■ A fresh start and a bright future for Platinum Games.
In April 2020, Platinum Games will open our first true development hub outside of our main office: Platinum Games Tokyo. President and CEO Kenichi Sato explains our new mission.
Spreading Smiles and Surprises All Over the World
There’s very little that’s more rewarding than making someone smile. We believe that games are a great way to do that—to share an experience with someone and leave them feeling a bit happier.
Platinum Games was founded in 2006 with the goal of spreading smiles and surprises all over the world. Since then, we’ve done our best to create home console games overflowing with originality, with player satisfaction as our top priority. Fourteen years of hard worl later, we’re proud to be regarded the world over as one of the foremost Japanese game developers, by gamers and fellow creators alike. I’m always humbled when I visit game studios abroad and our peers there tell me they’re fans of Platinum Games.
Making a Platinum Games IP a Reality
The games industry has changed a lot in the forty or so years since home consoles first arrived in Japan. New advances in technology and networking capabilities have destroyed previous hardware limitations, and now we take for granted that you can play fun, engaging games on almost any device you have.
However, no matter how much technology evolves, there’s one thing that never changes: Games culture is about entertainment. And as technology grows stronger and stronger all around us, we’ll keep pushing ourselves to make the most entertaining games possible. Part of that challenge has always been establishing a Platinum Games intellectual property that’s entirely ours, and we’ve finally started taking that step.
Building Development Power through our Capital Alliance
In December 2019, Platinum Games entered into a capital alliance with Tencent Holdings. This allowed us to start work on Project G.G., our first entirely original IP, in earnest. It also contributed to our decision to establish Platinum Games Tokyo—a pillar of our new commitment to building our power as a developer. Between our Osaka office and Platinum Games Tokyo, we’re poised to make use of the sharpest creative minds in games in both west and east Japan, and expand to even greater possibilities.
Everyone is a Creator
Between our capital alliance with Tencent, the new Platinum Games Tokyo, and more changes to come, 2020 is shaping up to be a very big year for us. That’s why we consider it something of a “re-establishment” year. Our driving philosophy going into this second phase is that at Platinum Games, everyone’s a creator.
That goes without saying for our development staff. But it also applies to the “corporate creators” behind the scenes, who support them and make vital contributions to how our company operates. Every employee at Platinum Games has a stake in creating high-quality games in a comfortable, efficient environment. This common purpose unifies us as we move up to the next stage.
The Platinum 8
We’ve also adopted a new credo that we call “The Platinum 8.” This is a series of eight principles that we all share as creators. The Platinum 8 guides our entire staff as we face the challenges of our daily work. By working together under these principles, I think we can overcome any obstacle and truly become the world’s number one studio for player satisfaction.
Building a New Platinum Games—With You
Of course, technical know-how and skill are important in game development, but the most important part of making great games is passion. A desire to make something fun is absolutely essential. Teamwork is also vital, whether it’s creating a shared pool of knowledge out of everyone’s experiences, or banding together to face new challenges and explore new possibilities. Platinum Games aims to create an environment where anyone, regardless of seniority, can stand proud as a creator and make a contribution. If you’re driven to create and ready to put it all on the line to make players smile, I think you’ll feel right at home.
We’re always looking for passionate people to help build our games and our company. I hope you’ll consider joining us, and making big changes to the games industry together.
President and CEO
■ Platinum Games is forging an exciting new path.
Studio head and board member Atsushi Inaba explains how our games will evolve as we establish a new development hub in Tokyo.
Creating Original Games
Since the very beginning, we at Platinum Games have dedicated ourselves to creating original titles. We strive to deliver fresh ideas, realized as games that will surprise and delight our fans. This passion is at the heart of Platinum Games, and always will be. That might be a rare thing in the modern games industry. If you’re a creator looking for somewhere where you can take part in making something new, something you can boast about for the rest of your life, I think Platinum Games can be that place.
We promise to take on new challenges without fear—now, and always.
