Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Suda 51 - "We don't really focus on sales figures. We always focus more on gameplay, and just the creative aspect of whether it's a good game or not."

Who says there's no more heroes?

If there was one word to describe the games that Suda 51 and his studio Grasshopper Manufacture put out, it would probably be quirky. If I were allowed to go into another sentence (and I am because it's my blog and I'll write if I want to) then I'd go so far as to say that "They're quirky, but often very good as well." I've definitely enjoyed No More Heroes, and if the sequel were ported to a system I owned I'd be the first in line to get it. That does remind me that I should start Lollipop Chainsaw soon as well, but this isn't a topic about my ever present backlog, this is one about Suda, where he's coming from, and what he thinks about games.

There are few terms that I hesitate to use, and one of those is auteur. Even though it relates mostly to film, it can be applied elsewhere, but I feel that there's something awfully snobby about the way that most people think of the word, assuming that it even resonates with them at all. Still, despite my reservations, I'd call Suda 51 an auteur, mostly because if you play one of his games, and then another, you're probably going to know that he had a hand in making both, even if you weren't told or had any explicit knowledge of that fact.

That's not to say that what he makes is always good, or universally appealing. I couldn't really blame anyone for being off-put with some of the stranger aspects of his games, that's for sure. And I'd also be very hard-pressed to call anything he's done a smashing success. Certainly he's made memorable games, but as many people are well aware, memorable doesn't necessarily translate to "great sales" by any stretch of the imagination.

It's part of why I was happy to hear that despite some of his issues in the past, that he still seems to be devoted to making good games, as opposed to simply making games that sell well, when he gave a recent interview to gamesindustry.

In the past, Suda and Grasshopper have had to work with other publishers, and he admits that: "So we believe that back then, when we were completely indie without a group company to be together with, we weren't able to translate our creative directly into sales because that was the part where there was always a wall between creative and sales transition wise,"

You can consider this trying to play the blame game to a certain degree. It does come off as a little bit of scapegoating, but at the same time I also don't really doubt that such things happened in the past with Suda either. His games aren't guaranteed hits, so they might not get the support of more established franchises or safer games would, and in turn the lack of that support becomes one of the reasons his games don't sell as well, a miserable cycle if there ever was one.

Now that Grasshopper was bought by GungHo though, Suda is more optimistic: "So now that we're one big group together [at GungHo] and we'll be publishing our own titles as Grasshopper, we believe that the creative side and the sales side will have a better connection. So we definitely believe that it will transfer to good sales because we will be able to choose our own strategy."

You may argue that Suda's approach to games might be too weird for its own good. However, when you take that approach and apply it to marketing, well, you just might be on to something there. If the past has shown anything it's that people like the strange and unique marketing pitches like viral campaigns and things that go beyond a mere slogan on a poster or something (of course it also helps that such things aren't yet done to death). So with Suda's strange mind at the helm he might generate a lot more interest for his new titles than previously thought possible.

Finally though, and like I mentioned at the beginning, one thing is abundantly clear: "We don't really focus on sales figures. We always focus more on gameplay, and just the creative aspect of whether it's a good game or not. It's not that big of an issue, in terms of sales numbers. As long as we think it's a good game then we'll be satisfied internally,"

This is one of the reasons I like Suda, aside from the fact that he was also interviewed by a homeless man and probably personally considered it cool (I'm actually kind of surprised he hasn't turned that into a concept for a game by now). I think the industry needs more guys like him, even if they aren't the ones out there making wildly successful games. They're the ones that make the games worth finding and playing, the ones that are truly memorable.

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