Imagine, if you will, a giant list. Maybe it's an Excel file. Or on a whiteboard somewhere in Sony's offices. Maybe it's written on index cards.
On that list is a lot of names that Sony has been compiling based on fan tweets and requests for three months now. Final Fantasy Type-0 is on there. So is Yakuza. And Shenmue. And many, many others, compiled when Sony's Giovanni Corsi started asking fans to submit requests.
Sony's goal: to bring as many of those games as possible to PlayStation platforms and, if they were never released outside of Japan, to bring those games West.
This afternoon at the big PS4 event in Manhattan, I chatted with Sony's Adam Boyes about what the folks behind PlayStation have planned for the future. Boyes is in charge of third-party publisher and developer relations, which means it's his job to interact with all the non-Sony companies that make games for Sony's platforms. He's the one who worked with the folks at Gearbox to get their shooter Borderlands 2 on Vita. And now he's promising more — and teasing good news for people who are into Japanese games.
Read our whole conversation:
Schreier: So I know that in August, I remember Gio Corsi was tweeting about like, tell us what —
Boyes: Building lists, hashtag building lists.
Schreier: Yeah, exactly, can you tell me how that's progressed?
Boyes: He's got a massive list, yeah. We're hunting it down — so basically, when we started the third-party production team, it was born out of necessity. We had a lot of publishers and a lot of content that had come out for various platforms and various territories that weren't necessarily coming to our territory, platforms we'd love to see them on.
[When we first approached publishers,] Shu Yoshida and Scott Rohde and me said hey how can we work on third-party IPs with your guys's engineers? And we sort of all realised that we'd rather them working on their own IPs. So out of necessity we're like, 'You know we should start our own group that can handle that kind of stuff.'
And it's also because, I've been talking to Randy Pitchford a lot about bringing Borderlands to Vita. We're like how are we gonna do this, cause we're busy with stuff… we talked to [publisher] 2K and said what if we handled it? What if we handled the production oversight and the development of the game, of course with Gearbox's involvement and 2K's close involvement. And we brought Gio on to sort of build that whole vision. And working with an external studio, so Iron Galaxy Studios in Chicago is handling the development of Borderlands 2 Vita.
And that's just the start, so we've got a massive list — we're calling everyone trying to get that list as much as possible. A lot of issues come around clearances or intellectual property ownerships and stuff like that. And there's of course always a balance because you wanna share as much information as possible, but when you're dealing with other peoples' properties, it's always a balance.
It's a very interesting journey — I would say within the next six months we'll have at least one if not a few announcements to make on that front. They're hustling. They've got a full team now — three guys now, full-time — working on the list and hunting it all down, making sure we've got a lot of stuff coming.
Schreier: When you say a few announcements, are you talking third parties on Vita?
Boyes: Depends. Again, a couple announcements are coming from that group, so whether it is coming from a country to this one, or on a different platform, new platform, there's multiple potential —
Schreier: Oh, so you're talking about localisation also?
Boyes: They handle anything having to do with either new platforms or coming, localising it for our local territory.
Schreier: I know there was talk about Sony having their own internal localisation group...
Boyes: We have — we work with, we have first-party in Worldwide Studios, we have a lot of great localisation talent. So we either work with them on that stuff or we work with external parties to help localise the content. But the key is I think in general is to transition our role as more of a business solutions provider for partners so when they come to us like, 'Here's what we really want to do, we don't have enough time to do this part or that part,' and that's when our team can come forward and say 'Hey, listen, let's help you with this or that.'
Schreier: So if I'm Joe Kotaku Reader, and I've been following this for a little while now, I see you guys promising lots of stuff to come, I see Gio's tweets back in August, and I say — what does that mean for me? When am I gonna start seeing results of this stuff? You said you have announcements to make in a few months, and I don't want to take the steam away from those announcements, but is there anything you can say to those people that can kind of assure them that there is stuff coming for their Vita, their PS4?
"We're doing a lot of different things that are gonna make pockets of people happy." - Adam Boyes
Boyes: It's tough because we're doing a lot of different things that are gonna make pockets of people happy. There's not like one thing that's gonna make everyone's mind explode. The key is to bring people that are fans of certain content great stuff. So if people are fans of Japanese content, you can imagine that's a place we're putting a lot of effort into. People who are fans of the Vita, you can imagine we're putting lots of effort into that. Even with PS4, right, people who weren't necessarily planning on content, or whether there's a PC game we think should come over. There's a lot of things that are happening in that space...
