Japan is just a click away!

Natsume’s president talks about bringing niche games to the US

In an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, Hiro Maekawa, Natsume's president, talked about the types of games that his company is focused on -

"We are always trying to do something different from the other publishing companies. Having a distinct marketing strategy is our concept, which is to say we are not trying to do the same thing as the other publishers are trying to do. For example, whenever a company brings out a big racing game, other companies follow suit, but we don't do that. Our specialty is a niche marketing strategy with a focus on the types of games that other companies would not bring over here. These are titles that they're afraid to bring here because they feel the market is too small."

Through past experience, he knows that many titles that other companies/publishers would never even consider have the potential to make an impact over here -

"There is for example, our popular Harvest Moon franchise. When I came from abroad with Harvest Moon almost 11 years ago, I was still a newcomer to this industry. So I asked a lot of advice from other companies in this business. They said, 'Don't bring it (Harvest Moon) into this country, it's so boring!' They felt back then all American gamers were playing fast paced shooting and action games."

"I was not a good gamer at the time. I came from a completely different business. But when I played Harvest Moon for the first time, I felt this game might have great potential. It might seem boring, but it's quite niche. America is a huge farming country and this series is not only a farming game, but it also shows the rewards of hard work. So my instinct was that this game might have great potential to grow. That is one of our marketing strategies. Nobody was interested but we believed strongly in it. (laughs) When I say "we" I mean "me" because I was the only person in here at the time. So the only people I could consult with were business minded people from other Japanese companies publishing in the U.S.. None of them gave me any good comments, 'If you bring it Harvest Moon here, it will be a sad mistake.'"

But Hiro is also aware that Natsume has to be smart about which titles it decides to bring over. In a follow-up piece, he uses Taito's Densha de Go series to explain how cultural differences have to be taken into consideration -

"But you cannot bring every kind of niche game from Japan into the U.S . One perfect example are those very popular Japanese train simulation games like Densha Da Go. Yes, the U.S. does have trains and subways, but its transit infrastructure is quite different than that of Japan's. You would have to change the game's style very much. This brings up one of my most important points about being a Japanese company in the U.S.: you have to be bi-cultural. Sure we're niche as I mentioned before, but a company like Natsume has to also consider American tastes. We have stay successful by staying with these philosophies."