Hi Cherise, thank you for spending some time on answering my questions about Japanime Games. Could you please introduce yourself for our readers? What is your Job at Japanime Games?strong>
Hi Christian! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. My name is Cherise Wilson and I am the Production Manager at Japanime Games. I also currently manage all of our Marketing, which means I get to speak to wonderful people like you!
How did all start? What was the idea behind Japanime Games?
The President of Japanime Games, Eric Price, originally sold trading cards online. Eventually he opened his own shop. As he got to know more people in Japan, one of the members at Arclight asked him if he would like to publish the English edition of Tanto Cuore. Eventually he decided to do it, and Japanime Games was born! He closed his store and started focusing solely on publishing anime-themed board and card games. That’s still mostly what we do, but we have also started developing our own games.
What do you think, if you see the past years? Did you fulfill this idea?
Certainly Japanime Games has stuck to its goal of bringing amazing games over from Japan. Tanto Cuore has always been a fan favorite, and with the addition of Heart of Crown we’ve been able to reach an even wider audience. We’re really looking forward to our fans reactions of Kamigami Battles as it is the first game we have developed ourselves and the artwork is absolutely stunning.
You told me in a mail, that the employees are scattered in the whole USA. Isn’t it hard to work together with that distance?
Yes. We have employees who work in just about every US time zone. It can often be difficult to not to have everyone working in the same place. Communication is extremely important, and all of our employees have to be quite tech savvy in order to move everything forward. We use a variety of online platforms to talk to one another, and we try to schedule regular meetings so we can go over our current projects via video chat. I can’t complain though because I get to work from home, so the commute is great!
How is the way Japanime Games chooses a new project?
We get lots of proposals from designers for new games, and Eric goes to shows in Japan to speak with designers there. Generally when we look at a game we have to consider how similar it is to other games we carry, the quality and type of artwork (which is almost always strictly anime), and most importantly, if the game is fun. We like to playtest any game that we are thinking of carrying before deciding to take it to production. If the game has an anime license attached to it, such as the Sword Art Online: Sword of Fellows Game, then we consider how much our fans might want a game based on that IP.
Many games of the company are “Deckbuilders”. Is there a secret behind, why Japanime Games is so focussed on them?
We do have a lot of deck builders! It really all started with Tanto Cuore. Our fans love it so much (we do too) that we just keep making it. There isn’t really a secret behind why we have so many deck builders, other than we think the ones we are making are fun. When you have lots of cards though you get to show off a lot of artwork, and we do love fabulous anime art! That’s probably why we tend to produce more deck builders and card games than board games.
Many Games of you are funded by Kickstarter. Why did you choose this way? What are the possibilities?
Kickstarter is a great way for us to let our fans know about our bigger upcoming projects. We also get to offer a variety of products that we wouldn’t normally get the chance to make for our fans on Kickstarter. For instance, we created an artbook for the Winter Romance campaign. I’m really excited to see our fans’ reactions to it because it gives a lot of background to the world and characters of the game. They also get to see the full spread of a lot of artwork that’s normally cropped or very small on the cards in the game. Kickstarter allows us to gauge the interest for these items and gives us the funding to take on new projects outside of game production.
We also like to give our fans a chance to give input on what they want from us. Whether that’s part of the game mechanics or letting us know what items they want us to make, Kickstarter gives us a channel to speak directly with our fans so we can bring them the products they want. We know that we couldn’t do any of this without our fans’ support, so hearing what they have to say is vital to making sure we’re doing right by them.
What risks do you have as company with Kickstarter.
There’s always a risk with Kickstarters that unforeseen costs will come up that aren’t covered by the funding we receive from a campaign. This has never been an issue as of yet, but the risk is there. We have been working on ways to minimize this risk based on what we have learned from previous projects. The biggest risk and down side to Kickstarter campaigns is being late on delivery. Japanime has always delivered on our Kickstarter projects, but unfortunately some projects have been severely delayed. This is incredibly frustrating for our backers, which in turn becomes a frustration for the team, because we don’t want to disappoint our fans. This is an ongoing focus of improvement for myself since production is my main responsibility.
So, a Kickstarter was successful. What are the next steps? What work has to be done, that the game will be released?
After a Kickstarter is funded the first step is to confirm all of the quantities needed for fulfillment on every item offered, and to get final quotes for those items. Then we begin finalizing the production files to send to the manufacturers for print. After that we receive samples to approve or send notes for adjustments. Once everything has been approved, the logistics and warehouse team takes over and works with the manufacturer to get shipments set up for delivery. It sounds simple, but it takes many hours pouring over art files, documents and emails to make sure everything works out correctly.
I’ve played many titles of Japanime Games (and more will come). Some are really good, some are bad. But one thing I see over and over again. How did it come, that half naked girls in sexy poses were chosen? Was it just the slogan “sex sells”?
