You’ve seen the news hit the wire and probably a few gaming blogs that Hudson Entertainment is shutting it’s doors. Let me be clear, Hudson ENTERTAINMENT. Not Hudson Soft. Hudson Soft is still a company with offices in Tokyo, Japan that will still be employing a good handful of people. Hudson Entertainment was part of Hudson Soft and we handled bringing Hudson’s games to North American territories. All major Japanese publishers have a similar set-up from Sega, to Capcom, to Konami. But as you may have seen in the news, Konami has acquired the entirety of the Hudson group, and the offices in Japan will likely be focusing on social games. You can read it here. Unfortunately, as a result, the San Mateo offices of Hudson Entertainment are shutting down. Lastly, these are my own personal thoughts on the matter and are in no way representative of the Hudson group.
I should start by saying that over the past 3 years, I have worked with one of the most talented and knowledgeable groups of people in the industry. Amar Gavhane and Mike Pepe are both extremely learned in their fields and passionate about gaming to boot. In short, they kick ass, and they taught me a ton. Since this was my first position in the gaming industry, (not counting the internship I had done with Hudson in my last year of college in 2006) I had a ton to learn, and they were absolutely crucial in my development. For that, I’ll always be grateful, whether I continue to stay in the industry, or not. Peter Dassenko was Hudson’s clutch Producer for titles like the Bomberman Live series, and was always pushing innovation and partnerships with key developers stateside. Takehito Hanyu taught me the love of learning Japanese and how to be an all around computer geek. I not only continue to learn the language, but I also have a kick ass gaming PC thanks to him. There’s so many other amazing people there, Bob Goad, Tammy Taw, Yusuke Tsugawa, Darin Dahlinger; not to mention folks I worked with who had moved on prior, Andrew Plempel, Sebastian Santacroce, Andres Perez, and many others.
As the industry continues to march towards the drum of Western game development, and as someone who grew up on Japanese game design, it’s tough to see that Japan has fallen behind when it comes to bringing world-wide hits to gamers. The act of producing and developing a game in Japan, and then bringing that game over to the US to compete in an increasingly competitive market is more and more, and incredibly tough proposition. A challenge in itself to be sure, but to compound the issue, communication and collaboration issues seem to be hampering the chances of success. In previous generations, developers only had so many factors to worry about to produce a title that meets a general level of acceptance. But as we, as gamers, became more accustomed to games that demanded not only more from the player, and in turn, more from the developer, many companies seem to be having a hard time keeping up.
At the end of the day though, and this is no secret, game development is a business. And all companies have certainly done their best to keep on top of the heap. Communication problems aside, there’s also that little issue of money. And while many Japanese companies have been around for years, it’s clear that many don’t have the money muscle to bring on big talent, and create big experiences. In this current landscape, it’s tough now to have companies that find a place somewhere right in the middle. You’re either a hit, or an indie developer looking to be a hit.
A special note goes to the fans demanding a return of the Bloody Roar series. It was something I personally pushed for in the company, despite the crowded fighting game market. With digital distribution channels like XBLA and PSN, I felt there was a chance, if done right, to re-invigorate the series. There were some game design documents sent around internally of some spin-offs of the series, but it didn’t seem like it was the right direction. There was a chance for something to happen late 2011, early 2012; but clearly, we won’t see what was to be. To the Bloody Roar fans out there, I read every single one of your messages, petitions, and calls for the series to be brought back. You guys are awesome, and perhaps some day, a developer and a publisher will pick it up, and do it justice. Until then, just know, you guys rock.
All together, the key to better success for these companies needs to be grounded in higher communication and collaboration on a game’s development from beginning to end. I could go more into detail about specific points for specific games, but speaking from a general level; bring the development out from isolation and use the creative resources we had here stateside to engage in a more collaborative development process. We have so many fun titles that could have benefited from our collective passion. So many franchises that we could have created and improved upon to make gamers sit up and pay attention. In fact, it was an initiative I had wanted to see through by going to the corporate office in Japan with the above mission in mind. But without taking measurable steps to bridge the culture, communication, and collaboration gap, we end up missing out.
With all that said, I’ll miss Hudson and the work we did there. I remember playing Bomberman and Milon’s Secret Castle as a kid. I remember the thrill of getting the internship there. Going to my first E3 in 2006 and knowing that this was the industry I was meant for. Meeting members of the press of who’s work I had always read, the friends I made, the friend I lost, working on my first website, working on my first marketing plan, going to SD Comic Con, NY Comic Con, PAX, interacting with big-time Hudson fans and the gaming community at shows, on our forums, on Twitter, Facebook; I’ll never forget it. For all the nuttyness that was Hudson Entertainment, our team never lost the love of the game, of the industry, and for everything that gaming culture represents. It’s who we are, and what we do. Let’s hope it stays that way.
So what will become of Hudson Entertainment now? It’s strange to think about all these web presences I carved out, all these social media initiatives I planned that were meant to continue to breathe life into our titles far past release. Brand plans created for titles that will never ship, or if they do, I’ll have nothing to do with them. www.hudsonent.com underwent a huge redesign last year, and now, I’m sure that domain will be shut down within a month or so. All the plans I had laid for our titles in 2011, will cease to exist. As usual, I was going to be tasked with the development of all the microsites and social media planning for the year, as well as handle the brand management for a handful of titles on 3DS, Kinect, and the NGP. And there were some really amazing cool ideas on the table on how we were going to push the envelope in those departments, including integrating some really awesome initiatives with social media as the platform. But what’s great is that I can take all that same creative energy that went into those ideas, and bring it to another wonderful company, or perhaps one day, a company of my own.
So without further ado: WHO’S HIRING? (note: I’m now working with the fine folks at Sony Computer Entertainment on the PlayStation Network team); so hooray for things!
Cheers to the Hudson team!
Mike Pepe is an outstanding Director of Marketing
Amar Gavhane will manage your brands so hard it hurts.
Peter Dassenko is a producer extraordinaire. Bomberman is awesome because of his work.
Dan Petit oversees development of titles stateside, and he’s fantastic.
Ian Bambao is an amazingly talented graphic designer.
Tammy Taw handles project management and channel marketing like the pro she is.
Bob Goad makes sure all the nuts and tech behind your events and presentations are on point.
Yusuke Tsugawa is an outstanding liaison between US and Japan, keeping projects and development schedules running.