Branche Interviews

Interview with: Atsushi Inaba about World of Demons, own IPs, Apple Arcade and Tencent

For a few days now, PlatinumGames‘ World of Demons has been available exclusively at Apple Arcade. It’s one of several titles that have brought Apple Arcade back on everyone’s lips in the past few weeks. We had the opportunity to send our questions about World of Demons to PlatinumGames.

Our questions were answered by Atsushi Inaba, PlatinumGames Studio Head and Executive Producer of World of Demons. He was supported by Koji Tanaka (Producer of World of Demons) and Ryoya Sakabe, Director of the game.

We’re talking about the unique World of Demons, the 2018 game’s short-term availability, the style of the game, and the collaboration with Apple Arcade. But we also digress a little, talking about the partnership with Tencent and Project G.G., the first in-house game from PlatinumGames.

We hope you enjoy reading it.

In World of Demons we meet Oni, we are assisted by Yokai and of course we are a samurai. The game is extensively based on Japanese folklore. But if you’ve never heard of these creatures and stories, you can still play it, right? In my opinion, then you should do it all the more.

(Tanaka) We want players all over the world to experience and enjoy the wonder and allure of the Japanese culture that we’ve grown up with through the games that we make, and that as a Japanese studio making games based on Japanese culture is a meaningful part of what we can do.

The game is based on a really impressive style called ukiyo-e. Given the setting and the backstory, was it a logical choice to go for this style? Did you discuss how this particular, regional style would be received in the West?

(Tanaka) At PlatinumGames, we continue to strive for distinct visual style with all of our games, including World of Demons. With Japanese culture having become more well known and loved worldwide, we felt our ability to depict traditional Japanese motifs like yokai and samurai would be a strength, and make World of Demons stand out with a flair that’s different from more western style monsters or sci-fi creatures. We focused on what we thought would be good, rather than trying to match some perception of what might go over better outside of Japan.

To be honest, while doing research for the interview, I found out that World of Demons had already been released in some countries in 2018, but was removed from the store. I already knew it had been announced, but not that it was available regionally for a short time. Can you tell us what happened at that time?

(Inaba) It’s true that World of Demons had been in development for some time, and had undergone a test release, but circumstances prevented a proper release. However, sometime later we had a chance to adapt World of Demons for the Apple Arcade platform. That initial test release was for a different platform, and the current incarnation of World of Demons is almost completely different as well.

Unless I’ve missed something, this game is your first mobile game. PlatinumGames is known for developing fast-paced action games. Mobile games, on the other hand, tend not to be known for being particularly action-rich. Was it a big change to develop for mobile devices? Will fans get the typical PlatinumGames action with World of Demons, despite the new platform?

(Inaba) World of Demons is in fact PlatinumGames’ first title released on mobile platforms. The game’s concept focused on action right from the start, and the hard work of the dev team was what made achieving that possible.

(Tanaka) Supporting both touch controls and controllers was a big challenge and balancing the game to make sure both methods felt good was difficult. Camera controls especially required a lot of trial and error to get right.

(Sakabe) It was already touched on, but touch controls presented a variety of problems. When you think of your average action game controls, there are about 10 buttons to use but if you try to have that many on a smartphone game, the screen gets overrun.

It took quite a bit of time to devise UI that would keep things simple while supporting World of Demons’ unique summoning system and a variety of attack variations. As a result, I feel we were able to create a game with PlatinumGames’ fun and stylish action, but not without first overcoming a number of new and unforeseen issues.

With Apple Arcade, you reach a lot of players who may never have heard of PG. Could you compare it to Nintendo’s strategy? Nintendo released big brands on mobile devices to introduce a new target group to their known IPs.

(Inaba) We’re not really privy to various publishers’ marketing strategies so I don’t want to get into that, but we do think that Apple Arcade’s appearance in the mobile gaming sphere is a wonderful thing.

What was Apple’s role in the development and what does a collaboration for Apple Arcade look like? How much can you reveal about that? Sakaguchi-san has just released Fantasian for Apple Arcade and reported a good collaboration with Apple.

(Inaba) World of Demons is an IP that we were already developing, and there weren’t really any requests or demands from Apple with regard to that. They have however been extremely supportive with information, marketing, and advertising throughout the entire process and are still doing so.

I think for World of Demons, the collaboration with Apple has been good. It’s a „premium“ mobile game now and it doesn’t have to make money with shady microtransactions. You didn’t have to find the difficult balance between monetization and free-to-play gameplay. Did that make it easier?

(Tanaka) Looking back, I think this made it possible for us to proceed with development as we have for our previous paid titles. Of course, it was a new platform for us and some things took time to smooth out accordingly.

(Sakabe) As an Apple Arcade release, there was no need to consider microtransactions and we could concentrate on pushing PlatinumGames-style action to the forefront, which I think worked out for the best. Creating an action game for smartphones was a new undertaking for the team, but as the only unfamiliar one, we were still able to focus on improving the action with good results.

I know PlatinumGames‘ goal has always been to develop and publish their own brands. Do the rights to World of Demons belong to PlatinumGames alone? Can you perhaps build on this brand independently later on?

(Inaba) We own the World of Demons IP, but we’re not planning to release on other platforms or anything like that at the moment. We’d like everyone to enjoy it on Apple Arcade.

Project G.G.

Project G.G. was announced as PlatinumGames‘ first completely independent major game. No publisher to give you deadlines or platforms. But you also have to finance the development yourselves. It’s something very different from a commissioned work. Especially on a business level, I’m sure a lot of things are different. Can you give some insights?

(Inaba) In exchange for freedom, there’s a lot of responsibility. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about the game right now, but I am certain that it’s going to be a lot of fun. I think everyone will be in for a big surprise once we’re ready to share.

You’ve talked a lot about the partnership with Tencent. You know that many PlatinumGames fans were worried at first. But we did not notice anything from Tencent until this day and that is – speaking from a fan’s point of view – probably a good sign. But I’m sure you notice something from Tencent. In Germany they like to say: money doesn’t make you happy, but it calms you down. Does that fit?

(Inaba) That saying holds the key to both business and life (laughs). Tencent has invested in us with the expectation that we’ll create new IP. They may license those IP out for business, but we still have full control over development and management, and will retain ownership of the IP we create. There’s a mutual respect, and I feel that it’s a good partnership.

Shortly after the partnership was announced, there was talk of a proprietary game engine. What positive effects does PlatinumGames expect from its own engine? Are there synergies between game developers and engine developers that are unique to PlatinumGames? What limitations is the in-house engine trying to break through?

(Inaba) In order to create gameplay, developers need to be able to test and iterate as quickly as possible. We also want to create various types of new gameplay regardless of genre, so an engine created for a specific genre or genres is not enough. Our engine development team is full of highly skilled engineers who also get involved with game development and help when needed. The engine and game dev teams get along and cooperate well, which is a part of what keeps PlatinumGames going strong.

Thank you very much.

If you can use Apple Arcade: You have the opportunity to complete a one-month free trial. We hope you enjoyed reading this interview. Watch a trailer for World of Demons below!

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Bildmaterial: World of Demons, Project G.G., PlatinumGames

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