[‘A Game Collector’s Melancholy’ is a bi-weekly column by Jeffrey Fleming that follows the subtle pleasures and gnawing anxieties of video game collecting.]

Mary.jpgRecently Nippon Ichi Software America announced their line-up of new releases as well as some big developments for their online store. To find out more, I posted a few questions by email to Jack Niida, marketing manager of NIS America and Mitsu Hiraoka, vice president of NIS America Online Business Development.

NIS America announced a slew of new titles including GrimGrimoire and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters for the PS2 as well as Disgaea and Dragoneer’s Aria for the PSP. Those, along with the upcoming Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm and Aedis Eclipse: Generation of Chaos represent a fairly busy release schedule. Do you expect to continue to move at that pace and are Sony’s PS2 and PSP the target platforms for the foreseeable future?

Jack Niida: We’re setting a good pace for now. It’s a busier release schedule than our norm, but the localization process is going well. Unless something drastically goes wrong, we won’t make any adjustments to our release schedule. That being said, the 2nd half of the year will be quieter than the first half, with fewer releases scheduled.

For a long time, NIS America has been releasing titles for the PS2 and PSP, so some people might think we are solely dedicated to Sony, but that is not true. Our goal is to provide quality games and services to all game fans, and looking ahead, there are several platforms that can help us reach out to a broader audience and gamers can expect surprises from us. Of course, we will also continue to work closely with Sony, providing great games for PS2/PS3/PSP users as well.

Tell me a bit about the new face of your online store at www.RosenQueen.com.

Mitsu Hiraoka: 2 years have passed since the opening of the NISA online store. During these past 2 years, we have been connecting with the media at press events, and also through our daily PR work, and we have communicated with our fans, receiving encouraging voices. However, at the same time our fans have voiced their concerns as well. Every year, in the month of July we hold a booth at Anime Expo to have an opportunity to meet with our fans. We also hold various contests that prove to be an important opportunity for fan interaction. Through these various activities, we have always contemplated on the “value” that we can provide for our customers. We came to realize that it is always important to increase game quality, but it is also equally important to provide a value that can offer a truly rich gaming environment. NISA is not the only company that is thinking about value. If we can provide fine products from these companies to our customers for their satisfaction, it will be very meaningful.

RQ_logo.jpgThe RosenQueen Company is taken from an item shop within a video game series by Nippon Ichi Software called Marl’s Kingdom. Etoile Rosenqueen, the rival of Marl’s Kingdom’s main character, is the representative of the RosenQueen Company.
As I mentioned in the previous section, it became necessary to create a vendor that isn’t specifically named after NISA, in order to provide non-NISA related products. However, at the same time, it is necessary to carry on the spirit of NISA. And RosenQueen fulfills both requirements.

People enjoy the fictional part of video games, so we’re hoping people will enjoy the fictional setting of the vendor as well. Initially we will provide game related products that NISA is good at dealing with. But, eventually we would like to move forward with various other products and services, since even Disgaea is turning into an anime.

Now, even the cocky Etoile cannot live without the help of our customers. Therefore, like the NISA online store, we would like to provide products and services that the customers will enjoy.

I notice that you are making certain titles from XSEED Games and Atlus USA available through RosenQueen. What is the relationship between NIS America and those publishers?

Mitsu Hiraoka: From a business sense, our relationship will be as “publisher” and “vendor”. You might suspect that we, as a publisher, are in competition, but as I mentioned before, providing high quality products and services will benefit the customer the most. As a publisher, we acknowledge each other and increase our quality through competition. However, as a retailer we have a mutual relationship with those publishers to provide true value to our customers.

I was extremely pleased with the deluxe packaging that you gave Ar Tonelico – Melody of Elemia. Can we look forward to more premium editions? What are the economics of special boxed editions? Do you see less profit because of the printing costs? Are they more difficult to get on the shelves of retailers?

artonelico.jpgJack Niida: Judging cost effectiveness on a bonus item for video games is always a difficult task. What it comes down to is cost-benefit, customer interest, affordability, and future impact. If we believe that the added bonus would not gather enough numbers to cover the total cost we would pull the plug. However, if there are additional positive impacts by releasing a similar, yet smaller bonus feature that costs less for customer satisfaction, we may do so. There is no single specific recipe for a successful bonus campaign, but through our past campaign data and experience we have a fairly good picture of the outcome.

Placing special edition packages could be a challenge in itself, depending on the retailer. Few are flexible enough to work with these large size displays. However, there are retailers that are very cooperative and we really appreciate it. For our future titles, we would like to provide similar special editions packages.

On the subject of Ar Tonelico, one of the unique aspects of that title was its incorporation of Visual Novel elements. Although a popular genre in Japan, American game reviewers seemed to have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea. Is the U.S. ready for Visual Novels?

Jack Niida: There is no denying that visual novels are still a foreign game style. However, feedback from players was positive, so we believe there is at least an increase in interest. In general, we found that those with positive feedback are fans of anime or manga, so their understandings of the Japanese gaming culture perhaps helped embrace the new style. With all the increased interest though, we have yet to determine whether or not a full visual novel game will succeed in the states. Perhaps we should test the waters with some of our Japanese titles.

With the upcoming Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm you are making the soundtrack available separately through RosenQueen. Is it imported from Japan or are you establishing a US music publishing division?

ai3.jpgJack Niida: We are not importing the soundtrack, but not necessarily establishing a music publishing division either. The music source is provided from the Japanese developer, so we would re-master, create new package, and manufacture them on a small scale. Nothing extraordinary is done, but like I mentioned earlier, our goal is to provide quality games and services to our game fans, so we try to do our best to bring what they wish for.

Finally, I am very intrigued by Hayarigami. With the popularity of Japanese horror films and games is there a possibility that Hayarigami or its sequel may see a US release?

Jack Niida: With the increased popularity in Japanese horror films, there is certainly a chance. Our only concern is the game play style. Hayarigami is a full visual novel style game and unlike Ar tonelico it does not have any traditional RPG features, like combat and adventure. So, we are still a bit hesitant to release this game. However, if there is enough demand we will definitely try to bring the game over.

Many thanks to NIS America.

Images: © 2007 NIS America. All Rights Reserved

[Jeffrey Fleming is an East Bay writer. To read more, please visit Tales of the Future.]