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While XSeed Games may have dropped off the radar for a little while there, the company has recently come back with three PSP RPG publications (Valhalla Knights, Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground, and Brave Story: New Traveler) and an upcoming PS2 release with Wild ARMs 5. In this interview, Heath Hindman of RPG Land and Jimmy Soga of XSeed Games met in the labyrinth outside of town to discuss...

THE STATE OF XSEED
 
Heath Hindman, RPGLand.com

Name, rank, and serial number.

Jimmy Soga, XSeed Games

Jimmy Soga
Assistant Marketing Manager
007 (I was the 7th one to join XSeed)

Heath Hindman

Also cereal number.

Jimmy Soga

1 box a month.

 
Heath Hindman

In general, honestly, how are things at XSeed? I recall in our first interview with President Iwasaki, it was noted that a company goal was to publish four releases per year, but within XSeed's first year in the game scene, there were only two shipped. The pace has picked up lately, but why was there that little lull there in the last half of 2006?

Jimmy Soga

Haha. Yes we got a lot of "wow XSeed!? I thought they fell off the face of the earth after Shadow Hearts: From the New World!" when we announced Valhalla Knights (PSP).

We did have a bit of a "quiet time" but I assure you that we were staying busy. We had some titles we wanted to bring over but for various reasons they didn’t quite make it to see the day light over here.

XSeed is also a marketing service agency and we were working with other companies at that time though you’ll never see our names in the credits.

Plus we may have only published 2 titles in 2006 but we do have 5 titles for 2007 so do they cancel out in a way?

Heath Hindman

I only managed an 85 in algebra the SECOND time through, so no more mathematical counter-questions.

 
Heath Hindman

What would be your new annual release goal? Are you again aiming for four releases a year? More? Less?

Jimmy Soga

For now it would be great to have four titles a year (one every quarter). Especially since we take localization very seriously so a good amount of lead time would be ideal.

 
Heath Hindman

What games released so far have been your biggest sellers? Have any of them missed shipment/sales goals, and conversely, have any *ahem* XSeeded them?

Jimmy Soga

Of course we’re proud of every title that we've released regardless of their sales, but would have to say that we get the most questions asking about a sequel to Shadow Hearts: From the New World. If it was up to us there'd be no question a new one would be on the way, but unfortunately we're not the developer so we're left out in the cold just as much as the fans that write in.

 
Heath Hindman

How well are you predicting Brave Story: New Traveler will do in the North American market?

Jimmy Soga

We sincerely hope it'll do well (laughs).

One of the reasons we decided to pick this title up was because we were very impressed at how well-done the game was. Every aspect of the game such as the visuals, fun gameplay, no load times, story and character development were superb and we thought it was a game that will raise the bar for PSP RPGs. Fortunately, we've been getting a lot of good reviews so hoping that everyone will pick it up because it really is a great game.

 
Heath Hindman

The decision to publish a number of PSP titles this year raised a few eyebrows initially. Now that we're into the second half of 2007, would you say that the average gamer's opinion of the PSP has changed, from what you can tell? What's the company's general opinion of the PSP?

Jimmy Soga

Though the PSP market did seem to be a bit gloomy at the end of 2006, I think this is due to the lack of PSP original titles. The hardware is an amazing device, and since the price drop more people have been buying the PSP so rather than to dismiss it, we decided to bring more good original titles to make people want to play the PSP.

Heath Hindman

Do you think that those jokes about RPGs on the PSP are starting to get pretty stale?

Jimmy Soga

In terms of the PSP lacking good RPGs? Never really thought that myself, but the current flood of RPGs hitting this summer should remove any doubt about the PSP not having any quality RPGs. Just our offering alone this year gives quite a few varieties of RPG with Valhalla Knights being a dungeon crawler, Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground having a unique sim element, and Brave Story: New Traveler being a more traditional turn-based game.

Heath Hindman

In this picture, like the whole staff is pointing at me for playing a PSP instead of a DS. Are they a bunch of bitches or what? Don't you hate them? I hate them.

Jimmy Soga

HAHAHA.

We have nothing against the DS, but I just feel sorry for them that they underestimate the power of the dark sid... I mean PSP. As I mentioned before and as you can tell by all the titles we’re publishing, we are a big supporter of the PSP. And the only way to make sure your fellow staff stop picking on you is for publishers to put out more great titles that you can only play on the PSP. We'll see who's laughing then....

