Interview: XSEED Executive Vice President Ken Berry on New Games, Censorship and PC

Friday, October 16th, 2015

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When oprainfall was asked to attend XSEED’s Fall preview event I was more than happy to say yes. Things got more exciting when we were told that we’d be able to sit down with Vice President of XSEED Ken Berry for an interview. When I was introduced to Ken Berry any nerves that I had before we met completely went away. I’ve rarely met such an easy to talk to and inviting individual. He was drinking a beer and joked that he might accidentally let something slip, which sadly doesn’t happen. We sat in the lobby of the hotel and began the interview, if you’d like to listen to the interview you can do so here on episode 51 of our podcast Total Control along with interviews with several XSEED staff members about upcoming games.


 

First off, XSEED announced Xanadu Next for the PC tonight, this is not the new PlayStation Vita game Tokyo Xanadu?

Xanadu Next that we announced for PC is an old Falcom classic that has more of a medieval setting versus Tokyo Xanadu are completely unrelated. Tokyo Xanadu is based in modern day Tokyo setting actually taking place in areas around Tachikawa where Falcom is based in. 

When coming out to this event a lot of our readers were asking about Tokyo Xanadu. So if Xanadu Next does well will we see more of the Xanadu series?

Xanadu Next is a title we have been working on for quiet some time and this seemed like a good time to announce it, not because of Tokyo Xanadu because those aren’t related and we don’t want to confuse people. Our programmer is finally finishing up with Trails in the Sky SC and we’re close to releasing that game on PSN and PC. So a lot of our staff’s time has opened up and we are able to get to other PC titles that we’ve had on the back burner, like Xanadu Next and Corpse Party PC.

So sticking with PC, Senran Kagura was also announced for PC. Is this a way to gain more interest in the series by introducing it to different crowd?

Absolutely, we’ve done well on PC and we’ve been talking to the Japanese community to not rule out PC. It seems to be something you’ve been seeing more of from not just us or our parent company Marvelous in Japan, but other traditionally console publishers are starting to port more of their titles onto PC. Senran Kagura Shinovi Versus HD actually came to us from Tamsoft saying that they wanted to do an HD port to the PC and we were completely on board.

With all these titles coming to PC I wanted to talk about people streaming your titles to Twitch and Youtube. How does XSEED feel about their games being streamed?

We absolutely enjoy getting any kind of exposure. The one difficulty we have is when people ask us about monetizing and talking to the Japanese IP owners when we have to explain how this is an important part of today’s exposure when trying to get word of your game out there. Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to give more of written consent.

American fans of Japanese video games can be vocal about their opinions. As a company do you pay attention to polls and fan outcries when deciding which games to localize?

It definitely helps, especially when it’s for a game that wasn’t previously on our radar.  Oneechanbara Z2 Chaos was a title that a fan had emailed us about and after some time we dropped D3 a line and they said that it’s available for licencing and we ended up publishing. The guy wrote in asking if it was because of his suggestion and I remembered that, yes it was. So we ended up including him in the special credits without telling him and he found it and was very excited about seeing his name. So yea we listen to people, we also like to hear criticism as well.

With games like Oneechanbara and Senran Kagura there seem to be this issue where companies like Atlus and NISA are forced to censor their video games for Western audiences. XSEED doesn’t seem to ever be included in this conversation, but it ever in the discussion that you might have to censor a title due to cultural differences.

Yes, all the time. The good and bad thing is are localization team is made up of the vocal audiences online against censorship. Tom Lipschultz is the most vocal of them, he will on his own speak publicly online saying, “Nothing should ever be censored”. Knowing that there’s someone like that on our internal team there is always a very outspoken voice against censorship. We do always try to keep the original creators vision in mind when we localize stuff as long as it can be excepted in the US. The ESRB is probably more lenient then what people think because they’ve been clear to us that it isn’t their job to censor anything it’s their job to just rate the content. So most of the time we present the content as is and they come back with an M rating, which we understand, but if they come back with an AO than we have to have some discussions about what to censor in order to get that to an M rating. Otherwise, none of the platform holders allow an AO product on their platform.

So if XSEED was faced with the decision to censor a game would you continue to localize it or would it change your mind about the whole thing?

That would be placing us in a very very difficult position because censoring it would alienate the very audience that we are trying to bring the game for while not really appeasing any of the critics that had no purchase intent in the first place. So we’d be doing a lot of extra work and going through a lot of extra trouble and pleasing nobody. So hopefully we’re never in that position.

So what genre of video game do you enjoy localizing?

Well the easiest sell would be a JRPG and we have large text and voice over work down to what seems to be a science, but it’s nice to have games like Earth Defense Force or Nitroplus Blasterz that are much easier to localize and also when we are playing the games ourselves to just jump in and have some mindless fun. We love our JRPGs, but every now and then it’s good to have games that you can play for 20 minutes and enjoy.

Sony has dropped 1st party support for the PlayStation Vita how do you feel about the handheld?

We love the Vita! It’s a fantastic system. The install base may be lower compared to PlayStation 3, but the Vita owners are the exact gamers that we are appealing to so every Vita release we see great support. So as long Vita games are being released in Japan we will continue to bring them over. We’re seeing a lot more of Vita and PlayStation 4 titles being released, so we might not see Vita exclusive games, but we will see a steady stream of PlayStation 4 and Vita titles. 

