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Last Guardian game 'named for US, Europe' - Kobayashi

Sony's Japan Studio VP underlines importance to company of localisation and appealing to the West

The VP of Sony's Japan Studio, Yasuhide Kobayashi, has revealed that its forthcoming title The Last Guardian was given that name specifically to appeal to the US and European markets.

Speaking during the DICE Summit Asia, taking place as part of this year's GC Asia event in Singapore and attended by, Kobayashi-san underlined the importance for studios in Japan to appeal to a global audience in order to maximise sales, as the domestic market declines.

"There are so many issues we have to solve, and the biggest challenge is that the market in Japan is shrinking - they key is gaining success in the US and Europe," he said.

"At the time of the original PlayStation the Japanese market was one third of the global market, and production costs weren't that high - so we were able to generate profit from that market alone.

"But now we're in the era of the PlayStation 3, and the Japanese market is only one fifth of the global market - when it comes to production costs, those are swelling, so it means that unless we gain success in the overseas market our studio will go bankrupt. It's a crisis we recognise," he added.

He then detailed that all of the major publishers in Japan - including Sony, Namco Bandai, Capcom, SEGA, Konami and Square Enix - saw between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of their sales in Japan in the first half of 2008, something that stresses the importance of overseas markets.

As a company, Sony has conducted a number of studies about selling products overseas, and Kobayashi used ICO as an example, showing two different sets of box covers developed in different regions. The design for the US market featured a bigger title and clear lead male character, while the box on sale in Japan had a more refined art style representative of the feel of the game.

ICO sold about 270,000 units in the US, but Kobayashi explained his belief that it could have performed better: "If the packaging was designed differently, we think it would have sold more - in fact on the internet many people have said that the Japanese version was better."

And it was then that he referred to the ICO team's latest project, The Last Guardian, and revealed that the name of the game was selected specifically to appeal to the North American and European markets.

He explained that the studio considers a big budget for a PlayStation 3 game as around the JPY 1-1.5 billion mark, while a small budget is around JPY 100 million.

And he ended with a wry swipe at what is considered as a "new" game in different parts of the world.

"The concept of a game shouldn't be complicated, he said. For instance, those people in the US market are very happy to release a game that is something similar to something that's come before, because they think it is easier for people to understand.

"But actually we don't like this - it's like you're simulating, following suit, combining two titles into one. It seems the definition of a new title is different in the US and Europe to Japan. It means a new genre, that's what we call a new game.

"But people in the US especially seem to have a little bit of a different view - if a game has a something that's slightly different, people take it as a new game..."

The Japan studio is the largest of Sony's internal studios, one of two in the country alongside Polyphony Digital, while the company also has six studios in each of the US and Europe territories.