Location: Anime Expo 2019
Interview Date: 7/5/2019
Anime Herald: When you were working on Rage of Bahamut, were you already planning for Granblue Fantasy?
Cygames: At the point when we were doing the overseas release for Rage of Bahamut, we weren’t yet considering an overseas release of Granblue Fantasy.
Anime Herald: When Granblue Fantasy was released, it had English translations, which made it very accessible to the West. Did you have your eye on the Western market at that point?
Cygames: That was part of the plan of the English version release. It was an experiment, to see how English-speaking customers would respond to the Granblue Fantasy IP. We had a lot of feedback from that experience, which led us to release Granblue Fantasy Versus in America.
Anime Herald: You just mentioned the word “feedback.” When you release a mobile game, you get feedback every day. With a console game you have to put in significantly more work before you get any feedback.
Cygames: We’re going to get an enormous amount of feedback after the release, which will determine what we release as downloadable content.
Anime Herald: The current generation of gamers has been referred to as “The Mobile Generation.” What made you decide to release a console game?
Cygames: We had multiple motives. We were eager to see our characters in full animation in a console game with the finest graphics. Additionally, we wanted to give our mobile fans, who were not familiar with consoles, a chance to experience how fun consoles can be. We also wanted to introduce the Granblue Fantasy IP to console gamers who don’t play mobile games.
Anime Herald: When Cygames was founded, a lot of the staff had console backgrounds. Were you surprised that your first release, a mobile game, was so successful?
Cygames: We had always hoped and planned for the game to be a success, but the scale of success was kind of like a miracle. Having such a rocket start was something special, but we were confident about our products.
Anime Herald: What do you find are some of the differences between the two markets: The Japanese market and the Western market?
Cygames: Are you referring to mobile or console?
Anime Herald: Both, since you’re releasing games on both platforms.
Cygames: We need to build up our console knowledge through Versus. We have much to learn about the difference between the two markets.
For mobiles, everything is different. Taste, how to promote it, everything is so different between the two markets. For Granblue Fantasy, we didn’t make any modifications for the Western market, beyond quality localization. The art and the game system are the same. Granblue is a unique case.
Anime Herald: Let’s talk about Versus. What made you decide not to focus on combos?
Cygames: There’s two reasons for that. First thing is that we assume many Granblue Fantasy fans built up their gaming experience through the mobile format. Many of them don’t have much experience with fighting games. If we make the game too combo oriented, it will be very hard for them to catch up and fully understand the mechanics. For that reason, we wanted the fighting system to be as simple as possible for them.
The second thing is that we are planning on having Granblue Fantasy Versus be an eSport title. We want the audience to understand what is happening. If it becomes too combo-oriented, it will be hard for the audience to follow along.
Anime Herald: What do you think makes a great eSports fighting game title?
Cygames: We don’t have strict classifications for what is or isn’t a good eSports title. It can only be an eSport if it is fun to play and fun to watch. Those are the required aspects.
Anime Herald: What are you doing to make Granblue Fantasy Versus a good title to watch as an eSport?
Cygames: We have a simple super move system. There’s only one charge bar, and it can only be used for super moves. The standard way of playing would make it the finishing move, which would be an appealing way to finish a match for the viewers.
Granblue Fantasy Versus has the highest quality art and music that we could provide. Watching it as a video and hearing the music should be pleasant for the viewer.
Anime Herald: How do you go about finding the next generation of artists?
Cygames: One thing we can say, it’s not magic, but when a company is producing great stuff, people will take notice and want to learn and be trained in that environment. It’s a positive loop. We try to produce good art that will attract young talent, who will in turn produce good art and attract the following generation.
Anime Herald: Right behind you, I can see banners for One Piece, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon. Have you given any thought to Granblue Fantasy lasting twenty-five years?
Cygames: Clearly, we want this IP to last forever. When it’s run for ten years, we’ll have a fanbase that grew up with Granblue Fantasy. That’s what’s required to maintain the devotion to keep an IP going for twenty, thirty, forty years.
Granblue The Animation and Granblue Fantasy Versus are part of the plan. We’re thinking that the mobile game will easily last over ten years. We’re constantly adding new features to the mobile game continually attract new users.
Anime Herald: Cygames has sponsored teams in international sports, far outside the sphere of Japanese animation. Juventus is one example. What led to the decision to go down that route?
Cygames: Each sponsorship is different. For example, when we sponsor pro gamers, we want to enhance the culture, with gamers playing the game and being able to continue their career as pro gamers.
Juventus is a different story. We know Cygames has much to improve in acknowledgment in the overseas markets. The idea was to get a huge impact from a famed soccer team.
Anime Herald: Did you expect Shadowverse to grow as fast as it did?
Cygames: We were expecting more gradual long-term growth. The plan was to eventually have it become an eSport. It was a surprise to see the user base expand as fast as it did.
Anime Herald: I think that’s due to Twitter. Whenever Cygames releases something new it’s all over my Twitter feed, so people go check it out.
Cygames: Agreed. That’s what we’ve seen as well.
Anime Herald: Do you try to focus on specific demographics and balance within the Japanese market, or are you going for any type of growth you can get?
Cygames: We want to be as balanced as possible.
Anime Herald: Card games have historically had problems with “power creep,” where the temptation is to keep making stronger and stronger cards. Pokémon, in particular, has had this problem. Do you have a plan for preventing that in Shadowverse?
Cygames: We have multiple strategies to prevent power creep. We have a rotation system, so the modern sets don’t have to compete with the older sets.
Each set has a different concept and focus, which reduces the need to produce powerful cards to replace older ones.
Anime Herald: Finally, do you have any additional comments you would like to share with the American audience?
Cygames: We are very thrilled to bring our first international release with Granblue Fantasy Versus, as well as season two of Granblue Fantasy: The Animation. It’s an easy train to jump on, if you have any interest in Granblue Fantasy.