We end up going off topic and talk about Splatoon and Plants Vs Zombies and about how they are changing the FPS genre. He prefers the playful violence compared to the ultra violence of Call of Duty blaming it on the Japanese in him.

Our readers would kill me if I didn’t ask, but have you heard about Fatal Frame 5 not receiving a physical release? I’m sure people have contacted you.

Yes, I have and all I can say is you’re talking to the wrong people. There’s so many other parties that that question can be asked to before us. We’ve never been involved with the IP so it’s not going to happen.

Is there anything you’d like to say to fans of XSEED?

Thank you for the support, we’ve had a great couple years. A big part of that would definitely start with The Last Story and operation rainfall so a big thank you to you guys. The last couple years have been very good to us and fans know that a small company like us lives and dies by our pre-orders which they’ve been great at supporting. So yes, thank you. 


Thanks for reading please leave comments below!

 




  • Nice interview, very fascinating story about Onechanbara Z2:Chaos. I should email them too!

  • DariusQ

    Good read. If not for companies like Xseed support for Vita would be virtually non-existent in NA. Its was also refreshing to hear how Onechanbara Z2 got released here, something I would never have bet on.

    • azariosays

      That was a very good story! I didn’t know that about the title either.

  • Wolfe

    Great interview!

    • azariosays

      thank you 🙂

  • Maxy

    >So as long Vita games are being released in Japan we will continue to bring them over. We’re seeing a lot more of Vita and PlayStation 4 titles being released, so we might not see Vita exclusive games, but we will see a steady stream of PlayStation 4 and Vita titles.

    Really hope it’s not his way of saying that they give up on localizing games that are exclusive to vita lol
    But a good read nonetheless, thanks.

    • JDobbs

      It will be interesting to see how many of the latest announced games for the Vita end up being released internationally. Obviously, some are going to come here, but I have a bad feeling the majority of the newly announced Vita games in Japan will not be available for the platform here. Hopefully, that will not be the case, but for now, we shall watch and see. Exclusive games for the Vita have been pretty much dead in the water for the past 4 to 5 months with several once exclusive Vita games being ported to the PS4.

    • Steve Baltimore

      If there’s a demand for these titles to be localized they will make it over. The Vita has a great software attachment rate so these pubs won’t pass up sales simply because Sony isn’t doing anything with it first party.

    • azariosays

      Exclusives dead? P4D, Corpse Party, Neptunia series, Dungeon travelers, danganronpa another story, the list goes on and that’s just two months. Get outta here

    • Maxy

      We’ve seen some great exclusives being released for vita these past several months. They usually do come closer to the end of the year so maybe it’s not a time to reveal them yet, after all neither XSEED nor NISA or Idea Factory have really announced their console line-up for the next year and that’s where good vita-exclusives usually are. But I do hate bigger publishers, sony, gaming journalists and gamers themselves for pretty much burying a console for the mass public. And now it’s hard for publishers to resist a misconception of “if you release your game on ps4, you’ll get easy money”.

    • JDobbs

      and even retailers outside of Amazon and Gamestop have done the same thing. A couple of months back, Target had a clearance sale to get the Vita off their shelves. Target not selling the Vita isn’t going to hurt the Vita, but its not a good sign. As long as another major retailer doesn’t drop it, it will be fine. I don’t blame publishers for porting over their games to the PS4 and/or PC. It introduces Gravity Rush, Tearaway, and others to a larger base of customers and also allows them to make some money in the process.

    • Maxy

      Noone really bought Tearaway, it bombed on ps4 heavily as bigger userbase doesn’t mean higher sales, with ps4’s competition the same happens to most ports from vita. Even PC-ports have A LOT more chances to be successful. Same with Target, at this point it doesn’t even matter, most of vita’s phys sales have been happening through online-retailers for a long time now, bigger ones have literally never actually stocked its anime-games, so it doesn’t concern publishers like XSEED that much.

  • SullenSamurai

    I’m pleased with his answer regarding censorship. The fact that he doesn’t really know what XSEED would do if faced with a potential “censor or AO” situation and simply hopes such a scenario never happens says a lot. Too many localization teams jump to censorship well before the ESRB enters the picture just to avoid hypothetical controversy, and then blame “cultural differences” or the ESRB itself for the wholly self-inflicted changes. Keep on fighting the good fight, guys; I too hope you’re never put in that sort of position.

  • Fenrir007

    Very good interview, thanks! XSeed is turning into my favorite company really fast, and that is kinda funny since they don’t even develop games.

    Did you ask for his autograph afterwards?

    • azariosays

      Haha I gave him my business card and he gave me his. Is that equivalent? 🙂

    • Fenrir007

      Close enough!

  • JackDandy

    Awesome interview. Great to hear Xseed’s stance about censorship. It’s widely known how Atlus and NISA are filled with censor-happy folk who love pretending that ESRB is forcing their hand.

    Tom especially kicks ass.
    http://imgur.com/a/yKxL1

    Anywho… Now all that’s left is getting Earth Defence Force on PC… 🙂