Interview: Tecmo Koei CEO, Kenji Matsubara
Exclusive one-on-one discussion with the global boss of Japan's newest publisher. The product of two high profile game companies, can Tecmo Koei truly realise Matsubara's vision to become the "number one" games publisher?
Kikizo: It wasn't so long ago that Tecmo had an arcade presence. But the Dead or Alive series hasn't existed in arcades since DOA2. Is there any value in looking at the arcades once again?
Matsubara: We have an arcade business within Tecmo, but only in terms of locations - we're not developing arcade machine software. The reason why is that this business is very tough, and it's very difficult to make a profit - not only for Tecmo, but as we've seen, for other companies who are focused on the arcade business, they have been facing difficulties for several years. That's why at this moment we can't see a growth opportunity for the arcade business in Japan. So we can keep an arcade location business and make a reasonable profit, but other than that we can't make it a focus.
Kikizo: So can you give me an update on the current status of Koie Tecmo in terms of its ranking among Japanese game publishers - how is it positioned post-merger?
Matsubara: It's number six, after Konami, Bandai Namco, Sega, Square Enix and Capcom. These companies are doing well, but not necessarily just as game businesses - Bandai Namco has a goods business and a location business; Konami has a sports business; Square Enix has started in the arcade business too. And Capcom, they are focused on the software business, but in terms of revenue they are close to US $1billion. We [Tecmo Koei] are $0.4billion US dollars, and there is quite a gap between us and the number seven and the number five.
Kikizo: You have said you want to be the number one publisher - do you mean within Japan, or global...?
Matsubara: Yeah, global, but [laughs]... long term! I understand, it's very big challenge for us, and I can't say when it would happen, but as long as I am president, I would like to follow this goal. Of course, I would like to achieve it within my term, but it's our final goal, and this goal came from our founders. So I understand it's very ambitious - as of today, we are far from the number one publisher, but it's the final goal for us. It's good to say you are targeting number one when you are talking to your staff; if we say we're targeting number three, that's no so good!
Kikizo: Exactly [laughs]. Is there anything else you could learn or replicate from those top five Japan publishers that you are not yet doing, to help you reach this goal?
Matsubara: Well, they are very good at business. Some years ago, maybe four or five years ago, they faced difficulties, but after that they changed organisation, management style, development style, and they focused on the western market. New titles like Lost Planet and Dead Rising came from Capcom and were a big success in the western market. Capcom is very good at expanding business in the western market - I don't think the other Japanese publishers are as good as Capcom in this respect. Nintendo is an exception. But these days, Japanese publishers including Koei Tecmo are focused on the western market, and following Capcom.
Kikizo: Do you think there is anything Microsoft could be doing better in Japan concerning Xbox 360?
Matsubara: Xbox 360 as a business is doing better than the old Xbox. They have a good opportunity for growth, but of course Sony is a Japanese company and Microsoft is known as a business software company, so brand image is one point. But Microsoft is doing well, especially considering how difficult it is these days. I think they have good growth potential for the future depending on the titles. We have a close relationship with Microsoft so I hope we can be a part of that.
Kikizo: Matsubara-san, thanks for your time, it was good to meet you.
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 is out for PS3 this fall. You can read what else Tecmo has coming up in this interview with three other (non Team Ninja) creators.