In-House Engine Development
One major requirement when building ideas into complete games is an engine. In our early days, we found ourselves frustrated with limitations that existing engines placed on our workflow. We inevitably hand to make extensive customizations and adjustments to the action game interfaces if we wanted the performance we were after.
So we built our own engine instead—and we’ve been improving it ever since. In its current version, our engine supports various platforms and allows us to efficiently develop games in a way that suits our environment.
Making games is fun, of course, but doing it well takes a lot of hard work. Our game developers need an engine that will allow them to create high-quality gameplay, and thus our engine development branch plays an extremely important role in the company. They keep their fingers on the pulse of technology to constantly improve our in-house engine. We quite literally couldn’t do it without them.
Working with Partners
In addition to our original titles, we’ve also had opportunities to work with other corporations to make games for several different beloved IPs. This is one perk of being an independent developer!
We’ve worked with several different publishers, and strive to do justice to every existing property that we handle. Recently, NieR: Automata—published by Square Enix—surpassed four million physical and digital sales worldwide. Going forward, we will continue to take hold of chances like this to surprise and delight gamers all over the world, whether they’re Platinum Games fans, or fans of an IP we’re working with.
Platinum Games Tokyo
In all the endeavors I’ve described so far—creating original titles, developing a robust in-house engine, and working with partners—the key element is, of course, our development staff. We’re always actively expanding our Osaka office, but by branching out and establishing a new development hub in Tokyo, we’ll expand our staff and our skills even further. I want us to be able to realize as many of our creative goals as possible, and to do that, I think we need to advance our development both in Osaka and Tokyo.
This isn’t a simple physical expansion. It represents a step towards a new challenge for us: Console live ops game development.
Console Live Ops Development
So far, the name Platinum Games has been nearly synonymous with single-player action games. But going forward, we’re looking to expand into new genres and styles of play. One of these new challenges for us is console live ops game development. These aren’t games we’d work on until they were done, and that’s all—rather, we’d continue working on them to provide new content long after release. We want to explore this ongoing development pattern in the home console space.
Our new Tokyo office will play a major role as we expand into live ops game development. The starting core members of our future live ops team who’ll be working there are already a part of Platinum Games.
Platinum Games Tokyo is home to both developers interested in refining Platinum Games-style gameplay and developers who are interested in exploring live ops support. They’ll be hard at work on electrifying content for you soon.
Join the Fight
Whether in Osaka or in Tokyo, all of us fight under the Platinum Games banner to deliver fresh, thrilling games from Japan to the world. We have a common spirit and a shared love for a challenge. If you think you do too, I’d love for you to join us.
Board Member and Studio Head
■ Creating a New Style of Games in Tokyo
Project Management in the Mobile Realm
Up until now, I’ve had a handful of expereinces with console games, in Japan and abroad. I’ve worked at large publishers and start-up studios, each with their own different history. I started working on adventure games for the Sega Saturn over 20 years ago, then worked on console games from PS2 to PS4, and some mobile games as well. I’ve worked on all types of genres, from simulation to fighting, action, RPGs, FPS, sports, and more. They all required different types of project management, and they all have provided extremely valuable experiences to me.
I’ve worked on around 8 different sports games for mobile platforms that were LiveOps. I’ve always found LiveOps to be stimulating because of the turnaround that’s possible for seeing users react to your product. Then you get to analyze those reactions and reflect them back into the product to improve your user experience, which is an opportunity I had never had in game development before then.
I’ve worked as an art director overseeing quality and costs, as well as managing the other members of the art team and expanding said team in the studio. Team management has always been rewarding for me. Leading a team comprised of different artists from different backgrounds and aligning them to a mutual goal, achieving results only possible from their unique skillset, is an experience I’ve found to be like none other. This is also what has led me to a career more focused on project management.
For the Current and Future Fans of Platinum Games
From here on, Platinum Games will be facing the challenge of developing LiveOps titles for consoles. Platinum has already achieved a supportive fan base making packaged console games. On LiveOps titles, finding a following for the title is an important step, so Platinum definitely has an advantage here. And I believe this can also be a change to introduce a new wave of fans to Platinum Games’ titles. It’s exciting to think how we might be able to expand the playing field here.