I would say in the next year's time, if you're a fan of Japanese games, if you're a fan of Vita, then hopefully we'll have a little treat for you.
Schreier: OK, so, full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Japanese games. I'm a big JRPG guy. Over this past generation, I saw tons and tons of games that stayed in Japan, and while you'd have a few niche publishers — the XSEEDs and Aksyses and Atluses of the world — that are bringing some of those over, a lot of them are stuck, especially on the PSP. And for me as a PSP owner, I was like, 'Jesus, Japan is getting all these cool games that I want to get my hands on.' Do you envision that continuing to happen? Some of that stuff wasn't localised because it was niche, some of it wasn't localised because companies couldn't see the sales potential there — are you guys more willing to take risks on those types of games?
Boyes: That's the thing like, we also revamped our whole sort of financial strategy group, and so we're doing really deep dives on the commercial viability of a lot of products. So you can imagine — and I'm trying to tread the balance of I don't wanna make a lot of promises that people like, 'wahh I thought you said this' — but imagine us watching TGS, and when there's content that's been announced at TGS on our stage, the first thing we're doing is making a list and saying, 'Is there opportunity for that content to come to US?'
And then also going through the most popular stuff - you know when we were building lists there was a massive amount of requests for all kinds of huge IPs that are big in Japan. And those are the ones we're going after, based on the popularity of the requests, so you can imagine there's lots of… whatever games I say, [people are] gonna be like 'Ahh, it's coming!'
Schreier: With the caveat that this is all up in the air, this is all in negotiations, are there any that you guys have in mind that you would really like to bring over here?
Boyes: I think a lot — we get a ton of requests for Yakuza, a ton of requests for Shenmue. We see the lists. Like everything that people have tweeted Gio, literally we have a person that compiles those lists and prioritises based on how many requests we've gotten. And I think to date there's well over 10,000 mentions across like forum threads and stuff like that. So those are the ones we're focused on.
But I think the challenge is always that there's so many different intricacies, going into is the creator there, what's the current status, does the publisher have other things going, so it's not as easy as like, 'Why are you taking so long?' There's a lot of things you have to do. And because it is a new thing that we're doing, it's also difficult to sit down with a partner saying, 'Hey, we're gonna do this, it'll be fine.' You can't imagine that the Gearbox team and Randy Pitchford would be like, 'Oh yeah yeah yeah take our baby and just whatever.'
They want to be really involved and they want to be sure we build trust. So I think what you'll see is the first couple will take longer, and then once we get a couple of those games, especially ones localised from Japan over here, then I think you'll see the cadence increase.
"Once we get a couple of those games, especially ones localised from Japan over here, then I think you'll see the cadence increase." - Adam Boyes
Schreier: That's good to hear. When you say that you're targeting games in Japan, you mentioned Yakuza, you mentioned Shenmue — those are older games. Are you looking at PSP games? Are you looking at PS3 games?
Boyes: You could imagine that every piece of content that's come to those platforms over in Japan, we're looking at bringing over. It's also a balance of like, is it gonna be commercially viable if there isn't some sort of HD remix, should it come just as the native version, should we port it up? And so those are conversations, again — I worked at Capcom, now I work with Sony, so this is my second Japanese company. It's about trust. And it takes a long time to have those conversations and make sure everyone feels comfortable, especially 'cause it's like, we haven't released it before in America, how's it gonna do and stuff like that.
So it's a long process. But I'm very hopeful. The whole reason we started the group is to bring great content that you love back over here.
Al DeLeon, Sony PR: Do you have a wishlist, Jason?
Schreier: All of my readers want Final Fantasy Type-0, which is a PSP game that was never brought over here. That's like number one request from everybody.
Boyes: It's on the list. It's building the list.
Schreier: Another one is that Suikoden PSP game that was released in Japan but never made it here. Is that something that you've gotten requests for?
Boyes: It's on the list, yeah.
Schreier: That's good to hear — it's exciting.
Look out for heaps more PS4 coverage later this week.