Ask anyone in the gaming industry and you'll know it's been hard for mid-level players these past several years. Mid-tier games had difficultly succeeding against the production value of AAA games but weren't necessarily cheap to produce like indie titles. Even still, this is the climate that XSEED has succeeded in, localizing many games for the PSP (another challenging environment) and finding success with series like Valhalla Knights, Wild Arms, and Ys. The publisher got its biggest break ever last year when it landed The Last Story and has used that to land deals for the recently released Pandora's Tower and the upcoming Killer is Dead.
XSEED Games (which was recently put under the umbrella of Marvelous USA) is doing well in the present and looks well set up for the future. We talked with Ken Berry, executive vice president of XSEED Games, about Pandora's Tower and looking ahead.
[a]list: Pandora's Tower has seen quite a bit of interest in the U.S. since its announcement. Is it exciting to be able to bring over the last of the so-called "Operation Rainfall" titles to the U.S.?
Ken Berry: It’s definitely exciting to be able to work on another high-profile Wii title that had been published by Nintendo in other territories. From the day we announced the title, the fan support has been fantastic.
[a]list: Do you think the $39.99 pricing has attracted more attention to the release of Pandora's Tower?
Ken Berry: I’m not so sure about that, especially since fans kept asking for some kind of special packaging elements like we did with all launch copies of The Last Story. Certainly it helped that it wasn’t at a $49.99 price point, but the tradeoff was that we brought the game to market as quickly as we could with no bonuses.
[a]list: Did the success of The Last Story lead to this opportunity to publish Pandora's Tower in the U.S.?
Ken Berry: Yes, it absolutely did. We had a lot of ties to The Last Story at that time due to our president’s ties to Sakaguchi-san of Mistwalker as well as our parent company doing the programming for it, but we didn’t have any particular ties to Pandora’s Tower. After we launched The Last Story to great success last year, we mutually decided with Nintendo that it was very beneficial for both parties and that we would extend the “one-off” relationship to one other title, Pandora’s Tower.
[a]list: Pandora's Tower is one of the most popular Wii games on GameFAQs. What's the community reception been like for the game?
Ken Berry: The community reception has been great so far, especially for the people playing the game for the first time. I think there was a common misconception going around that Pandora’s Tower was the weakest of the most recent RPGs for Wii, but once people got their hands on it they were able to see that wasn’t the case at all. It may be a very different kind of game that relies much more on action elements, but it’s just as engaging as The Last Story was for most people.
[a]list: Certain niche publishers develop fanbases that consider almost any release they have as a "must buy". Do you feel like XSEED may have crossed that threshold with some gamers with releases like The Last Story and Pandora's Tower?
Ken Berry: I would be honored if we did, but frankly, I don’t know if any developer/publisher deserves that amount of trust from their fans. We’re a business, so it’s our job to show people that our next project should be on their radar and worthy of their hard-earned money because of this reason or that reason. We know that gamers have an infinite number of games to choose from these days on almost a limitless number of platforms, so we can’t rest on our laurels and assume that a fanbase will blindly follow no matter what we publish next.
[a]list: Looking ahead, do you feel like Killer is Dead is a big opportunity to expand the market for XSEED published games?
Ken Berry: We definitely feel that Killer is Dead can appeal to a wide group of people, not just our usual core audience that mainly focuses on RPGs. The key will be getting the additional retail exposure at the mass market retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target, which is essential to branching out to the more casual gamers that may not closely follow gaming news and upcoming releases.
[a]list: Ken, thanks.