Interview: Hudson's President Speaks Out!

Started by handygrafx, 07/07/2006, 02:08 AM

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Admin Edit 1/21/2024: Important note, this is now the definitive/full interview of Hudson's former US president, John Greiner, who is also the Ys Book I & II translator! When Hudson changed domains from hudsonentertainment to hudsonent, half of part 1 was lost/left behind and changed with more Q&A! I've now reconstructed ALL parts from 5 links in this post below thanks to WayBack!
IMG  Hudson's President Speaks Out!
PART 1&2&3

A candid interview with Hudson President, John Greiner about the company's past and future.

by J.Montes

How did you end up at Hudson?

I started off at Hudson by chance, traveling the world after graduating from college. I met the owners of Hudson and started working for them because they had some opportunities in the US. Hudson, of course, is a Japanese company and they needed a foreigner to help them acclimate to the US industry.

What would you say is Hudson's more important contribution to the electronic gaming industry?

Hudson has had a lot of pioneering moments. They were the very first company to publish a game in Japan on the PC (personal computer). They were the first company to support Nintendo as a third-party. They were the company that developed the TurboGrafx-16 system, or as it's called in Japan, the PC Engine. That system had the very first CD-ROM gaming media. So, I think in the early years, bringing the CD-ROM to gaming was probably the biggest contribution.

What was one of the earliest projects you worked on?

One of the earliest projects was Gundam, which was a shooter. Super Star Soldier, Ys, Tengai Makyo, and almost every title that (Hudson) Japan brought to America in the early years.

If you could pick any game out of Hudson's vast library of titles, which one would you say is your favorite?

My favorite game would have to be Bomberman. It seems to be everyone's favorite game, who's ever touched a Hudson product. But there's lots of other great games hidden behind the Bomberman veil. I think games like Chew-Man Fu, Bonk (which is a great game), and also games like JJ and Jeff. In America, that game was dumbed-down. But in Japan it was a very funny game! It was called "Kato and Ken". The gameplay was great but when they brought it to America they sort of ruined what made it funny; it was a great game, nonetheless. Dungeon Explorer's a great game. Military Madness – all these games are really classics of the 16-bit era.

A precursor to Triumph the Insult Dog? Here's a game where defecating would lead to "powering up" your character!

So you were employed in Japan. How did you end up back in the United States?

I had many chances to come back here and I never thought about coming back here until I had an opportunity that was golden. The cell phone market in the US really was that kind of opportunity. It's a brand new market; we know the success of the mobile phone industry in Japan. Hudson, again, was a pioneering member of DoCoMo's team (the biggest phone network and developer in Japan) that brought gaming to the Japanese cell phone market. So when you create a third screen like the cell phone, and you can be a part of that, games are a driving factor behind the technology. Your phones right now and your phones of the future – what's going to make it better? Not the voice technology, but the gaming technology is going to push it, push it, push it!

Recently, Qualcomm came out with their newest chipset, the 6550. That's pushed gaming to a point where people now want the newest cell phone. All this drives technology. It's all going to be part of people's personal electronic "wardrobe". They're going to want to have the best phone, the most fashionable phone, and games are going to be a part of that.

What was lure, the attraction, when it came to staying and living in Japan?

I'll answer that in two ways. First, the nice things about Japanese culture is that it's a very organized, clean, and civilized society. There's little crime, people have a protocol, and the way of life is very much respected because of the close proximity of people.

They also have other things like Japanese Inns called Gyokan, hot spring baths, great outdoor activities, beautiful mountains, and rivers. It's a very nice and easy place to live. That's the pleasurable aspect, but there's also the business aspect. Hudson is a great company! I've worked here for 18 years because of the company. It would be very hard for a westerner to stay at a Japanese company for that long, but Hudson has been a very easy company to fit into. They've always taken care of me.

hudsonent . com/images/featureasset/john05_2.jpg

Hudson has always had a very close relationship with Nintendo, how did this relationship start?

Hudson was the very first third-party developer and publisher for Nintendo. That took a lot of hard work. You asked me earlier what was one of Hudson's biggest contributions, well that was a big contribution: Getting Nintendo to admit third-parties for their platform. They were very much anti-third party. They wanted to do all the software themselves. Hudson was very persistent and used their relationship with Sharp in order to get in to see Nintendo and become that very first third-party provider. Past that, Nintendo has always looked to Hudson for great games and middleware tools and to be a supporter. So, we've had a very close relationship with them.

