Gamebridge, the joint venture between Tokyo-based developer Interchannel and Nordic Nintendo distributor Bergsala, released its first game Happy Bakery last week. Christopher Dring speaks to Gamebridge CEO Shigeki Takeuchi about the new publisher’s ambitions…
How did Gamebridge come to be?
Gamebridge comes from our desire at Interchannel to expand our business beyond the boundaries of Japan. I’d worked with Bergsala before and knew that we shared common goals and practices so it made sense for us to team up to form Gamebridge.
The motivating vision that led us to the creation of Gamebridge was building a bilateral bridge between Japan and Europe, and bringing Japanese culture to Europe and vice versa through the diffusion of game media.
What do you hope to achieve in the UK and Europe?
Our goal is to establish Gamebridge as a publisher of fun entertainment, mainly coming from Japan, to the UK and European markets. We plan to bring to Europe a different category of funny Japanese games, initially oriented to families and kids.
Furthermore, true to its vision, Gamebridge will also act in the near future as a channel to bring interesting European games to Japan.
Are you confident that there is a hungry market for Japanese games in the UK and Europe?
I definitely believe there is a market for Japanese games in Europe, and that that market is furthermore divided into several different genres and niches.
By targeting our own specific market segment, we are confident we will not compete with other Japanese games brought into Europe by bigger Japanese publishers.
I do believe that European countries, especially France, UK and Italy, have developed a certain affinity with the Japanese pop-culture and anime cute iconography in the last decade, and Gamebridge will position itself as a source of entertainment for young kids and casual gamers who are increasingly interested in playing with the very same cute images they are used to seeing in animation productions and comics.
Additionally, the Japanese kawaii life- style has been already widely accepted in the European fashion markets aimed at kids and teenagers. And by establishing the Happy series brand, Gamebridge wants to propose the very same kawaii values in a very simple and enjoyable way.
Our Happy games will be simple, yet fresh and, most importantly, we hope they will trigger laughs and fun with kids and parents, making them happy for a while.
This approach will eventually help us to create a new specific market segment that has been already casually explored by different publisher and products, but has never been formalised and branded as the interactive expression of the Japanese kawaii culture.
How will Rising Star help achieve this ambition?
Firstly, Rising Star Games has very similar goals to our own due to the similarity of the two companies. Secondly, RSG have already established themselves as a reliable brand and business entity. Their campaign, the ‘Home of Japanese Games’, is perfect for our image and proposition.
Teaming up with Rising Star Games allows us to lean on their expertise and infrastructure to get our products to market in a professional way with minimal fuss.
What are the biggest challenges in bringing Japanese games into these markets?
Without any doubt, some of the biggest challenges are standing out from the crowd and getting the market to try something different or new. Other challenges include that of managing Japanese developer expectations and translating games from Japanese into European languages with very tight restrictions.
In some very specific cases, adapting exceedingly Japanese content to European tastes is also a very important challenge that weighs on our shoulders, rather than the developer’s.
You’ve announced three titles for Europe. What are you doing to ensure that these games are a success in this market?
We are carefully choosing the products that we bring to the European market and are working closely with Rising Star Games to ensure that they get maximum exposure.
We are making great efforts together in order to plan in advance a solid strategy of constant promotion for all the titles falling under the Happy series brand.
It is extremely important to orchestrate the release dates of products so that all the promotional efforts of each single title will form a constant stream of visibility and presence for the final audience.
What are your targets for 2009 and the years beyond? Will you be branching out onto non-Nintendo platforms at any stage?
We are planning on bringing several other games to the market by the end of this year, branching out to include other platforms.
Although we have not officially announced anything yet, I can reveal that we will bring to the market a new original game that takes advantage of the unique features of the Nintendo DSi and a sequel of an extremely successful Japanese title on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
Our short-term goal is to establish ourselves in Europe as a publishing entity, as well as achieving conservative but steady growth during these tough market conditions and establishing Gamebridge as brand that both retailers and gamers can trust as a source of good entertainment.