Having worked on both console and mobile, package and LiveOps has opened me up to understanding both sides of development. I hope to be able to blend these two mindsets together to create some truly amazing games. Since I have spent nearly half my career in project management, its my hope to be able to provide an environment where the development team feel free to follow their creativity.
Tying Things Together
The Tokyo Studio is an opportunity for Platinum Games to develop games they previously did not have the chance to. To take on these LiveOps titles, we will require a more diverse team than before. I believe that Tokyo will be the right place to find such a group. There are plenty of IT companies and mobile developers, and talent moves around quickly. I’m hoping to find the right team to fortify our studio and start realizing this new potential. Our initial plan is to create a core Tokyo team from mid-hires, with some cooperation from the Osaka Studio where necessary. Deciding these core staff will be vital to determining how the studio will be able to handle teamwork. I’m hoping to create a team of varying backgrounds and experience who can come together to create something one of a kind. I believe this should help us see the quickest results on this new challenge we’re taking.
Development Division / Divisonal Vice President / Tokyo Studio / Director
Previous employers include Sega, SCE, Disney Interactive in Vancouver, and EA. After working as a 3D environment artist on projects such as Def Jam Fight for NY and Turok, he moved to mobile development as a concept artist on FIFA Street. Afterwards, he worked as an art director on such projects as FIFA World Class Soccer and FIFA Mobile.
■ For Live Ops Development, Release Day is Only the Beginning
From Minnesota to Tokyo
I’ve loved video games since I was a kid, but back when I was working in a small town in Minnesota, USA, making them seemed like the stuff of dreams. When I moved to Japan in 2008, little did I know that, someday, those dreams would come true. Luckily for me, I arrived in Japan at around the same time as the iPhone; there was no shortage of companies in Tokyo, looking for help creating new mobile apps. The more I worked in the Tokyo tech scene, the more game creators I met. One day, I realize I now had the chance to turn my dream of making games into a reality. With a lot of hard work and a little luck, I was ready to jump to the games industry.
I joined a major games publisher as a software engineer, where I had the opportunity to work on several different games, including some well-known mobile sports titles. Throughout my time there, I got involved in several different aspects of game development, from design to post-release live operations. Needless to say, there was a whole lot to learn!
In the meantime, I made yet another important connection when I picked up Bayonetta for my Wii U. That was my first encounter with Platinum Games, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Today, working here at Platinum, creating console games—that kid in Minnesota could hardly ask for anything more.
Learning from Players
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time working on mobile titles, it’s that live ops game development is a bit like tuning up your car. While driving it. At top speed, down the freeway.
It’s fast-paced, exciting work, but at the same time, it demands a lot of analysis and introspection. Once a live ops game is officially released, that’s where the real work starts. Providing new in-game events and features, while watching how players react to the game in real-time and reacting back, is extremely demanding, but it’s also a lot of fun.
One thing I love about live ops titles is how developers and players essentially work on the game together. Once a live ops game is out in the wild, it’s only a matter of time before players find new ways to play and create unique experiences that the developers themselves never imagined. Our job as live ops developers is to learn from our players and incorporate those ideas for the good of the game.
Games themselves are relatively new to the entertainment scene, and live ops games are the newest of the new. As a creator, the potential for evolution that live ops games bring to the medium is exhilarating.
Ever-Evolving Game Development
Nobody in the games industry has stumbled on the one “correct” way to succeed with a console-based live ops title. There are several examples of successful live titles in the console space now, but who’s to say what the field might look like just five years down the line? It’s anybody’s game.
Any approach has potential for success, and Platinum Games brings our own unique strengths into the fray. As a member of the live ops team here, it’s thrilling to think about ways to take advantage of Platinum’s strengths and perspectives in this exciting new world.
Development schedules for typical console games are typically loaded with things the team must accomplish, from day one, all the way up to release day. Dev teams have a lot of ideas to consider, test, tweak and toss out if they aren’t working. Meanwhile, time marches on towards that final deadline, and finally, release. Live ops titles are different. For these titles, release day isn’t the ending—it’s the beginning to an even longer battle.
