Koei Tecmo CEO reveals their strategy with Nioh and more.
Koei Tecmo may be best known for the Dynasty Warriors franchise and similar hack and slash Musou titles, but it also owns studios like Team Ninja, which develops the Ninja Gaiden and Dead Or Alive franchises. However, the publisher has recently delved more into original IPs, and 2017’s Nioh (also developed by Team Ninja) was their breakout title.
Fast-forward three years later, and they’ve released a brilliant prequel follow-up in the form of Nioh 2 (check out our full review here), which is quite possibly the most polished Soulsborne-like game yet.
Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz, Koei Tecmo CEO Hisashi Koinuma revealed that the company has always wanted to make more original IPs, but that it’s been difficult to balance that with working with other studios on collaborated games.
“We do have an ideal, which is that the company should release one major game each year based on our own IP — that’s the ideal, but the reality doesn’t always match.
We’re fortunate to be able to work with other companies in the way we do and sometimes it’s necessary to prioritise those projects.”
In the past decade, many major Japanese publishers have opted to expand overseas with western divisions, including the likes of Capcom, Sega, and more. However, compared to them, Koei Tecmo is a publisher working with fewer resources on a smaller scale. How did they manage to compete and survive to this day?
The answer: By doubling down on its identity as a Japanese company, as well as steeping its games in the region’s history and unique cultural aesthetics.
“The thing is that ten to 15 years ago we were a very small firm.
The idea of becoming a major company in the west is a huge aspiration — it didn’t seem like we could compete with the other companies doing that.
Rather than joining some kind of impossible contest, we felt like we had something special of our own in terms of Japanese culture, Asian culture.
If we could be a company developing games which reflected that special characteristic, using that to create our own path rather than impossibly following down the same path as other companies,
that would be a way to progress — and it would make our players happy too.
I guess you could say that with this approach we wouldn’t ‘win’, but we also wouldn’t ‘lose’ — we could become a place where we brought together people with the same background and the same cultural ideas.
And rather than trying to compete with everyone else going in the same direction, we could develop into a company where Japan’s special characteristics emerge from our creativity.
We felt that we could make a strength of our games being made in Japan.”
Thanks to the rising interest of Japanese games across the world (even in the US and China), Koei Tecmo has been doing pretty well for themselves, 2017’s Nioh has sold a whopping three million copies to date (as of February 2020), which is an incredible feat for the first instalment of a previously-unknown original IP.
Koei Tecmo’s next goal is to create a self-owned IP game that reaches five million in sales. It’s unclear at this point if Nioh or its prequel follow-up Nioh 2 will ultimately be able to do that, but if the publisher continues making great games like those, the target could potentially be achieved sooner rather than later.