Masaya Matsuura

The NanaOn-Sha president on WINtA - what the inspiration was, and how it came into being

Last week at the Festival of Games in The Netherlands the next One Big Game project was announced - WINtA - a collaboration between Triangle Studios and NanaOn-Sha.

Here, legendary NanaOn-Sha president Masaya Matsuura explains more about how the project came to be, and where the inspiration for the game's music originated.

Q: What were the things that most interested you about working on a One Big Game project, back when Martin first approached you?

Masaya Matsuura: I think the first time I met Martin was much earlier than when the One Big Game thing happened - but when it started some friends of ours suggested that we re-connected, which was a big help.

For me, as a Japanese person, I'm not so enthusiastic about donating to charity, and when people from The Netherlands approached me... Maybe I'm not able to trust that easily. [smiles]

But we had many mutual friends, especially around the GDC parties, and people pushed Martin to approach me. I felt I could help, because for the previous four or five years, when I first attended GDC I was suddenly offered a board member position.

So I've wanted to contribute to the games developer society and communities - and I've done some things, but I hadn't yet been able to do anything big. Therefore, One Big Game is a very connected project for me.

Q: One Big Game had Band Aid as a key influence, but for the videogames industry it's much more of a commitment than just getting together in a recording studio for a couple of days... From a business perspective it's a significant donation to make. How extensive has your involvement been on the WINtA project?

Masaya Matsuura: I remember the first couple of years, after Martin initially approached me, we weren't really able to do anything - we threw some ideas at the wall, but nothing would stick. At first I thought the best way would be in contributing to create a standard collaboration - so my first idea was to rebuild a classic game as a music-based game.

But of course, many of the well-known games are owned by other companies, so it's not easy to unlock the IPs, even though it's for the One Big Game charity - and it didn't work.

So I decided to go about it a different way, and I realised I had a track I'd never released before to the public, which was WINtA. I wrote that right after the September 11 attacks - we had two US staff in the company at that time. One of them was working in the Tokyo office, but the other one was travelling from Boston to Chicago on that day.

When the attacks happened, we had no information on his flight - I got a call to turn on the TV, it was around midnight in Tokyo, and we saw what was going on. We couldn't contact our guy at Chicago airport, and it was in fact 24 hours before we were able to speak to him. He was in the same plane for about 20 hours or so...

Later on, I was watching the news - CNN maybe - when people were demonstrating afterwards, and there were banners saying: "War is not the answer". At the time I couldn't connect that phrase with Marvin Gaye's original lyrics, and I decided to use it for my own track. It was only afterwards that I realised.

Q: There's a poetry in this - that something that, creatively, rose out of a tragic event is now going to contribute to something positive - a charity that helps children.

Masaya Matsuura: I think almost all musicians describe sad or negative things in their songs, in order to encourage and uplift others, and I think this is one of those examples. Unfortunately I think it's harder for positive experiences to make good songs sometimes - sad or bad things are good motivators for creativity. But I felt very comfortable with using the WINtA track for this project.

One of the big things for me with this project is the iPhone platform - it's a very good environment to try new ideas, but it's difficult to do good business just selling Apps... so I'd given up already on making money in that way.

But if I can contribute towards making something in this environment, that will be a big experience for me. If it turns out to be a very hot, productive and lucrative environment, maybe I can sell this kind of idea...

Q: On a practical level, how did the collaboration with Triangle work?

Masaya Matsuura: At the start we built the engine with an in-house team - the engine and the audio parts - and wrote the score-counting system, plus a few other bits. Then we sent them to Triangle and they started to built it onto the platform.

We had weekly Skype meetings to discuss the implementation.

Q: And it was a smooth process?

Masaya Matsuura: Yes, very smooth. Because the production schedule was very busy, it's been very important to set the milestones up properly. Making good business requires a sophisticated design, of course, but it's been a good experience working with Triangle Studios - very easy to work with, and very polite.

Masaya Matsuura is president of NanaOn-Sha. Interview by Phil Elliott.

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