Interview with John Lee of Hudson Entertainment

JOHN LEE WITH HUDSON ENTERTAINMENT

THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay, so I am speaking with John Lee. John you are with Hudson Entertainment and you are the VP of Sales and Marketing right?

THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay, so tell us about Hudson Entertainment?

JOHN: Well Hudson Entertainment is part of Hudson Soft, a Japanese company which has been one of those long time staples in the gaming industry. They have been around for about 30 something years. They initially started off creating different electronics and eventually ended up really becoming well known for making games. It really was about the 16 bit era that they kind of hit the spotlight because they had a great technology group, and they invented all of the technology for the Turbo Grafx system. The PC engine as it was known in Japan. That system in Japan is big and one of the largest ones there rivaling Nintendo.

 JOHN: And it was a real marvel in technology and design. It had a real strong fan base and the games that were launched on that system won a lot of awards. However, in North America, we ultimately came in third in the 16-bit wars. So ever since then our presence has been more limited to developing games in the US. It wasn’t until recent years that we realized that the Hudson brand name was still popular among many gamers, as well as many of our brands. That’s when we decided to reenter the US market again. Today, we now have console group, a music group, a digital download division, and a mobile games group.


THE GAME REVIEWS: So tell us a little bit about what is going on. The original Bomber Man was a huge success. Is there anything new happening with a Bomber Man?

JOHN: Yes, Bomberman has become an industry staple. It’s often picked as one of the top twenty or so games of all time. Many people praise it to be the best multiplayer game of all time. In many ways it was the forefather of the party game genre. And over the years, he has been in well over 70 different games. Some of it came to the US, but a lot of this was in Japan. It has always held true that the best way to enjoy Bomberman really is in the multi-player experience. It is amazing, and I guess it is almost even reflective of just how fundamentally Bomberman has not changed. I mean there are new power ups and levels and characters, but everyone loves the traditional Bomberman. So what we recently did in honor of that is we launched a game on Xbox Live, which lets people play online in a real robust fashion for the first time. And that has really hit a note with people. We have pulled in some of the best levels from before and the best ideas and let people compete online. And it was a blockbuster hit again.

JOHN: Every now and then, we have experimented with different ways to present the gameplay, but we always go back to the original. But you know that is kind of where [Bomber Man] is and it is an interesting sort of challenge at the same time because the gaming industry has evolved right? I mean you have games like Halo 3 and Bioshock that are pushing the envelope of storytelling and technology and graphics, but Bomberman is still fundamentally a simple and easily accessible game.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Do you ever see Bomberman going into maybe a first person shooter or a third person over the shoulder type of game?

JOHN: You know it is funny you should mention that, because we actually did a version of that game on the Xbox 360 system a few years ago called Bomber Man Act Zero, which was set in a post-apocalyptic world. People did not like it, in fact, they very much revolted against that.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Wow, really?

JOHN: The gameplay was fundamentally the same, but no one liked the dark sinister new direction. It actually was very telling for us for two reasons. One is that you cannot mess with the original too much. The second was that it signaled  the emergence of what I consider more of this casual gaming market. There really is a group of gamers out there that just want a fun, a cute, and colorful game to play. Not everything needs to be a FPS, or a sinister world, or be filled with big guns and bosses. Bomberman Live has become that game people play several times a week, a break between their big ticket AAA purchases.  

JOHN: The rise in interest for this type of gaming is partly sparked by Nintendo and their Wii and DS platforms, which have really kind of opened up the market and brought a great appreciation for a lot of our games.

THE GAME REVIEWS: So I know one of the big things that Hudson has coming down the line is Deca Sports right? And it can be found at HudsonEntertainment.com. So can you tell us a little bit about the title? It is for the Wii, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s ready take on Wii Sports. So give us a little bit more information about that John.

JOHN: Deca Sports is our play into the casual sports market, which has become one of the biggest explosive areas in gaming. This has arguably been brought about because of Wii Sports. Nintendo made a smart move packaging that game with the system, as it really gave people a flavor and taste of how much more fun these sport games can be when you have motion control with the remote. What is interesting is that as much as people love these sports, it is very much an appetizer. People want more. And what we have decided to do was put together a ten game compilation, and cover sports a good mix of sports. They come from all parts of the world and add a layer of depth and advanced technique, which I think is reflective of the kind of gamers there are in the United States. There is no other market in the world that has such a great appreciation for sports games. That is pretty much what you see from Deca Sports. You have some winter sports in there, some summer sports, racing, team sports, individual ones, etc… It is a good mix.

THE GAME REVIEWS: I see you even have curling in there?

JOHN: Yes, we even have curling in there! The biggest surprise is that this sport has become one of the top two favorite games in the office.

THE GAME REVIEWS: You know what would have been good? Probably the biggest joke of the office? Major League Eating. Have you heard about that?

JOHN: Yes I have heard about that! I do not know if we will ever put it in there, but the Japanese would be pretty keen on something like that. As for curling, it’s big, at least in Canada. We just never expected people to have so much fun with it. There is a lot more technique to this game than I have ever realized until I started playing it, and you have a lot of fun at it.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Oh yes, right on. So does everyone in the office play sports?

JOHN: There is a mix, and I think there is a core group of guys, who still always play Bomberman in the office or the latest and greatest FPS. I do see a couple people still playing World of Warcraft, though they should not do that during office hours! Now there is a growing group of guys who also regularly play Deca Sports. People love the competition.

THE GAME REVIEWS: So is the target audience is the casual market? What is the age group that you are trying to target?

JOHN: Actually we believe the game will appeal to both the casual gaming market and also the sports enthusiast. We designed the game to be easily assessable and at the same time rich with content, and layered with depth. On the surface it may seem like these two audiences want something different in a game, but we really strived to make Deca Sports reach both. I think Deca Sports is going to be one of those games that people want on their shelves so that when friends come over or when family is around, gamers can pull that game out and showcase how fun the Wii is. The game currently features local co-op and competitive play, so it’s a great game to bring people together and have a little friendly competition.


THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay, so what is the price point going to be on Deca?

JOHN: We have not decided yet, but we do want to make the price mass market friendly. We’ll definitely lock that down in the next week or two.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay as far as you know, what sorts of plans are there for the next-gen market as far as the other systems? PS3 and Xbox 360?

JOHN: Well, we definitely have plans for these other systems, and we also have a number of plans in motion with digital downloads for those systems as well. That is a pretty new market, but it is a great way to reintroduce a lot of our classic brands to a whole new generation of gamers,. But for the most part, we are very big supporters of Nintendo as they have always been a very close ally and friend. In fact, we were actually the first party publisher for them.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Really?

JOHN: I believe that the first game was LoadRunner of all things.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Wow now that harkens back to the day.

JOHN: In fact, that was our first million unit seller. Another good bit of trivia:  it was the first game that actually featured Bomberman in it.

JOHN: Go buy Deca Sports, coming May 2008! Beyond that, I think the one thing I have always wanted to say to our fans is that we have always appreciated those that have helped us become a player again in the US. It has given us a chance to really bring back a lot of the classics that people loved playing. Continue to keep track of what we are doing, because we got some fun things planned.

THE GAME REVIEWS: Okay, well thank you very much for your time John, we really appreciate it.

JOHN: Yes, it’s always fun talking about Hudson and I definitely appreciate it.

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