We talk Nintendo Switch and Puzzle & Dragons with the head of GungHo Kazuki Morishita.
The transcription of this interview has been edited for clarity.
During E3 2017, Nintendo World Report was fortunate enough to sit down with Kazuki Morishita, GungHo’s CEO and president. Read the interview below.
NWR: We’ve heard that you may have a game in development for Switch. Can you please tell us a little bit about it?
Kazuki Morishita: So there isn’t anything we can officially say at the moment for a lot of it, but there are a few things moving forward in regards for Switch. All I can say right now is that internally we are developing an action game for Switch. So it’s actually a project that we’ve been sitting on for, developing, and incubating for the last 4 to 5 years, but once the Switch was announced and we saw what it could potentially do, we decided that’s the direction we want to go, we felt that it was the best fit for this project, around the time of the announcement, the official announcement.
NWR: So can we assume it’s a new IP?
Kazuki Morishita: A new ip, yes. If you’ve been following, we’ve made a few titles on the 3DS even the Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Edition so we had a collaboration with the Super Mario franchise, but putting that aside it’s something completely different, a new IP on the switch.
NWR: Let’s talk about Puzzle & Dragons a bit. How did the collaboration with Nintendo come about?
Kazuki Morishita: So first Puzzle & Dragons Z was released and after it came out and was quite successful in Japan we were thinking of making another spin-off and at that time we thought, what if we made it Mario-themed and we just kind of tried that. Let’s try to make a Mario version and see what happens. And then we brought it to Nintendo and also had Shigeru Miyamoto take a look at it too. And it became well that’s our next title, let’s make Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario Edition. It was something we were working on internally and we figured we’d try putting it together. It’s the same puzzle action as Puzzle & Dragons, but with the taste of Mario and the elements from the Super Mario franchise in there and it just felt different. Because we worked on it on our own internally and gotten this far we decided let’s have them take a look at it and we brought it to Nintendo. And from then on it went into full production and there was a lot of help even from Nintendo on their end that they provided for the title and it was a very fun project to work on.
NWR: With the collaboration with Nintendo, how much design input did they provide versus the design of the original prototype? Were they heavily involved or was it more on the level of assets and understanding the characters and things like that?
Kazuki Morishita: So the game design itself was pretty much done at Gung-ho, but there was a lot of advice from Nintendo. What if you did this or maybe you should do this? It might be better if you did this in regards to other elements of the game? And they also provided a lot of help on the sound and music aspects. There’s a lot of sound effects from various Mario titles and they helped by provided a lot of music for the game as well. And it was really interesting and a fun experience that they were able to be there to provide advice to make sure that it still fit the Super Mario world.
NWR: How’s the reception been to the Mario inclusion and do you see a continuation or a series based on this in the future?
Kazuki Morishita: So Puzzle & Dragons: Mario Edition came out as it’s own version in Japan separately whereas in America it was bundled with Puzzle & Dragons Z. With different regions you get launches at different times. Japan had Puzzle & Dragons Z and then it had the Mario edition, but America and Europe got it as a bundle together. It might have been better if they had all released at the same time. It’s something we would have liked to have done. The greatest part of the project was that the puzzle action in Puzzle & Dragon on both mobile and 3DS, the core base game mechanics of the puzzle action are unique in that anyone can pick it up, play it, and enjoy it and the greatest thing with the Super Mario edition is that it even furthered the reach of Puzzle & Dragons to a lot of people that we were fortunate enough to reach because of Super Mario, the IP being so strong, and we felt that was great. People were able to enjoy Puzzle & Dragons especially with Mario’s help. And moving forward we would like to find ways and to keep the Puzzle & Dragons IP and put it on Nintendo’s platforms in some sort of way. At least for the game itself, Puzzle & Dragons, when making the smart conversion we had already decided we were going to put it on the 3DS at the same time so it wasn’t smartphone first and then 3DS, it was from the very beginning stages it was already planned to be on the 3DS. We think Puzzle & Dragons is made for smartphones & 3DS, not smartphones then 3DS. So the next one might not be 3DS, maybe Switch, we’ll see where Puzzle & Dragons will take on their next adventure.
NWR: With the wide variety of devices now available (3DS, Switch, and smartphones) how do you see the consumer space evolving in the future?
Kazuki Morishita: One isn’t necessarily going to overtake another device. There’s a way to play games on your smartphone and you can also play games on game consoles. Some people may say that mobile games are going to take over and consoles will be in trouble, but it doesn’t feel that way because the gameplay is so different. There are certain things you can only do on mobile and their are certain things on consoles. It doesn’t really seem like users are only going to go in one direction or the other if that makes sense.
NWR: If Nintendo we’re interested in bringing Puzzle & Dragons: Super Mario edition to smartphones would you be open to such a collaboration?
Kazuki Morishita: I think if we were ever approached with that we’d really have to think about it. On a collaborative level, Puzzle & Dragons has already had numerous collaborations with various IPS in-game. If it was just a collaborative effort in that sense, it would be featured as a collab in the game, which is something that’s entirely doable. We already other game IPs like Final Fantasy and Monster Hunter in the smartphone version of Puzzle & Dragons. It kind of doesn’t feel realistic to have two games with the same kind of gameplay style to be lined up next to each other. So we feel that it probably makes more sense to make a Puzzle & Dragons that fits a Nintendo platform.
NWR: Is there any hope of seeing Let It Die on Switch?
Kazuki Morishita: Personally, there are reasons why I would like to bring it to Switch, but from a technological standpoint and a development standpoint it might be quite a bit difficult to do so. One of the hurdles that we see is that Let It Die is an action game that plays at 60 frames per second so that’s one of many hurdles in bringing it to another platform the frame rate could be greatly affected potentially. It’s a very heavy action game and quite punishing as well. So if these hurdles could be overcome, we’re not going to say never. Personally, if I was able to bring it to Switch that would be nice. There’s a reason why. I can’t really play the game in front of my family.
NWR: Do you feel the Switch moving forward will be a viable platform in both Japan and the rest of the world?
Kazuki Morishita: From the very beginning I thought the Switch would be a hit. Of course, part of that reasoning is because I really like Nintendo. So I may be a little biased in that, but I believe it will do well and I really hope that it does well. I want it to do well. Just in general for the console market, if it doesn't do well then it’s hard for us being game developers. Smartphone games are up and coming, but it’s not really where I personally see our field because I personally prefer console game over smartphone games. And in regards to smartphone games, the only smartphone games I’m playing are the ones that I’ve made. Usually when I’m playing games it’s on console.
NWR: Puzzle & Dragons pretty much exploded popularity wise in Japan. Why do think that occurred?
Kazuki Morishita: One thing is how you play the game. The puzzle action feature, the way you’re able to freely move the orbs and perform combos. This was a new kind of way to play a game. It was original and that’s one of the main elements for why it took off. We’re very particular in regards to game design and I feel like that’s something we brought to this title in regards to bringing things to the market that hadn’t been seen before. That rest of it we’ll say was luck. We were very fortunate with the timing among other things. And we were very fortunate to have the staff that worked on this title and that’s what we’ve been thinking and feel. We feel that timing and our philosophy of bringing things to the market that hadn’t been seen before and the blessing of our particular staff that helped make the game success as opposed to saying we know everything and we were successful just because of us. We don’t want to toot our own horn. We rather believe it was timing, our philosophies, and valuing the staff we were fortunate to have at that time. So just being a challenger to the market is what we like to do.
NWR: Thank you very much.
Kazuki Morishita: Thank you.