Stability, deliberation, solid design—all of these things are important. But after years working in live ops, I’ve come to learn a crucial truth: Nothing is certain.
You can release a live ops game feeling 100% confident that the design can stand as it is forever, only for your players to immediately show you places where it needs to evolve. That’s not a rare occurrence by any means. If you aren’t flexible enough and ready to make changes quickly and gracefully, then come release day the consequences can be immense. I want to take the creative skill that makes Platinum Games who we are, and help move it forward as we adjust and update and tweak our way to the next evolutionary step in game creation.
Software Engineer, Platinum Games Tokyo, Game Creative Division
Before moving to Japan, Scripps worked in the IT department for the Target corporation, where he oversaw human resources systems and others. He moved to Japan in 2008, where he began working on iPhone application development as an engineer. In 2013 he joined EA Japan, where he worked on titles including NBA Live, FIFA Mobile, and FIFA World Class Soccer. He joined Platinum Games in 2019.
■ Console Quality and Volume in Live Ops Titles
Putting Experience to Use
Before joining to games industry, my career as a graphic designer led me to advertising agencies and a company that took school portraits in America. Graphic design demands an openness and understanding about clients’ different cultures and ways of thinking. Being from Japan, there was a lot about America that I didn’t understand. But after living there for a few years, I got a grasp of the local culture and the ways that people around me thought about things. This helped me create designs that seem fresh and interesting to someone who’d grown up in America, even though I hadn’t.
After I returned to Japan, I had the chance to work as an artist on mobile, live operations games. In the world of live ops, you have to take a hardline approach to time. You must create new content—and enough of it to satisfy your players—in a very short time frame, and then do it all over again for the next release, and then the one after that… Seasonal content based on yearly events is particularly challenging—there’s no way those deadlines are budging. You might find yourself looking at your work and thinking, “If I just had two more hours, I could make it even better!” but no, it’s already time to finish it, release it and move on to the next task.
In such a strict environment, it’s important to manage your own personal resources. It’s not enough to think about the short term right in front of you; you’ve got to regulate yourself to put out the most power you can with consistency over the long haul. But you learn as you work, and those lessons can be put to good use in the next release, right around the corner. I think that’s part of the appeal of working in live ops titles.
Making the Most of Limited Time
Let me look back at my old job at the school portrait company again. We would hold promotional photography sessions at kindergartens and preschools, where our models were regular kids, around two or three years old. At that age, there’s hardly any point in asking them to stand still in one place for very long—let alone to strike a particular pose! We typically had about fifteen minutes of shooting time before the kids would get bored and start tearing apart the sets we’d put so much time and effort into building. It was our job to coax natural smiles out of the kids and catch them in photo-worthy poses before those fifteen minutes were up. Do you see where I’m going with this? Just like live ops game development, it’s about getting the best results possible in a limited amount of time.
I’m still relatively new at game development, but I’m very happy to be working on live ops titles at Platinum Games. Delivering console-worthy quality and volume on a live ops timeframe is a tall order, but the challenge makes it all the more rewarding.
A Bridge Across Cultures and Companies
As an assistant project manager and outsourcing manager at Platinum Games, I try to create a smooth, stress-free environment so all of our artists, engineers and partners can focus on their work. Sometimes that means providing more detail-oriented support that isn’t directly related to development, like making sure meetings are scheduled and set up properly.
I’m well aware of the challenges people face when working in a different culture—I learned all about that during my years in America. And as a graphic designer, figuring out the best way to get a company’s message across to the customer was my primary task. I want to put that valuable experience to work building bridges between Platinum Games and the world.
Project Manager, Platinum Games Tokyo, Game Creative Division
After graduating from university in the United States, Sato stayed in the USA and worked at a graphic designer in both print and web media, for advertising firms and photography agencies. She lived in the southern United States for sixteen years before returning to her home country of Japan and starting her career in the games industry at EA Japan. As an artist, she has worked on titles including FIFA Mobile and FIFA Mobile China. Hooked on game development, she’s brought her experience and desire to Platinum Games.
