When NIS America published Omiyasoft's turn-based strategy game Culdcept Revolt on 3DS earlier this month, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was the start of a brand-new franchise for the company. After all, this is the first time a Culdcept game has ever been released in Europe.
In fact, the series celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, having first released in Japan on the Sega Saturn way back in 1997. The original, which can only be described as Monopoly meets Magic: The Gathering as players take turns to lay down monster cards on a looping board of tiles, has since been ported to the PlayStation, Nintendo DS, PSP and PS3 in Japan and the PS2 in the US, but Revolt marks its first appearance in Europe, giving publisher NIS America the difficult task of trying to distil this complex card game to a new, unsuspecting audience.
We spoke to NIS America's senior associate producer Alan Costa at Gamescom to find out more about the challenges of marketing such a complicated title to a fresh user base.
"We've actually had a lot of support from Nintendo of Europe," Costa told MCV. "They featured us in several different media outreaches, so that's always a really, really big boost when you have Nintendo itself saying 'Hey guys, check this game out.'
"In terms of initial reaction, it's been good," he continued. "The way we describe it is Magic: The Gathering meets Monopoly. Those are two things that people are very aware of, but it's just a matter of conveying how that actually works in a game. Monopoly isn’t particularly complex, but Magic is, so it's like, 'Okay, so how does that translate into gameplay?'
"So we've done our best to create trailers that show that. It's one of those games that until you're actually playing it for yourself, it's very difficult to wrap your head around it. It's distilling what makes the game itself and then messaging that as strongly as we can."
"That's always a really, really big boost when you have Nintendo itself saying 'Hey guys, check this game out.'"
Indeed, finding key touchstones that resonant with consumers has played an important role in NIS America's marketing for other titles as well, said Costa.
"Sometimes that's really easy, like we didn't have to do this for Ys VIII – it's a story-driven, action RPG – but the main draw here is the action of the RPG. You can throw out a few names of similar titles and people will get it really quickly.
"By contrast, Danganronpa was difficult. When we first worked with that, it was like, 'Well what is this?' Well, good question! You say it's a visual novel, and you get a couple of raised eyebrows, but there's also these movement sequences and there's also a little bit of Ace Attorney in it because of the trials, and it's also very heavily inspired by works like Battle Royale. Then people go 'Okay'. So finding those four or five key words is usually the best way to get your message across. Then maybe, if it's a story-driven game like Danganronpa, trying some parallels from film, and then gameplay if you can find anything there, in this case Ace Attorney was a very good analogue, so that worked very well."