Ys is still a very popular RPG. What was your involvement in the US translation?

I wrote all the translation and did some of the voice-over work for that and did some voice direction. We had a professional director, but I helped the director in getting that game's ambiance right and bringing the game up to the level that it eventually turned out to be.
Ys: Book I & II, and Ys III - Wanderers from Ys are regarded as RPG classics. The series was one of the first RPGs to ever be produced for CD-ROM technology.

There's a rumor going around that you are the original inspiration for Bonk. True or false?

I think they're just looking for a bald head to model on! I'm not quite sure that's true (laughs). If I had a bald head and a hairy chest maybe that's something that would be true. But at the time, I had a full head of hair, so I don't think that's accurate.

Bonk went on to star in a multitude of sequels. It's not uncommon to see games like Bonk 3 fetch more than $150 on eBay!

Speaking of Bonk, we know he's making his reappearance on the cell phone very soon. The franchise has been dormant for some time, especially here in the US. Does Hudson have any future plans for Bonk?

We do. Bonk, we think, is a very well known character. NEC spent about $6 million to boost that character up, and I think it's a preeminent and ever growing title. IMG People love the character; he's cute, he's fun, the game is very colorful. Everyone is excited about the release of Bonk on cell phones and we plan to spread Bonk out to other platforms; he definitely has a place in Hudson's future lineup. You'll be seeing more and more of Bonk!

Stay tuned as our interview with Hudson Entertainment's President continues with Part 2! He'll be discussing the company's future plans, the TurboGrafx-16 system, and more!

IMG  Hudson's President Speaks Out! PART 2
A candid interview with Hudson President, John Greiner about the company's past and future.

by J.Montes

You helped launch the TurboGrafx-16 in the US. What was the most challenging aspect of that?

Those most challenging aspect of working with a Japanese company in general is bridging communication and helping each side understand how gaming culture is different in each country. Anyone whose ever done it knows the difficulty in not so much the language, but the nuances of meaning. Often, even in our own language, words tend to muddle the situation rather than clarify. So you have to be careful to bring the right nuance to a conversation and to explain things in a way that everybody understands. More than even language, its bridging the cultures (that's the most important aspect).

While the TurboGrafx-16 system was a fan favorite, it ultimately came in third in a three way race with Nintendos SNES and Segas Genesis. What about Sega and Nintendo that really made them stand out from the pack in the 16-bit era?

Very easy question, because it was obvious to us. Hudson came in and supported the TurboGrafx-16. We supported everything we could because all the hardware design was ours, the media was Hudson's. We had a lot of responsibility for the machine. Because we lead the effort directly in Japan, we had great success there. In the US, we partnered with the American side of NEC, who entered the gaming space for the first time, and did not quite understand how to market a game machine; it's really the marketing that killed it. The games were there; the games were as good as or better than the (Sega) Genesis. But Sega and Nintendo really nailed the marketing, and were able to speak to the gamer. And if you don't believe that, go back and look at the box art on the TurboGrafx-16. You'll laugh when you see it! Some of the old box art for TurboGrafx-16 games are really funny to look at today!

To this day, the TurboGrafx-16 carries a very loyal following.

Tell us your involvement with the Turbo Duo?

At the time, we were partnering with NEC and working together on the project. I think the Duo was an amazing machine, it just didn't get the traction. You look at the Duo and you think of using the CD-ROM technology and being able to capitalize on that. A lot of those games were RPGs, and that's what took advantage of the Turbo Duo. I think the US market was not really ready for the Japanese style RPGs. We came into the market a bit too early before American fascination with Japanese RPGs became so widespread. Even though Ys and games like that were great, what else would people use the Duo for? There were a couple of shooters like Lords of Thunder, which won tons of awards, things like that, that really showed what CD-ROM technology could do, but the price point for that machine was too high. NEC wasn't willing to take a big price hit in order to sell units. As you can tell today, with both Sony and Microsoft willing to take a hit on each system they would sell so that you can sell at a reasonable price point, that making sure you have sales of the hardware unit is key to success.

