Hiroshi Matsuyama, the CEO of CyberConnect2, the company responsible for the .hack and Narutimate Hero series of games, has confessed that he is a Naruto fan of legendary proportions, buying 15 copies of every volume and owning every issue of Shonen Jump published for the past 5 years.
However, unlike the unproductive obsessions of so many otaku, his has given rise to a successful company and a superb series of games, which he says is all down to his consuming love for the story: “The trick to producing an anime game is love for the original work!”
He explains that his success in publishing Naruto games stems from his obsession with the series:
He buys 15 copies of each volume.
He buys every single DVD.
He buys 2 of each issue of Shonen Jump, and keeps every issue published in the past 5 years.
He has the company buy film tickets and distributes them to staff.
He attends every single domestic event he can get to.
Naruto is a constant in every display set up by the company.
He makes sure to share every kind of Naruto good with company staff.
All are purchased with either his or company funds; he explains that publishers never supply such materials.
These are just his personal activities; for the company as a whole he ensures further measures are taken:
The company has a 1,500 volume manga library.
It has a 2,700 volume anime/film DVD library.
All kinds of magazines are provided.
Though some doubts are raised as to whether all of these are strictly for company use, and not in fact an extension of his collection, he insists cultivating love for Naruto and other titles amongst his staff is tied directly to the quality of the end product, and with such high quality games few could deny this.
He illustrates his ecstacy at reading the high praise heaped upon him by Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto, who describes Narutimate Hero as “an absolutely miraculous”:
He went into great detail at a recent event about the challenges of creating games based on existing non-game franchises (as any gamer will be aware, frequently a painful issue which has more to do with merchandising than it does producing a quality title).
It is, he says, “even harder than producing an original game,” conceding that although promotion may be easy and a clear target market exists, dealing with the many issues posed by publishers and creators presents many challenges.
He hints in less than uncertain terms about the problems publishers can pose: “There was a huge fight over the first Narutimate Hero game. They were dead set on things. It was extremely difficult to persuade them of the fact that games are a distinct form of expression.”
A string of successes has engendered a more trusting relationship, reducing difficulties, he says, but challenges in dealing with the schedule of airing anime, and with the problems caused by “current events,” perhaps a veiled allusion to the sort of delays and cancellations which can be forced by the latest media hysteria.
He is none too convinced about how the rest of the industry knocks out its games: “A lot of times other game companies would tell us how they thought it should be done, it really sapped our motivation.” He cites a versatile development system and flexible scheduling as being key to CyberConnect2’s success.