"The base where we can spread the new game we have dreamed of to the world is Ouka Studio."
The passion and confidence that came from these words kept me excited throughout the interview.
"NetEase Games" is a new global game development studio called "Japan and China are one team" established by a major global listed company headquartered in China, and now it has studios in both Guangzhou, China and Shibuya, Tokyo.
This time, I was able to interview three people, Mr. Akatsuka, the promoter, and Mr. Ozawa and Mr. Kubota, the core leaders of both the Guangzhou and Shibuya bases.
NetEase Games is the online games division of NetEase, Inc. (NASDAQ: NTES/HKEX: 9999). It develops and operates popular smartphones and PC games in overseas markets, including mainland China and Japan. As one of the world's largest publishers of high-quality online gaming content, NetEase Games is helping studios around the world grow, while increasing their name recognition and presence in the process. To improve its development capabilities and world-class research capabilities, the company has partnered with world-renowned game makers such as Blizzard Entertainment and Mojan AB (subsidiary of Microsoft) to operate popular global online games.
The company currently operates more than 100 online games and has created a number of top hits on store rankings worldwide. In particular, 'wilderness behavior' ranked in the top 3 for the 2nd year in a row according to Sensor Tower's ranking of overseas revenue of game distributors in China in 2019, and has been downloaded by more than 300 million users worldwide so far, with more than 35 million downloads in Japan. Now, three years after its release, it's still popular.
"I wanted to create a place where we can create from scratch what we want to create with people who share our aspirations across borders."
Mr. Akatsuka, the founder of Ouka Studio, told me so. Akatsuka has worked at BANDAI NAMCO Studios for more than 20 years, and has worked from a game designer to the head of development headquarters. He has also created various titles utilizing IPs originated in Japan. Since August 2019, he has participated in the NetEase Game, and is currently living in Guangzhou as a representative of the Ouka studio, and is working on the organization and planning of the local and Japanese areas.
In Guangzhou and Shenzhen, where NetEase Games are located, it is natural for tech companies to lead the business by innovating with young people at a younger age.
NetEase Games is also one of the most highly developed game companies in China.
There is something that a global company, which has a culture of young people creating new things from scratch and a culture of respecting creators, can do. And there is a world view that can be drawn only by Japanese creators whose DNA has led the history of the game industry.
That is why the Ouka studio is developing a next-generation console game. This is NetEase Games' first foray into console game development on its own. The high quality and dynamic fun of the console can be expressed.
Guangzhou and Tokyo have formed a development team to bring new excitement to users around the world with a diverse team that makes the most of the strengths of both sides.
"This multinational and speedy environment enables us to realize the evolution of our products day by day."
Mr. Ozawa, the founding member of the Ouka Studio, spoke so vividly.
Mr. Ozawa joined BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment as a producer in 2015, and moved to BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Shanghai in 2018, where he has experience working in cooperation with local developers in China. He joined NetEase Game in January 2020, and is currently based in Guangzhou, where he shares Japanese manufacturing skills with local creators and takes on the challenge of creating new products.
Why did Mr. Ozawa, who has been based in China for more than two years, jump into this new environment again?
“I came here because I wanted to know about the rapidly growing Chinese game market, as more and more worldwide business becomes a matter of course. I am really glad that I jumped into China first.
In the past, when I was working, I honestly had an experience of being unable to participate deeply in game making. When I heard that China and Japan can develop games as one team, I knew that was exactly what I was looking for. "
He went on to say that his intuition was correct.
"The game market in China is still in its infancy, and we can experience realistically the peak of new channel creation and market expansion. We also know the history and cultural background of game development taught by our Japanese seniors. The best part of this Ouka studio is that it's fun to combine both, one of the largest markets in the world, and one that allows us to spread our games around the world."
"At the turning point of 30 years old, I was able to find a new world where I could not stop being excited."
It was Kubota from Shibuya who really enjoyed talking to us.
Kubota joined Square Enix in 2015 and is in charge of the international expansion and multi-platform transplantation of his masterpiece. He joined NetEase Game in 2020, and as a core producer on the Tokyo side, he has daily communicated with the Guangzhou side and has been challenging to produce works that are appreciated worldwide.
By the way, Kubota is multilingual, having been brought up in Hong Kong until the age of 18, and fluent in four languages. It was a very simple reason why he chose Ouka studio, even though he could have chosen a career path to a Western company.
"The most important thing for me is to create a purely good game. We have continued to seek ways to create works that are recognized and appreciated worldwide. When I started looking for a new place for that, I had a relationship with Ouka studio. I couldn't stop being excited because I was able to agree with what they said. We decided at once that this was the only place where we could develop console games and have the capital to expand globally in our new studio."
How does Kubota, who just joined the company in October, work?
"Now I am able to work remotely with a good balance, mainly when I go to the Shibuya studio as needed. You are getting used to dealing with Guangzhou. The time difference is only one hour, so I don't feel the distance, and if the travel resumes as usual, I will be able to visit the Guangzhou office, so I am still excited."
"You can work with local members in Japanese even if you are in China."
Currently, there are only two Japanese based in Guangzhou, Akatsuka and Ozawa, but they are actually able to work with local members in Japanese. Many members of NetEase Games are fluent in Japanese and familiar with Japanese culture, so communication is smooth. Being able to work in a multicultural, multinational company that transcends language barriers, such an environment that is tolerant of Japanese people is very precious and appreciated.
"Aiming to develop a media mix of in-house content from consoles to card games"
Finally, why do they dare to challenge the development of console games, which require massive investment in all aspects of the funding technology? Akatsuka, the head of the studio, said:.
"We are aiming for future development. Since console games have high entry barriers, only a limited number of companies can develop them, and by establishing a presence at the high end, synergy with other channel products can be surely enhanced. Also, the console can impress original characters more strongly, so we would like to create our own popular IP and develop the media mix beyond games. We want to lead the evolution of entertainment originating in Asia."
I'm looking forward to it. It will be a gathering of like-minded comrades in Ouka Studio.
I felt that the success of the Ouka Studio was also the realization of my dream of crossing borders and challenging the world.