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Filed under: Featured, Straight from the Source (Interview)

Straight from the Source: Yukio Futatsugi

We sat down with Yukio Futatsugi at Bit Summit Vol. 6 to talk about his past work, working with Nintendo, and starting his own company. The interview was conducted by PushDustinNirbion, and MasterofBear.

MasterOfBear: For the first question, how did you and SWERY come together to start working on The Good Life?

Futatsugi (via interpreter): I do work at 3 studios, and The Good Life was developed in Fukuoka, and SWERY happens to go to Fukuoka very often, so that’s how it all happened.
We both had really heated discussions and debates, and we put our opinions together to make The Good Life.

MasterOfBear: The premise of the game seems very unique, so I was wondering, whenever you guys were coming up with these initial ideas, what were your initial reactions to them? Were you thinking that this is different, or wild, or…?

So first, SWERY came up with the initial idea, and that’s when we decided to develop the game together. After that, I thought about how to make SWERY’s idea into reality and gave him suggestions.
During development, SWERY is more of the imaginative type, he senses things, whereas I’m more of a logical person, I’m concerned with the logic of how to create the game, so although opinions differed at the initial stage, since we’re both different types of people, after much discussion we came to the same page. The same goal.

MasterOfBear: Thinking of how to actually bring some of those ideas to life was probably a pretty difficult task.

It’s going to be even more difficult from now on. (Laughs)

MasterOfBear: I’d like to move on to some questions about Sakura Samurai – what was it like working with Nintendo on that game?

When developing with Nintendo, I learned a lot, and Nintendo isn’t shy about giving really direct criticism, and a lot of times the ideas that I came up with were torn down because Nintendo said, ‘No, this is not a good idea, you could do this better’ and most of the publishers that I’ve worked with don’t do that. They sort of try to mask whatever isn’t developed properly and move on with development, but Nintendo wants to make sure that the game itself is good, so they give a lot of criticisms, and that was a really steep learning curve. A really good learning experience.

MasterOfBear: Another question regarding the same game is, the character in that title looked similar to Takamaru from The Mysterious Murasame Castle, was that intentional when you were developing the game or did that just happen to be a coincidence when you were designing the characters?

Well, all I can say is that I can’t speak much about the development, but everyone loves The Mysterious Murasame Castle.

MasterOfBear: Nintendoji, another game that you created for the DSi a few years before, it had a similar art style, and the same kappa NPC character, so we were wondering if those two games were related in any way.

The reason the kappa is in the game is because the art director loves the kappa. We asked permission and Nintendo said yes, so the kappa is in the game.
And the game is a mishmash of other games, so they were pretty lenient on that.

MasterOfBear: So Nintendoji was also released as a Club Nintendo exclusive in Japan, was that something that was planned from the beginning of development?

So the reason why the DSi game was Club Nintendo exclusive was because Nintendoji was a sort of gift to Nintendo fans. I wanted to give Nintendo players a good game, so that’s why the development was for Nintendo.

My studio specializes in card games, those kinds of logical card games, so, therefore, this sort of idea came up, and we submitted the proposal to Nintendo.

MasterOfBear: Along those same lines, both of those characters appeared as trophies in the Super Smash Bros. series. Were you aware in advance that they would appear in the game?

Yes, I knew beforehand and I was really happy. My team members were elated, they were really happy about being in as a trophy.
Nintendoji was quite popular within Nintendo itself so I was thinking of making a sequel of the game…

Do you know Machikoro?

MasterOfBear: Yes.

At first, Machikoro was presented as a board game for 3DS, but Nintendo told me that board games wouldn’t really sell well [on 3DS].
My company has made a lot of board games, and Nintendo has told me that our games are interesting. Machikoro was supposed to be on 3DS, but the idea didn’t become a reality because it wouldn’t sell on 3DS, and so Nintendo suggested, “Hey, Grounding, why don’t you manufacture this as a physical board game, I’m sure it will sell really well!” and that’s how Grounding came to become a board game creator.

MasterOfBear: I think that game’s pretty popular in the United States.

Yeah, you can buy it at Target.

MasterOfBear: Okay, so the next topic I’d like to talk about is Microsoft. So Xbox the brand and Microsoft have had a somewhat difficult time breaking into the Japanese game market. As someone who’s experienced working with all these different companies, why do you think they’ve had so much trouble with that?

It’s a matter of timing, and first of all the Xbox games, Japanese gamers didn’t really take a liking to the Xbox games, so that’s one reason why it isn’t so popular. When the 360 came out and there was a really attractive lineup of games, then things started to pick up, but in general, Japanese gamers are now moving to mobile games and they haven’t really been playing console games much. But they’re coming back to console games. Basically, it’s the timing, Microsoft didn’t have the timing to advertise and market themselves properly.
The 360 didn’t really do so well here, in the end, so they completely left out the Japanese market when they put out the Xbox One.

MasterOfBear: After you left Microsoft, you decided to found Grounding, rather than moving to another big game developer, what was your motivation behind starting your own company?

So when I left Microsoft and before I started Grounding, I made a prototype for a board game. At first, I wanted to present this prototype to different companies to get them interested, and after many rounds of presenting, I was able to actually present to Nintendo’s president, Mr. Iwata.
And Iwata really liked the game’s idea, and he also felt the passion for making the game, but Nintendo said they couldn’t work with me because they don’t work with individuals, so they suggested I make a company.
Mr. Iwata said that Nintendo doesn’t invest in individuals, but they do collaborate and work with other game studios. That’s how I came to build my own company.
So I’m extremely thankful for Mr. Iwata because he really helped me in the early stages of getting the company up and running and in terms of finance, he gave me a lot of advice and helped out a lot, and so I’m really sad that Mr. Iwata has passed away.

MasterOfBear: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us!