■ Data Can’t Talk, But it Can Teach Us
Looking at Tutorial Completion Rates
I’ve worked on an assortment of mobile titles, ranging from action RPGs to sports games, as a game designer/director for the past four years. I have around ten years experience developing on consoles as well, but I think the best part about working on LiveOps titles is the conversation you get to have with the player, being able to see the ups and downs in real time, and reworking that back into the product.
For example: right after you release a content update, you can immediately jump over to social media and start reviewing user reactions. When the reactions are negative, that’s obviously not so much fun, but when they’re positive, it can really motivate your work. It’s helpful to be able to visualize user trends as data, too. On a previous project I worked on, we were able to compile tutorial completion rate data that would tell us the exact moment where users stopped “getting it.”
When players were matched in competitive modes, we could also look at the level difference between both users, and pinpoint reasons for why the weaker player was at the lower level. This, in turn, allowed us to add precision to our balancing for more enjoyable competitive play.
Data can’t speak up about some issue. But it can tell you a lot about user satisfaction with your product, so it’s important to keep it in check.
That said, obviously it’s not realistic to try and fix every problem that data reveals. Understanding your project’s structure and design concept, and finding a development plan that works with your schedule is a key component to being a LiveOps game designer.
The Difference Between a 100-meter Dash and a Marathon
When you work on a console title, you try to over-deliver on quality in every way. When you’re working on a LiveOps game, you take that quality and keep it consistent along a 5-10 year roadmap. You’ll be tested on your determination, your spending, and your creativity. Platinum Games, however, has a strong foundation that continually produces tools that give you the advantage on such titles. Also, being an industry that not many have still dared to step into, there is a lot of unknown territory to discover. Currently, I believe we’re starting to see a bit of an overdone trend in what is expected from LiveOps titles, but I think that gives us the opportunity to try and develop something new and exciting.
To me, regular console titles and LiveOps titles are about as different as the 100-meter dash and a full marathon. They both might be categorized as “game development” but the mentality and techinology required for each are completely different. For a LiveOps title, if you use up all of your best content right at release, you’ll soon run out of steam and lose the trust of your userbase. But if you horde too much good content, you’ll lose users to other games and might never get an opportunity to win them back. You need to think very carefully of when to release what. Having seen both sides of development, I try to communicate to my team what the right vision should be for each project.
“Fun” is a Universal Concept
I previously worked at the Japanese branch of a major publisher, where I had the chance to work with several different studios abroad, and experience what game development looked like in different countries. Take even the home screen of a mobile title: in China, it’s typical to store a ton of information on these screens, whereas in Europe they try to keep things to the minimum. Putting aside which might be more effective, you can tell that they are both the products of each region’s gaming culture. Working as a creator, you quickly learn how important it is to not try and compromise these traditions. And still, I also felt there were things I was able to uniquely bring to the table from my Japanese background.
This still doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to only follow the trends of your target market. Platinum Games has several titles that were successful abroad, but not because they tried to emulate any trend at the time. “Fun” is, I think, a universal concept that will always reach the user. And I know that Platinum Games has achieved this, having played their titles and become a fan of their games.
I think that, with the opening of the Tokyo Studio, it’ll be important for everyone on the staff to find their own interpretation of that essence, and work with the Osaka studio to try and preserve it.
We’re already starting to see LiveOps take off for consoles in the west, and I think that Platinum Games’ devotion to its brand and uncompromising style could provide a formula for similar success.
Game Development Division / Tokyo Studio / Game Designer
Previous employers include Bandai Namco, GREE, and EA. Building up experience as a game designer on action RPG titles at Bandai Namco, he then moved on to mobile development at GREE, where he was able to utilize past experience on action RPGs there as well. In EA, he worked on FIFA Mobile as a creative lead coordinating with studios in Japan, Vancouver and China. Now he is back on console titles, trying to find new ways to create stimulating LiveOps content.