MonkeyPaw Games Interview: the lure of Japan, achievements and ambitions
It seems like every week MonkeyPaw Games is bringing a quirky Japanese wonder to the West. So far we have received straightforward ports of Japanese PSOne games — with language barriers and kids on magic hoovers intact — but the company stepped up a gear this week with the release of BurgerTime World Tour, a complete reinvention of the 1982 meat-themed coin-up.
PS3 Attitude has been speaking to MonkeyPaw Games president and CEO John Greiner to discuss the lure of Japan, the company’s achievements so far and where he sees the MonkeyPaw heading.
MonkeyPaw Games is keen to introduce Western players to games from the East. What is it about those games that make them exciting to you, and why should other Western players share your enthusiasm?
I’m passionate about gaming, so there is a built-in curiosity about our roots and how the past influences the present. Retro has that pull and Japan has played a strong role in creating some of our most beloved games. The Japanese cut their games from a different cloth. Their attention to detail often elevates their games to a form of art. They might eschew superior graphics and instead focus on nuance or shades of complexity. Sometimes it is an emphasis on depth of story or character. Sometimes they are just outrageously wacky. But there’s always a dedication to excellence. With most Japanese games, not only will you experience a work of eminent quality but you’ll also be confronted with poignant cultural touches that will surely strike wonder.
The games that MonkeyPaw publish are very niche and unlikely to penetrate a wider market. Is this a concern, or are you content with securing a small but hardcore market? Or maybe you do think it is possible to reach out to that market?
Our goal is to bridge the game gap between East and West. We are under no illusions. Our PSOne games are definitely niche and not very profitable. We obviously aren’t bringing these games for the money. But Japanese games need to see foreign shores or they will die on the vine and Western consumers will never know. We understand their history and we respect how the industry evolved because of these Japanese gaming achievements. So it is our duty to expose the cultural lineage and let the world know where gaming really came from. I think our fans can relate. Or maybe I’ve been in Japan too long.
I’m not sure we’re expanding the market but I do think we’re attracting our core audience. They are very vocal and loyal. So we hope we can at least win their favour and try to build on success. The target market might just be bigger than we think.
In your opinion, what is MonkeyPaw’s great achievement so far?
Our finest achievement so far would be the design and release of BurgerTime World Tour. We’ve taken a classic game and matured the concept so that today’s players can enjoy the game on today’s consoles. Retro games need to be reinvented with bold ideas if they are to remain relevant. BurgerTime World Tour is an evolution of the arcade classic enhanced with an innovative 3D rotating cylindrical environment and elevated retro gameplay.
We’re also proud of our fan’s response to our efforts. We’ve been well-rewarded by their support. We are flooded with requests for lost gems that they’d like to see on the PlayStation Network. We can’t fulfil all of them but we do our best. And as I always tell them, we NEVER give up. It is a matter of persistence… just keep knocking and someday the door will open.
Where can you see the company five years from now?
At the very least, I hope we’re still doing what we’re doing now… bringing classic Japanese gems from the closet as well as evolving retro games into the 21st century. But we would also like to bring a few new concept titles to stretch the incredulous mind and make you wonder which world you are in. It would be great to take a little American creative spirit, mix in some European ingenuity, refine and polish with Japanese detail, and maybe throw in a Korean freemium business model to make a game that appeals the world over. Not many games have been able to do so yet but we’re just entering the opportunity where all cultures can enjoy the same content. Look what Zynga has done. We absolutely believe the world is becoming smaller and that games will build bridges.
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