Steam, Vita, and Despaire: An Interview With Spike Chunsoft

Monday, May 9th, 2016

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Danganronpa Steam teaser image | Spike chunsoft

With E3 fast approaching, we here at oprainfall would like to get ahead of all the possible announcements and highlight some developers that are popular with you, the readers.

Spike Chunsoft has developed games, such as, the Danganronpa series, 999Conception II and J-Stars Victory VS+. The company has delivered some of the best gaming experiences to date. And somehow they produce great games of completely different genres. So what does this Japanese company have planned for the future? We had the honor of interviewing David Kracker from Spike Chunsoft to find out what fans can expect.

Spike Chunsoft has been a company now for 4 years: after the merge of Spike and Chunsoft. Your game development log has no real pattern, working on new and popular IP of different genres year after year. Is this a trend that the company plans to continue?

I’d like to be able to say that there’s a method to our madness, but there isn’t—at least, I haven’t found it yet. People seem more concerned with creating the types of games they’d want to play themselves rather than chasing the next blockbuster hit. It’s easy to keep it real when you’re a medium-sized publisher who knows the limits of your company and the market.

How many teams do you currently have developing games at Spike Chunsoft?

There are around 150 staff spread between 3 main dev teams. Roughly speaking: Dev Team 1 works on Spike IPs, Dev Team 2 works on Chunsoft IPs, and Dev Team 3 works on smaller but still important projects. There’s a lot of cooperation and crossover between teams as well.

The Danganronpa franchise has become quite popular in Japan and the West; with such a well known IP is it difficult to justify creating new IPs when you have name recognition like Danganronpa? Or is Spike Chunsoft always on the look out for new game ideas?

A strong IP like Danganronpa can carry you far. But when you get down to it, our directors are game creators—they want to create and experiment with new ideas. So there’s some push-and-pull between staying creative as developers and staying solvent as a company.

Most of our fans probably don’t know this, but we have a good reputation for localizing western console games. We do everything from AAA-titles like The Witcher III to indies like Terraria and Crypt of the Necrodancer. So we’re always looking for new ideas, be it in-house or abroad.

Danganronpa-Steam-Feb-18-Dated | Spike chunsoft

With Danganronpa 2 just releasing on PC, how has the reception been from the PC crowd towards these visual novels? Do you plan to continue and see if any of your other IPs will work on the PC?

The PC scene was an early adopter of the visual novel so the audience was already there. We just had to plan how to develop for the platform. Abstraction Games did a fantastic job with the ports and community support for Danganronpa 1 & 2 so we feel confident to move forward with other titles. You might even see something out of us that’s not a visual novel!

When developing a game, when is a Western release usually considered? Or is it usually considered when a publisher shows interest in Publishing it in the West?

It depends on the title. We’ve been fortunate enough to have great publishing partners in the west like NISA and Aksys Games who help select and market titles. On the other hand, Zero Time Dilemma was pitched with a western release in mind.

Zero Time Dilemma is being released first in the West; is this the first time Spike Chunsoft has had a game released in the West before Japan? Does that affect the development at all?

The Japanese release follows the west by two days making it the closest we’ve ever had to a simultaneous world release. Many of our titles are text-heavy which makes schedules rough for our localization partners, but in this case we were able to budget the English-language version into development.

Spike Chunsoft seems to be avid supporters of the PlayStation Vita in Japan. How does the company feel about the market for PlayStation Vita games in the West?

The Vita is still a vibrant platform in Japan, especially for visual novels and indie titles. With that said, its big brother clearly dominates in the West. Some games were originally planned as Vita-only titles, but after taking the international market into consideration we decided to also develop them for the PS4. And now that Steam is on the table, it makes sense to also develop for PC. Ports are more complicated and costly than you’d think—I look forward to a point where everything works for all platforms from day one.

Spike chunsoft

You are now in your 5th year as a company; has Spike Chunsoft set any goals as a company for this year?

This is a big year for Danganronpa with two new anime series airing in July and development of the next game, Danganronpa V3. So our immediate goal is to start the hype train and keep it going.

Zero Time Dilemma isn’t the only localization coming from Aksys Games. There’s also a new Shiren the Wanderer coming July 26 and Exist Archive: The Other Side of the Sky on October 18. We developed Exist Archive with Tri-Ace as part of their 20th anniversary celebration so I’m glad to see that the party gets to leave Japan.

And of course, our plans for Steam—but if I get into too much detail, this will be my last media interview!

So let us know what you think about Spike Chunsoft games and also what you would like to see come out of the company in the comments below.