Anime Expo 2010 Aksys Games Industry Panel
by Carlo Santos, Jul 3rd 2010
Despite the morning start time, the audience and panelists for Aksys were already in a loud, irreverent mood. The session began with trailers for the company's upcoming titles, including side-scrolling shooter Deathsmiles, tactical RPG Blazing Souls: Accelate, mystery thriller 999: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, action game Gladiator Begins, and much-anticipated fighter BlazBlue: Continuum Shift, the latest sequel in the BlazBlue franchise.
After the trailer, audience members came forward to ask questions about the company's releases. The first question was about the newly announced downloadable characters in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift; however,due to two of the three characters still being in testing, only general information could be given about the characters' movesets.
A couple of later questions were about the prospects of Aksys picking up sequels and spinoffs for games like strategy RPG Record of Agarest War and Deathsmiles. In all of these cases, the success of the current releases will determine whether enough money can be invested into acquiring and distributing follow-up games in each franchise.
Attendees also asked about limited edition packaging for the company's games, and the type of bonus materials that come in each package. Such decisions often depend on the cost of producing these bonus materials. Items such as cosplay accessories may sound like a great idea for limited editions, but can be too expensive or difficult to manufacture.
As a smaller publisher of localized Japanese games, Aksys does have various challenges in the market. Other companies such as NIS America are also competing for a limited number of licenses, while popularity and fan sentiment also determine acquisition decisions. In addition, big-name Japanese developers such as Namco Bandai will only distribute through the company's own US subsidiary. Generally speaking, it is the Japanese developer that initiates contact with a US publisher such as Aksys, and only then is the decision made as to whether a title will be marketable.
Game content was also addressed, such as possible censorship in Record of Agarest War (there was none, and in some cases content was "added back" to make the console releases match). There was even a risque change in one of the character animations in BlazBlue: Continuum Shift that had been done at the whim of the creator.
Physical discs versus downloadable data was also an issue for at least one attendee, whose 60 GB PlayStation 3 simply did not have the room for a 20 GB download of Record of Agarest War. Unfortunately, due to details that could not be disclosed, a "higher power" had forced Aksys to distribute that game as a download. In a similar vein, another attendee asked about downloadable content possibly being on a bonus disc instead of a download. However, the costs of producing such discs (or creating a "Game of the Year Edition" that includes the DLC with the main game) are often a prohibitive barrier.
After the question-and-answer session, a prize draw was held for various items such as mousepads and Xbox faceplates.
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