How about third party support?

Third party is the key to any game machines success and that definitely was a factor. Electronic Arts jumped onto Sega's bandwagon very quickly and we lost out on that opportunity. Hudson understands how third party support is key, as we were the first third party publisher back on the NES in Japan. However, during the early stage of the 16-bit era, a lot of companies were doing exclusive deals, which really prevented some great games making it way to the TurboGrafx-16.

Hudson has always had a very close relationship with Nintendo, how did this relationship start?

Hudson was the very first third-party developer and publisher for Nintendo. That took a lot of hard work. You asked me earlier what was one of Hudson's biggest contributions, well that was a big contribution: Convincing Nintendo to open their arms to third-parties for their platform. They were very much anti-third party back then. They had some great development back then, as they do now, and they wanted to do all the software themselves. Hudson became a big advocator for having great third-party support, as that brings in fresh new ideas.

Past that, Nintendo has always looked to Hudson for great games and middleware tools and to be a supporter. So, we've had a very close relationship with them.

Where do you see Hudson going in the future?

I was on a panel two or three years ago and they asked me, "As a traditional game console maker, where do you see your revenues in 2-3 years? How much do you see coming from mobile? How much do you see coming from console?" At the time, everyone at the panel, THQ, Namco, everyone there said 10-20% of their sales would come from mobile. But Hudson has always been a leader on the mobile front. We had the very first cell phone booth at Tokyo Game Show. Everyone was like, "What's a cell phone booth doing at this show?!" But anyway, back at the panel I said within 2-3 years, over half of our sales would be from mobile.

Last year, for Hudson Entertainment, mobile sales are right up there with console sales. And we even expanded beyond games in mobile, as we have a great partnership with The Source, and we are one of the largest content publishers for all things hip hop. With consoles, buying product off a shelf is going to have a limited lifespan, just as renting movies from Blockbuster will have a limited lifespan. We're entering a new digital age and there's no reason you can't download things onto your phone, computer, or console. We want to be a technological leader and a pioneer in bringing that to the digital forefront; having people play games without having to go to the store. We embrace this vision, and you'll see us do more with digital distribution soon.

The TurboDuo sported some incredible titles like Lords of Thunder and Dragon Slayer

Hudson's been pretty quiet on the console side of things that past couple of years. How important is the US market to Hudson Japan?

I think this company (Hudson Entertainment) is a model of what Hudson Soft wants to do worldwide. The company as a whole now sees the importance of branding and marketing. We've always been making great games over the years, but we see how important it is to let everyone know that we do. We have great product but little real brand recognition outside of Japan. So we need to build on our brands and our IPs (intellectual properties), because of our intrinsic quality of being able to create great games and having that gaming DNA built into the company. We stand a great chance of being successful worldwide. I think the company sees the world market as essential; you simply cant just produce for Japan.

Our interview with Hudson Entertainment's President concludes in two weeks! Join us as he talks about the future of mobile technology, Hudson history, and party games!

IMG  Hudson's President Speaks Out! PART 3
The conclusion of our interview with Hudson President, John Greiner! Join us as he shares his memories and insights into the company's past, present, and future!

by J.Montes

Hudson has a reputation of being the king of "party" games. Why do you think it's been so successful at these type of games?

That's a very good question because you really get down to the essence of gaming. What we try to concentrate on is fun gameplay and making games that people want to play again and again – addictiveness, if you will. What I think transpired with Mario Party is Nintendo said, "Hey, Hudson makes the best games for parties. Do something for us."

IMGHow we got Mario Party was looking through almost every single game that ever came out in Japan and playing those games, looking for the essential "hooks" that make a game addictive. By looking at those games, we really came down with seven basic addictive hooks. We were able to isolate those hooks and redress them and create lots of great party games. That's an engine, that's basic knowledge of what is fun. Very few companies have that knowledge and expertise. So that's been one of the critical points of Hudson's success: To really know what makes something fun.

Hudson has been very involved in the mobile market, translating a lot of its titles onto the cell phone. And now it's partnered with The Source to bring hip-hop culture and ring-tones to consumers. How did this deal come about?