 
Heath Hindman

Have you ever even kicked around the idea of bringing a DS game over? If so, which ones did you humor the idea of localizing? If you're not allowed to expressly say which due to regulations we're not aware of, just sort of give us a riddle to figure out which one(s).

Jimmy Soga

Of course we’re always looking for good titles to bring over regardless of the platform, so naturally we went through a lot of DS games as well. Almost all the good RPGs on DS that we were looking into have been released by other publishers, so we can’t really comment on someone else’s product.

 
Heath Hindman

XSeed has worked primarily with different developers for each game. What drew you to these studios? Are there any up-and-coming developers (maybe one that we haven't heard of here in the states?) that the company is interested in working with?

Jimmy Soga

Our president, Jun Iwasaki (JI) has a lot of connections due to his vast experience in the videogames industry even before starting XSeed, so sometimes we get companies asking us if we’re interested in publishing certain games in North America. Other than that we always pay close attention to the Japanese market and look for any game that looks interesting. When we see one that’s interesting, all of us here at XSeed will play it and discuss if the game is worth bringing over or not. If we’re all good to go with the game we’ll start negotiating with the publisher in Japan and take it from there. So I guess my answer is that it’s the game that draws us to the developers we work with.

 
Heath Hindman

The exception to that last question is Wild ARMs 5. I guess that's kinda your big upcoming game right now. What brought you back to that series?

Jimmy Soga

We were always a big fan of the Wild ARMs series. We thought Wild ARMs 4 was a great title and when we played Wild ARMs 5, we were blown away. It was a title that seemed to have all the pros in the Wild ARMs series put together in one game.

 
Heath Hindman

So with you establishing visible PSP love...and visible Wild ARMs love...when are you going to try to bring Wild ARMs XF to North America?

Jimmy Soga

Unfornately we can’t comment on that at this time.

Heath Hindman

As a strategy RPG, I'd guess XF probably has more menu action going on than a typical Wild ARMs game, and perhaps less dialogue. (Again, though, these are just guesses.) If those are accurate, would you think it'd be easier or harder to do a good job of localizing Wild ARMs XF?

Jimmy Soga

Unfortunately we can’t comment on that at this either...oh, why not, but this doesn’t mean that we’re publishing Wild ARMs XF, yet. Wild ARMs XF is indeed a strategy RPG but similar to other Wild ARMs games, the story is one of the main aspects of the game so there is a lot of dialogue. Plus our staff has experience in strategy RPG’s from past experiences so I don’t think it’ll be any different from localizing a regular RPG game.

Heath Hindman

How is your late-first-quarter of 2008 looking? Mine is looking like Wild ARMs XF. I'm just saying!

Jimmy Soga

Unfortunately we can’t comment on that at this time (for real this time).

 
Heath Hindman

Now that XSeed has published three (if you count WA5) console and three portable RPGs: is it easier to publish handheld games than console games, or harder? How is the process different?

Jimmy Soga

I say the overall process is pretty much the same. Sales-wise it might be a little harder for the PSP due to limited shelf space for PSP software at retailers, but we just have to keep working at it.

 
Heath Hindman

What's the next year or so look like for you guys? (More RPGs? More PS2/PSP stuff, or will you hop onto PS3 or another system eventually?)

Jimmy Soga

Can’t really say too much about 2008 at this point. We’ll keep fighting the good fight to bring over the quality games that we know American players will enjoy.

Heath Hindman

Thanks much for sitting through this interview. Any last words closing remarks?

Jimmy Soga

Always a pleasure talking to you, Heath. Buy Brave Story: New Traveler and Wild ARMs 5 or else we’ll have to unleash some frenzied goalfinches on you.

RPG Land extends thanks to all the folks at XSeed for putting up with Heath for the duration of this interview. And since we don't want angry birds busting through the RPG Land office windows, we'll inform you that Brave Story: New Traveler is in stores now, and Wild ARMs 5 ships to retailers on August 28.

ADDITIONAL LINKS

  • Discuss this interview
  • XSeed Games Official Site
  • Wild ARMs 5 hands-on preview
  • Brave Story: New Traveler review
  • Brave Story: New Traveler second opinion
  • Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground review


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