Our first title was Tanto Cuore, a game developed by Arclight Games. Sexy anime ladies is something that Arclight includes quite often in their games, and we carry a lot of their titles. As a result, it sort of became a theme for us, sort of like deck builders. I think some of our fans expect it to a certain extent at this point, but it’s not what we stick to exclusively or look for when choosing new titles to release. Heart of Crown has been quite popular as well, and the artwork in that series is much more family-friendly in comparison to Tanto. Along those lines, the newest version of Tanto Cuore, Winter Romance, is much more family-friendly in terms of artwork compared to previous editions as well, and that was a game we requested Arclight to develop. Mostly we want a game that we think is fun and has great artwork.
On the feminist point of view and in a time, where everyone is debating about #MeToo, have you received some messages and mails of bothered or worried peoples? How do you handle them?
Yes, some of our artwork has been received negatively by some people in the public. The criticism that we receive about our artwork is that depicting women in sexualized ways is harmful to women. We don’t agree with that sentiment. However, we don’t support violent or disrespectful actions against women, or anyone. We work hard to set an example for others to be respectful and positive in the face of such negativity. It’s okay that people don’t like the artwork in our games, we know it’s not for everyone. We obviously support the fact that some people find that kind of artwork appealing though.
What games are planned for this or next year? Are there any big surprises?
We have such a wide array of games planned for the next year. There’s giant mecha games, lots of games about love, and some unique titles from Japanese designers. The gameplay ranges from board games, card drafting, and of course, deck building. I think the biggest surprise for our fans will be the amount of IP based games that we’re working on currently. We’ve announced Robotech games, but there’s other popular series we have plans for.
Games about Love? Isn’t that a theme, which isn’t a favorite one for games? What are your ideas for games with that theme?
I think it is difficult to make a good game where the theme is love, perhaps that’s why not many people enjoy games with that theme? The games that we’re releasing where love is a thematic mechanic also cater pretty heavily towards Anime tropes, so people who are fans of Anime will find these games to be fun because the mechanics reflect all of the things that happen in their favorite shows. For instance, Love Battle! High School is based on the Harem Anime Genre, which usually has a cast of characters in which one is the main love interest to five or more other characters. The goal of this game in particular is to get your chosen or preferred character to end up with the Hero. So the game is about love, but there’s a lot more going on than just that. From what I’ve seen so far, this game really appeals to our fans.
You couldn’t just make announcement like this abpve and stop. Which IPs are you working on?
Unfortunately the contracts are finalized so we can’t make an official announcement on what IPs we’re working on specifically just yet. I can say that one is based on a very popular Harem Anime series and the other is based on a long running fantasy Anime series. There’s another title based on a platforming adventure video game series that we’re looking at designs for. There’s also a chance we are going to be releasing more games about Giant Fighting Robots (or Mechas) from older series. Sorry to be a tease, but hopefully that gives your readers some clues!
I can remember that there has been Tanto Cuore on the IOS App-Store, but now it is disappeared. Do you know why? Are there any other games planned for Smartphones?
I am very familiar with this issue and have spent a decent amount of time researching the situation so we can give clear answers to our fans. The developer, Playdek, has had some issues and pulled several of their titles from the App Store, including Tanto Cuore. There was an update to the platform that required them to reconstruct the game, but they do intend to put it back up eventually.
The team has spoken at length about developing more digital versions of our games (currently we have only released Heart of Crown on Steam with the help of Culture Select), but at this point in time we don’t have the capacity to take that on. You may see a Kickstarter for something like this in the future though!
You’ve be robbed in Essen 2018. We hope that this bad experience doesn’t means, that you will never visit Germany again. What are the consequences you will take for the future?
We were unfortunately the victim of theft at Essen this year along with at least 5 other companies. I don’t think it will deter us from visiting Germany again (we think Germany is pretty great!). It does mean that we are going to take further precautions for future conventions, and likely not just ones in Germany. This could mean requesting that customers pay with cards, which we know is not preferred in Germany, or taking further precautions during breakdown to make sure that our personal items are secure. We’re still discussing internal solutions for ourselves, but we realize we’re going to have to adapt to help prevent this in the future. We are also working with the Essen convention organizers to see what they can do to help prevent this from happening to any attendee or exhibitor. The convention organizers have been responsive in helping us to address this issue and work towards solutions. We’re happy to be able to help facilitate this discussion and think it’s important for us to do so in order to show our support for other people who have had to deal with this issue.
I’ve seen that you collect donations for the loss you’ve got because of the robbery. What response did you get? Was everything positive? And what do you do if the money exceeds the money which was robbed?
We do have a donation drive going to help recoup the loss from the theft as it was the majority of our earnings that was stolen from the show. With all the games that we have been working on the last year arriving in the next month, it was a huge disappointment to have this happen at this time. The response from our fans has been amazing. There really hasn’t been any negative responses, mostly just people who have lots of questions about the situation, which is completely understandable and we’re doing our best to answer those questions as they come in. As of today we’ve received almost $4,000 in donations, which is incredible. I always say that our fans are the best fans, and I truly mean it. They are incredibly positive and supportive, even when we mess up. We try to make sure we do right by them, because they deserve it. For this donation drive we are sending out Thank You gifts to anyone who donates to show our appreciation. We hope that we’ll recoup everything we lost (we’ve set our initial goal at $10,000), but any money we receive beyond our first goal will be donated to the other companies that were also targeted at the show. To learn more about the situation and the other companies affected your readers can visit our Essen SPIEL 2018 Robbery Stories page: https://japanimegames.com/pages/spiel-robberies.
