it's only a marginal incremental effort to reach that audience in a meaningful way (in terms of localization), and;
  • The piracy issue on Android is still a huge problem and we don't see platform stores actively shutting those down, meaning demand for titles might already be gone by the time you're able to reach that audience.

In terms of similarities, we've been heartened by both Chinese and Japanese users' acceptance of our titles like The Room and Glyph Quest, and seen similar levels of success (on iOS) for those games.

There's a Japanese word - shinsetsu - which means 'kind'. A lot of western games aren't considered 'shinsetsu' enough.

So our sense is that western games that work in one market will work in the other.

Do you think there's less cultural class in terms of western games and Asian audiences now?

Mobile has definitely exposed the audience to western titles and that's served to educate users. I think there's less rejection of non-Asian art styles than there was before.

But western developers can do a lot more to be accepted in Asia. For example, Western titles tend to prioritize getting into the action quickly and letting users figure things out.

Conversely, Japanese titles, in particular, hand-hold the audience with what western gamers might consider long-winded tutorials, but that works in Japan and audiences are familiar with it.

As a result, western games can come across as confusing at first, with too little explanation.

There's a Japanese word - shinsetsu - which means 'kind'. A lot of Western games aren't considered 'shinsetsu' enough, i.e. kind enough to the audience. Western developers need to look at factors like this and a few changes can make a world of difference.

And, aside from your talk, what else are you most looking forward to at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki?

The Very Big Indie Pitch! It's a great opportunity to see a lot of great games in a short space of time.

Also, yes, the party. And the fact that it doesn't get dark and messes with my body clock.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.

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