Mitsuo Hirakawa works as business development director at The Irregular Corporation, a publisher based in the UK and Japan, and is part of Tonic Games Group that includes Mediatonic and Fortitude.
Before the event takes place, we caught up with Hirakawa for his thoughts on investment and how the current pandemic has affected getting funding.
PocketGamer.biz: What’s the primary Investments focus of your company?
Mitsuo Hirakawa: We primarily focus on premium PC and console games within the simulation, management/building and Strategy genres.
What are the key advantages for founders when they raise investment from your company?
We are known as a ‘full service’ publisher, so in addition to development funding and usual publishing help, we can also provide expert development support that one can ever need. We are also part of the Tonic Games Group that includes almost 300 developers, including Fall Guys creator Mediatonic, so founders can focus their energy in creating the best game they can, whilst leveraging our contacts, resources and expertise to publish your game globally, hopefully pain-free! All of us at The Irregular Corporation have decades of development experience so we understand how difficult game development can be, so you won't be dealing with any spreadsheet pencil pushers.
What kind of companies/projects are you interested in?
We love meeting developers who are experts in their field and really understand what it takes to produce a high quality game
Aside from our portfolio requirement of simulation, management/building and strategy games, we love meeting developers who are experts in their field and really understand what it takes to produce a high quality game. Quality is our number one guiding star so we prioritise quality over deadline or profit.
What do you look for in a founder, or founding team?
For the founding members, we want to get a strong sense of passion and belief for their game, as well as their long term vision because we always seek to establish a relationship that goes beyond the one to two year project. Making a great game is difficult as it is, but creating a sustainable & successful franchise is even harder. That is why we want to work with founders who are fully committed for the long term.
Did your investment activity or focus change because of Covid-19 pandemic? If yes how?
I expected a significant downturn in new business investment from February and March, but surprisingly, we have invested more than normal and the number of new pitches we reviewed hasn't slowed down at all (we review around 300-400 games each month). I think the lockdown has given each team an opportunity to take stock of their game concept and refine their pitch.
Do you need a pitch deck, and if so, what information should a founder be sure to include to interest you enough to want to know more and have a meeting?
I am looking to find out a) Team background/track record, b) Key game concept & features, c) Budget & Schedule. There is no right or wrong way but the end result is to catch my interest so that I want to find out more about the game. Why is the game fun, why is the game innovative, how is your game better than XYZ, why is your game marketable etc. There needs to be enough reasons there to proceed to the next stage.
What do you expect to learn from a founder at the first meeting?
Having a great idea and being able to deliver it is completely different. I would like to feel their knowledge and passion for the game, and also find out that they are capable of delivering the game to a high quality on time.
Could you give any advice for developers or teams for pitching over video calls?
I think the pandemic has proved that consumption of digital entertainment will continue to increase and we are likely going to see a continuation of this trend for a while
Being able to explain clearly what the game is and why your game is better/unique/different is something that many developers struggle to do. Just having a nice art style isn't going to convince anyone. You need to convince investors why your game is unique or different enough that it feels fresh. Also, please do your homework. Find out what kind of games specific publishers are looking for. There is no point in pitching a VR or mobile game to me because we simply aren't involved in these markets. An understanding of the competition and who your target audience is a good tell-tell sign whether you have a realistic mindset of the marketplace. Please don't say, "I can make a better FPS game than CoD for £100k", or make arbitrary sales forecasts against genre leaders like "we expect to easily sell about 80% of Animal Crossing".
How has the investment cycle changed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, typically, how long is it taking to close deals?
Surprisingly, not much has changed since the pandemic. From the initial contact to signing the contract, it usually takes us around three months at a minimum so it is worth preparing materials in advance such as playable build, gameplay video, design doc, budget plan, as all investors and publishers will need to go through a due diligence process.
Has the pandemic changed your outlook for the future in the longer term?
I think the pandemic has proved that consumption of digital entertainment (games, movies, online events etc.) will continue to increase and we are likely going to see a continuation of this trend for a while.
What trends do you see emerging in games over the pandemic that are likely to persist post-pandemic?
Post pandemic, I think the ‘new normal’ for the games industry will affect things like: flexible working throughout the industry, increase in games that promote social/community features, and also a negative impact on people's attitude towards travelling to physical events.
Conversely, what trends do you think are short term?
I think investment activity from VC/Angles will continue to recover, and we will see new collaboration of different brands and event mediums merge to connect to gamers across the world (e.g. TikTok & Gamescom).
Want to meet Mitsuo Hirakawa at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki Digital 2020?
You could meet Hirakawa and many more investors online next month by signing up for Investor Connector at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki Digital 2020. So if you’re seeking funding, sign up here.
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