Getting back on track.
#66: “What Creators Think About”
Published in 2016/09/01 issue
If I recall correctly, the word “collaboration” became commonly used (in Japan) around the year 2000. Now, this is just based on my own memory and perception, so don’t quote me on that. When I think about “collaboration” as a term, I realize that it’s difficult to define. We have “cross-business collaborations” and “cross-industry collaborations”, but what do you call it if it’s both cross-business and cross-industry?
Collaborations were popularized through the music industry, when major artists would play or sing the same songs. The stock phrases back then were things like “An unexpected collaboration between the biggest stars!” or “An unprecedented clash of genres!” to build hype.
Lately, even the game industry has been doing a lot of collaborations, but I think that their popularity only began several years ago. Games that became hits—primarily in the mobile/social game sphere—would do collaborations on several fronts. So, why did it take longer for collaborations to catch on in the game industry?
I think the reasons are business model changes and generational change in the industry. Up until the PlayStation 3’s prime, console games were the star of Japan’s game industry, and all of the game companies were pushing to create their own original works. So, PR efforts were focused on making your company’s game look more fun than the other companies’ games. Additionally, “selling out” was a common part of the business model. In the Japanese market, there isn’t any risk of returns as long as the primary vendors will buy your games, so the main intent was to sell out of stock before the price fell. This meant that there was no benefit whatsoever in collaborating with other companies’ games or characters.
The rise of social games and apps turned everything on its head with the introduction of two new concepts: the F2P business model and “games as a service”—a model completely opposite to the idea of a game ending when development is completed and all copies are sold. An app being downloaded does nothing for sales and doesn’t recoup development costs, so developers need to sell items, stamina restores, or virtual currency in the form of microtransactions. This also necessitates “managing” the game as a service in order to keep revenue coming in for a long time (besides, no one would pay for data in a game that’s immediately ending service). Their sustainability depends on being able to pull in new customers that are willing to pay at all, even small sums.
As you can surmise by now, the major motive behind these collaborations is to get new customers by pulling other communities into yours. Collaborating with famous anime and manga characters brings their fans to your game. Anime and manga consumers are compatible with video games, and there’s a good chance they’ll pay to get equipment or cards based on their favourite characters. Nowadays, even collaborations between games have gained popularity. The idea is to share their communities with each other.
Inter-game collaborations are rare in the console game market. There’s often no monetary incentive to do them. However, I think that the success of mobile games and the generational change in the industry is affecting this in a big way. A lot of staff in the app industry have come from all sorts of types of businesses, bringing different perspectives with them. It’s probably a stretch to say they lose the fight to win the war, but I’m sure that they’re probably thinking things like, “This isn’t an age where we can fight with our own brand alone” or “There’s no downside to having more people play our game.” Just to be clear, I’m not criticizing them—it’s more like the industry has finally taken a step forward.
Amidst all that, FFXIV has been part of two major collaborations. The first one is with fellow online game Phantasy Star Online 2 (PSO2) and the second is with Yo-kai Watch. The PSO2 one wasn’t reciprocal; it consisted of the FFXIV Miqo’te race’s outfit and job armour making a guest appearance in the PSO2 world along with the Odin primal. For the Yo-kai Watch collaboration, 13 popular yo-kai have appeared in FFXIV’s world of Eorzea. We also have weapons for each job themed after the yo-kai, and Level-5’s Yo-kai Watch art team assisted with the designs. On their side, FFXIV’s moogles and chocobos are included in Yo-kai Watch 3.
Both collaborations are with fellow console games, and PSO2 is the same genre as us, so it’s quite possible that we’ll be taking customers from each other. What these collaborations have in common is that the creators decided to do them (although Level-5’s Akihiro Hino is also on the management side).
PSO2’s Producer Satoshi Sakai and Director Yuuya Kimura strongly believe in making Japan’s online gaming scene more exciting and increasing the playerbase of the entire genre as a whole. Revenue-wise, they believe that the money will come back over the long-term as more people get into online games.
Yo-kai Watch General Director Hino-san is a hardcore FFXIV player, so for us, it began as a conversation between fellow creators who wanted to do a collaboration without any monetary motivations. I said “Give us all of your most popular yo-kai” and he said “Level-5 will take care of all of the weapon designs.”
“I hope your next online game gets even more players!”
“It’ll be great if the elementary schoolers who grow up with Yo-kai Watch find out how great online games and HD games are via FFXIV, leading to positive effects on the console game and online game industries in the future!”
It’s true that collaborations mess with the in-game lore, but it’s our job as creators to do what normally wouldn’t be done. I’m sure that that was the original intent for collaborations in the music industry, too. Why not shake things up in the game industry too every now and then?
 In Japan, there is no return policy for video games. Meanwhile, North America and Europe do allow you to return games, with the same policy as Japan’s book returns. Wholesalers in Japan take on a high inventory risk. How long is this business model going to continue…?
 F2P (free-to-play) = games and apps that are free to download and play. Maybe I don’t need to explain this anymore.
 Microtransactions involve buying in-game items or currency in denominations of say, 100 yen. Typically accompanies F2P models. Underestimating the low prices can lead to unbelievable accumulated spending.