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Konami Digital Entertainment recently showcased its slate of 2009 games, included a controversial one based on Fallujah, a battle site in the Iraq war.
Anthony Crouts, vice president of marketing at Konami Digital Entertainment, talks about this and the company’s other new titles.
VB: Can you talk about Six Days in Fallujah and how that came about?
AC: When a handful of Marines from the 3-1 battalion came back from Fallujah, they approached Atomic Games to create a game based upon their stories. By partnering with over three dozen US Marines to help develop the game, we gained unprecedented access to battle plans, after-action reports, photos, videos and satellite maps. Six Days in Fallujah will combine the action of a military shooter while incorporating documentary style elements to create a new kind of experience that is both historical and engaging. We do want to be clear that Six Days in Fallujah is not a social commentary on the war. The goal is to give players insight to what it was like during such an important part of history. Using missions, objectives and scenarios grounded in factual events, Six Days in Fallujah will create a compelling interactive experience unlike any other developed.
VB: Why do you think Hollywood films based on the Iraq War have bombed but video games about the war have thrived?
AC: Video games are the most powerful entertainment medium we have. There are millions of consoles in people’s homes, so the accessibility is incredible. Video games give you the ability to be someone else and actually make decisions in real time. Wars have always been reflected on through film, radio and TV. Now, it’s time to take it to the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows PC.
VB: What’s the focus for Konami in 2009?
AC: We are focusing on enhancing our core franchises as well as bringing some new properties into the marketplace. Highlights include reinventing our classic franchise Silent Hill: Shattered Memories coming to the Wii and introducing new properties like SAW or Six Days in Fallujah.
VB: What impact do you believe the current global economic recession will have on video game sales this year and beyond?
AC: As a developer and publisher, we have been fortunate in our profitability while expanding our studios. We cannot deny, however, the impact the global economic downturn has had on all industries, video games included. I think people are still spending; however they are driven by value. At Konami, we are constantly looking for ways to deliver a quality gaming experience at a value-conscious price. For instance, we just released DanceDanceRevolution Disney Grooves. It was bundled with two mats for the MSRP $69.99. With two mats in the box, parents don’t have to buy any additional peripherals and in turn can play with their children. With our collaboration with Disney on the game, it was important for us to provide an added value to a very robust game at a competitive price.
VB: What are your thoughts on the trend we’ve seen the past few years of big game launches in Q1 and Q2 versus the crowded holiday timeframe?
AC: I think there are always chances to engage people throughout the year. For a while, the thought was to push releases out through the holidays to maximize the foot traffic in retail spaces. We have seen more recently there are opportunities for success in Q1, Q2 and Q3. We had such success with our release Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in June of 2008. We garnered strong sales out of the gate, but with such a great product, we had substantial upticks throughout the holiday season. I do believe a great product will sell in any part of the year.
VB: At GDC last month, there was a lot of focus on digital distribution via OnLive and Gaikai. What role do you see retail playing in the video game business for the next 10 years?
AC: I think retail will always be an important fixture for gaming. People will always want to pick up the box and buy it from a retail location. Retail stores serves as evangelists of products, taste-makers and influencers of the industry. They have a pulse to the people that digital distribution does not have.
VB: How does Konami support digital distribution?
AC: Konami supports digital content as well and we are embracing it as an important part of our business. We have a robust offering of downloadable content. From Zombie Apocalypse to Puzzle Chronicles, we are committed to bringing downloadable content to players. Downloadable content provides us an opportunity to publish games developed on smaller budgets/teams and still have the visibility of a Triple-A title through the consoles.
VB: How do you see game distribution evolving over the next 20 years?
AC: Over the course of the next 20 years retailers and digital distribution will continue to thrive with each other. I do not think they are mutually exclusive. Look at something like Metal Gear Online. You must have the disc-based product to play online. Both experiences are completely different games, but both add value to the game. With downloadable content being such a great way to enhance a game’s lifecycle, Konami will continue to look for ways to keep players tethered to their favorite franchises in both the retail space and online.
VB: Capcom has been very active in the video-game-to-film department. Konami has licensed out Castlevania and Silent Hill. What role do you see Hollywood playing with your franchises today?
AC: I feel it’s a natural progression for video games to move over into the motion picture space. Movies have always adopted from the relevant media of our times. From books to radio to urban legends, movies have always leaned on other media for concepts. Since video games are such a powerful medium to communicate, and games already have a natural story arc built in, a trend of developing video games into film makes complete sense.
VB: Any update on the Silent Hill movie sequel?
AC: As for a sequel … stay tuned! You never know!
VB: How important is it, in the wake of Capcom’s second Street Fighter movie debacle, to keep some type of control over what type of movies are being made with your brands?
AC: Konami does not want to weigh in on this question.