The Source came about by understanding the hip-hop market and ringtones. When we first entered the US cell phone market we knew that ringtones were one of the keys to creating a stable and mobile business. It's something that Hudson Japan did and we wanted to follow suit. The door was closing quickly and we needed to get in there with big brand. We looked at the biggest genre, and that was hip- hop.

These guys look intense, huh? Are they digging Bomberman Land (coming soon for the Nintendo DS) or are they just constipated? This is the competitive spirit (not being constipated) that drives Hudson into making the best party titles around!

We chose The Source because it was one of the few umbrella brands that covered all of hip-hop, not just a certain label like Death Row. We wanted full coverage for any kind of hip-hop music. The Source is a hip-hop bible; it's a powerful brand. It's often times referred to as one of the true old school brands; one of the originators. We've been very happy with that partnership and we want to keep on doing business with them for a long time.

Where do you see the mobile industry going?

I see 3D playing a bigger role in creating a better gaming experience for mobile. We work very closely with Qualcomm. We developed the first prototype game for their 6550 Chipset which today is the LG VX9800 - the best phone out there for gaming. Qualcomm continues to develop better graphic processing, so by the end of next year you're going to see the 7500 Chipset which is going to rival the PSP on your cell phone!

The LG VX9800 is one of the first phones that provides full 3D capabilities for applications and this is the future of mobile gaming.

I hate the word "convergence", but I don't see a better word to describe what's going to happen on mobile gaming and cell phones. There will be convergence. That's the beauty of cell phones you don't need to go out and buy a disc. You don't need to go to the store to do anything. You just download it. And that's where the cell phone has its power. It's the convenience of downloading over the air.
oh God, I hope a new Military Madness game is in the pipeline, for DS and/or Wii!!!


Wii U:Progearspec


Hey, handygrafx, you might enjoy this:

Hudson announces Nectaris DS
QuoteHudson Announces Nectaris DS


"Hudson Announces Nectaris DS", that's the headline I long to hear. Nectaris, released in North America as Military Madness, is fantastically popular in Japan, and it has a cult following overseas.

Unlike most hex grid strategy games Nectaris focuses on strategy and tactics rather than unit stats and realism. Realism is, in fact, eschewed in favour of a fanciful plot, with tanks and planes fighting for dominance on the surface of Earth's moon.

It's much easier to learn than Nintendo's popular Advance Wars, not being bogged down with frivolous features like commanders with different skills and special attacks. Nectaris is also very hard on the player, with the odds stacked against the player on every map. Unlike Advance Wars' endless battles of attrition, Nectaris demands that players use strategy and terrain to their advantage from the very first stage. Playing your units against the CPU head-on is the quickest way to end the game. Players must instead use field effects, called "Zone of Control", to surround and weaken enemies, and boost the offensive and defensive capabilities of allies. (See NFG Nectaris Guide)

Nectaris is a game that cries out for a DS release. It could make especially good use of the DS' dual screen architecture. I imagine being able to tap a unit on the bottom screen and seeing its details on the top, or scrolling around the zoomed-in map on the bottom and seeing the whole battlefield on top.

And the wireless capabilities! Nectaris has always had a two-player option, but hinking about wireless or (dare I say it) internet multiplayer makes me weak in the knees.

And then the extras. The virtually unlimited storage afforded by the DS carts could easily see all the maps from the PC Engine and Playstation versions as well as the extra units from the incredible Neo Nectaris bundled into one package. The DS is such an ideal platform for this game that it is nigh criminal for Hudson to not release this game. It's easy on the resources and there's a guaranteed audience of old fans, and the success of Advance Wars has created an awareness of the genre, with new fans looking to scratch an itch.

Come on, Hudson, how about it?

If not for them, do it for me.


Quote from: stevek666Hey, handygrafx, you might enjoy this:
Hudson announces Nectaris DS
I saw that article a couple weeks ago and just about crapped myself....till i started reading the first paragraph...then i was oh so sad  :cry:  :cry:  :cry:


Quote from: stevek666Hey, handygrafx, you might enjoy this:
Hudson announces Nectaris DS
already saw that but thanks anyway.  you would not believe how badly i soiled my pants when i first started to read that, not realizing at first it was just a WISH  :wink: