Electronic Arts developing next-gen console game in Japan

EA's David Gardner outlines corporate plans to expand in Japanese game market by developing locally.

According to the latest issue of Famitsu magazine, Electronic Arts is planning to increase its market share in Japan by developing games targeting the country's gamers. The magazine features an interview with EA's David Hardner, senior vice president of international publishing. Gardner currently oversees EA's European and Asian publishing operations, which account for more than half of the company's $3.1 billion annual revenue.

In the interview, Gardner revealed that his company will employ two major strategies to expand its market share in the Japanese gaming industry. The first step will be to narrow down the number of games the company imports to Japan, selecting games most suited toward the taste of local consumers.

However, American games are still generally cult products in Japan, aside from a few titles such as the Grand Theft Auto series. Gardner said that it will be easier to win over the Japanese customers' interest by developing games locally rather than by trying to convince them that American games are good. So as its second step, EA is expanding its studio in Japan.

Gardner revealed that EA has been doubling its investment into its Japanese studio since last year and that an original new title for a next-generation platform is already under development. Gardner didn't disclose a platform for the game yet, although he added that the game should be officially announced in the near future. EA could announce its Japan-produced game at Microsoft's Xbox Summit coming up on July 25 or at Sony's PlayStation meeting on July 21.

Although Gardner admitted that the tastes of the Japanese game consumers are different from American ones, he also said that their preferences should be changing in the future. He explained that the Japanese consumers currently prefer anime-style graphics, but the next-generation consoles will bring about the demands for more-realistic images. Gardner believes that the Japanese users will begin to look at American-made games differently when realistic graphics become more standard.

Gardner added that EA acquired Criterion Studios (the developer of the Renderware game development suite) last year to help prepare for next-generation console development. Gardner explained that Criterion‘s Renderware effectively allows for EA's developers in different countries to work together on a single project. When the developers in one country are sleeping, the developers in another country will work on the game, which effectively shortens the period required for its creation. Gardner raised FIFA 2005 as one such example, saying that 20 percent of the game was created by developers living in Japan, 40 percent by developers in Canada, and 40 percent by developers in Europe.

At the current time, Electronic Arts plans to release more than 25 games for the next-generation consoles, using a multiplatform release strategy that will be based on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. In terms of game releases for the existing machines during the current business year, Gardner said that EA plans to release approximately 26 games for the PSP and DS, 20 to 30 games for the PlayStation 2, and about 10 games for the Xbox and GameCube.

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