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Tecmo Koei Interview

Interview: Boss Kenji Matsubara eyes western dominance

The Tecmo Koei merger brought together two major players in Japanese development. Their plan? To launch an assault on the western gaming market, and Kenji Matsubara, CEO of Tecmo Koei, is at the helm of it all.

We spoke to Matsubara about how he plans to commence his attack on western thumbs, what he thinks of Sony's pricing decisions and his verdict on the new motion control frenzy, among other things.

You speak regularly of your concerns over the Japanese games market. Have things not started to pick up in recent months?

Matsubara: There's not such a big change compared to last year. The western market is expanding, and the European market has more than doubled [in size] within this decade, but the Japanese market has remained the same. The problem is, as you know, the PlayStation 3 and 360 - the new games platforms - are not as popular in the Japanese games market.

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The reason is that gamers are waiting for the right time to buy one. They're waiting for a good title made especially for either platform. But this is a publisher and developer problem - we haven't yet provided such a title to satisfy such users.

Japanese users prefer the PSP, DS or Wii software. I'm sure we have good growth potential with the high-performance consoles within the Japanese market, but we can't yet take advantage of this opportunity - we are still awaiting growth.

What do you think is the reason for the lull in Japanese gaming?

Matsubara: Thanks to Nintendo's DS and Wii, game users are expanding - female and senior game users are joining in. But those casual gamers still prefer casual play and don't go into core games, sports or action games.

Those are areas that Tecmo are very good at. Casual gamers are looking to those types of games gradually, but they still prefer games like Brain Age or Wii Sports. The Japanese demographic has changed compared to five years ago, but most of the casual gamers still prefer casual games.

You're leading your Euro charge with a PS3 exclusive. What was your response to Activision's comments on possibly halting support for Sony's console?

Matsubara: I'm not sure what Activision means in those comments, but Activision sees that the PS3 is a very important platform. In the PS2 days, Sony was dominant, and nothing else came close.

Now, in the PS3 era, I understand that the 360 is bigger, but the PS3 isn't small - it has a big share [of the market].

So from a publisher or developer's view, focussing on a single platform is very risky. Instead we have to focus on providing every title for every platform. That's a key standpoint for Tecmo Koei.

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I believe it's not a strategy for us but for everybody. I understand Activision's comment, but in general, the PS3 is still a very important platform.

What do you think of Sony's decision not to drop the PS3's price despite increasing pressure to do so?

Matsubara: Whenever I discuss this with Sony reps I always ask them: "Please cut the price", but I don't have a clear view on Sony's situation. Yes, from a publisher's point of view we would welcome a price cut for PS3, and we are waiting, definitely.

It's definitely a way of boosting the PS3 market, but it's Sony's strategy and I don't know their cost structure. Sony introduced cutting-edge technology in the PS3, that's why people in the industry accept that the PS3 cost is so high, but we'd welcome a price cut.

What's your long-term plan for western market dominance then?

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