Arc System Works CEO talks about the pandemic, Free-To-Play, Indie Publishing and more

Evo 2022 is in the rearview, but the weekend of fighting game action brought plenty of exciting announcements from multiple developers and publishers. One of the biggest names was Arc System Works, with the Guilty Gear Strive tournament having more entrants than any other competition at the event.

We spoke to Arc System Works CEO Minoru Kidooka about the fighting game scene, from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community to the decision to return to Evo despite the ongoing pandemic itself. .

We also covered the concept of free-to-play fighting games after the success of MultiVersus and the upcoming Project L, as well as the company’s publishing wing and what kind of games Arc System Works would like to pursue as its 35th anniversary approaches. in 2023.

This interview was conducted via email and has been edited for clarity.

The Guilty Gear Strive tournament in Evo had more than 2,100 participants.

Guilty Gear Strive is EVO’s biggest fighting game this year, with nearly 2,200 participants at the event weekend. What does this mean for the future of the game and your plans to support it in the future?

Minoru Kidooka: Despite several delays due to COVID, we were able to release Guilty Gear Strive last year in 2021. There were a lot of difficulties before the game was released, but we are happy that people from all over the world are playing our game. We’re incredibly grateful that so many people get into this year’s Evo, which is the first time in 3 years that the event has taken place offline.

Guilty Gear Strive has been out for a little over a year and has reached a major milestone in time for the start of Season 2. That said, Guilty Gear Strive is still in development. We will continue to support our player base by taking your feedback into account and continuing to develop products that exceed your expectations and make you say “Wow!”

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Were you worried about attending an event of this scale with the persistence of COVID, and what made you decide the trip was worth the risk?

Kidooka: I am delighted to be able to participate in Evo for the first time in three years. But of course there are concerns about attending. Fighting games are a genre that was originally fueled by small offline communities in arcades. Today, that community has migrated to online gaming at home and on social media, but Arc System Works still continues to support arcades. As such, I think it’s very important that a large-scale offline event be held, and it should be welcomed.

Arc System Works will continue to support the community by keeping track of the latest COVID guidelines, regardless of the size of the event. And we’d like to reinvigorate the community by hosting our own esports events, like the Arc World Tour.

Are there any other partnerships you’ve looked into for a fighting game, or are there any IPs you’re interested in that maybe haven’t started conversations yet?

Kidooka: Until now, we have been working with various partners to create fighting games. This attitude will not change in the future. We are looking forward to working with our partners around the world to make fighting games even more exciting and enjoyable for our players.

The pandemic has thrown a considerable wrench into the Japanese game development scene. Do you think the industry in that region is starting to recover and where do you see Japanese game development heading in the future?

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Kidooka: The pandemic has drastically changed lifestyles since the beginning of 2020. Along with that, the style of game development had to change as well. Among Japanese developers, our style was particularly damaged because our development style was “get together, think together, create a better game through trial and error.”

However, we gained a variety of insights over the two-plus years of the pandemic. Our company, with the aim of “finding a new way of working”, recently launched a hybrid work from home/work from office system. We believe that we will grow better by combining the best of Japanese game making with Western style.

ASW recently released Ground Divers!, an indie strategy title. How important is it to you to use the publishing power of ASW to further the indie development scene, both for the scene and for the company itself?

Kidooka: Arc System Works has developed and released several “independent titles” on our own. We have also published titles developed by various partner companies. In addition to Guilty Gear and our other fighting games, our goal is always to attract new players by offering new ideas and new ways to play.

Arc System Works is not a big company. With that in mind, we look forward to growing through cooperation and competition with top game publishers and talented indie developers alike.

With many gamers seeing ASW as a fighting game developer, do you plan to use your publishing wing on a more diversified portfolio, or would you be interested in an indie fighting title as well?

Kidooka: Arc System Works will celebrate its 35th anniversary next year in 2023. Leveraging the technology and experience we have accumulated over the past 35 years, we will develop better quality fighting games by sharing our knowledge with our partners as needed . We have a history of selling fighting games created by other developers, and we look forward to continuing to work with IP holders and development partners in a variety of ways to create excitement for fighting games.

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In addition to Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and the other fighting games we’re working on and developing with our partners, we’re also building franchises for IP like River City Ransom and Double Dragon. We will continue to look for new forms of entertainment, not only from fighting games, but also with our three development studios in Japan and our development partners around the world to create new IP.

Finally, with the talk of fighting games embracing the strengthening of the free-to-play model thanks to games like MultiVersus and Project L, would ASW ever consider switching to that model for one of their games? What is your opinion about free-to-play in general?

Kidooka: Arc System Works is constantly considering new game and business models and discussing them internally. As such, we are exploring various ways we can work alone or together with our partners. But, since Arc System Works is not a large company, it can be quite difficult to tackle a variety of projects. With that said, we want to continue to build on our 35 years of accumulated knowledge and continue to rise to the challenge of contemporary trends and player demands.

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