Now I got some personal questions. Everyone has to answer them.
What are you doing, if you are not working or playing games? Is there even time for another hobbies?
I think it’s incredibly important to make time for other activities, regardless of what you do, but especially if you work as a game developer/designer. Games span such a broad range of themes. Anything can inspire an idea for a game, so developers should do lots of things! Generally when I’m not working, I am playing games, both digital and table top. I also enjoy practicing both digital and multimedia art. I try to practice Yoga regularly as I think it’s very good for helping to clear your head and I find it to be quite fun. I recently started volunteering at the local animal shelter.
What book has fascinated you last and why?
I just finished Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” because we were running a Halloween sale with the same tagline and I just so happened to start it on the same day the story takes place, which was fun. I’ve never read any of his work before, and I found his writing in this title very different and poetic from other authors I’ve read. It wasn’t a particularly spooky story, but there was a sort of optimistically nihilistic theme that played into the climax of the protagonists defeating the antagonists which I found to be interesting and spoke to me personally. One thing I found fascinating was that while I was reading it I kept trying to picture the scenes as if I were watching a movie, and after reading the afterword, that was exactly Bradbury’s intention with the book. So he obviously hit the nail on the head with it!
Tell us our absolutely favorite movie and why should we watch it?
Whenever anyone asks me what movie I would recommend for someone to watch, I always say John Carpenter’s “The Thing”. It’s one of those movies that I can watch over and over again and never get tired of. It’s got a great plot that’s full of mystery around the creature, and in true horror fashion, leaves you wondering how things will turn out. The cast is amazing (Kurt Russell never fails to deliver, haha), especially the special effects team. I’m a sucker for horror movies that use practical effects, and The Thing is the king of its genre in my opinion. There’s also some really great theories as to who is infected by the Thing at the end, so if you’re into cinematic history, the Thing is definitely a movie worth learning more about.
You are stranding on a lonely island with enough players for every game. Which 5 games you will have with you?
Haha, this is probably the easiest question for me!
Mage Knight – This is first on my list because there’s such a wide variety of mechanics to make your Mage Knight the most epic warrior. You can also play cooperatively or competitively and there are several scenarios to try. Overall I think it’s perfect for a desert island because it takes a long time to play and it’s got a high amount of replayability. I love playing roleplaying games and Mage Knight sort of scratches that itch without all of the preparation of a whole campaign. If I could take a roleplaying game with me I would probably chose Pathfinder, just because you could play that game forever and never run out of options for new ways to play. But I’d also want to make sure my GM was on the island with me! He’s very good at crafting memorable campaigns.
Galaxy Trucker – This is my favorite game ever! I love building the ships and seeing how well the hold up to the random events. It takes a decent amount of time to play all the way through and the random element of selecting tiles, the event deck and the ever expanding ship size means I never get tired of this game.
Evolution – This is one of those games that I really like, but haven’t quite mastered. I think the mechanics and theme work together really well. I’d love to have a chance to practice this game to get better at it. The artwork is really beautiful, so I also just love looking at it too.
Castles – My favorite part of playing this game is designing the castle. I sometimes don’t do well at this game because I’m more focused on making my castle look good, but this is another one of those games that has a lot of random elements that help to keep the game play fresh.
Heart of Crown – Aside from Dynamite Nurse, this is my favorite Deck Building game. I didn’t chose Dynamite Nurse because in a Desert Island scenario where we only have 5 games, Heart of Crown simply has more content to work with while also being very fun. With 2 base games, 4 expansions and 1 mini expansion, this game has enough game play variety to keep you entertained for a long time! I really enjoy deck builders, which is good considering where I work, and I really do think that Heart of Crown is a unique spin on the genre.
Overall I chose these games because they are some of my favorites and there’s a wide range of game play. Also, most of these can support a lot of players, even if you have to use house rules. The more players, the more likely we are to survive on the island! Maybe I’m overthinking this question too much, haha!
You are going to hell. Which game is chosen to torture you by playing it over and over again?
Catan. And the dice would always land on a 7 right before my turn so I can never do anything.
Is there anything you always liked to say to the gaming scene, but didn’t dare until now?
I would really like to say Thank you to everyone who’s working so hard to make it the community that it is. I know that the industry isn’t perfect, but the community that both developers and fellow gamers have created is amazing. I’ve met so many people that make me feel like I’m valued and have worth, and I can’t say that about every place I’ve worked. It’s been a really empowering experience to work in tabletop gaming and I owe a lot of that to my coworkers, fellow developers and our fans. So thank you to everyone who supports Japanime and our team, you’ve made an incredible difference in my life!