Q Entertainment's puzzle masters speak

<i>Weekly Famitsu</i> interviews Tetsuya Mizuguchi and Shuji Utsumi--makers of the handheld power duo Lumines and Meteos--on their plans for the future.

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The August 11 issue of Weekly Famitsu features an in-depth interview with Q Entertainment CEO Shuji Utsumi and COO Tetsuya Mizuguchi. The company, now three years old, has produced two of the most critically acclaimed puzzle games in recent history: Meteos for the Nintendo DS and Lumines for the Sony PlayStation Portable.

Q Entertainment's founding slogan, "Quest for the Future Entertainment," is as true now as ever, Mizuguchi said. "We continue to hold on to this sentiment. The structure of the game industry has transcended media, borders, and even market boundaries, so this idea expresses our wish to find something that people around the world can enjoy casually."

Utsumi further stressed that the evolution of gaming provides developers with new opportunities. "In our generation, many products have added support for interactivity. This gives developers a chance to shine in virtually every field--mobile phones, PCs, handheld consoles, etc. My work is to provide them with an environment where they can take center stage and show us how talented they are."

Turning to the subject of Lumines, Mizuguchi was pleased by the game's success, as it contributes directly to his long-term ambitions. "My life's work, ever since my Sega days, when I made Space Channel 5 and Rez, is to combine music and gaming," he said.

"I'd been thinking about how to approach a network structure for Lumines," he said. "Things got started when we saw what Apple was doing with music and video downloads. I wanted to make it possible to play and buy games as easily as video or music--I think this approach is very suitable for our generation."

Mizuguchi went on to explain his obsession with merging gaming and music. "There are a lot of people around the world who love games and a lot of people who love music. But points of contact between these two are very rare," he said.

Utsumi added, "I think the users have various points of view on this. Some like games in and of themselves, some mainly listen to music, still others view both as a kind of accessory. We can be most effective by providing a variety of 'cuisines' compatible with many different tastes."

The key to doing this is a flexible corporate culture. Utsumi has a very unique management style, Mizuguchi said. Specifically, he doesn't like to see employees at their desks. "[Utsumi] said to us, 'You guys are digital backpackers. Take a bag, hit the road, and get your inspiration from various people.'" Utsumi elaborated, "We don't have our own desks [at the company]. We carry around laptops so we can work anywhere. Location is no longer important. It's a very interesting age."

The "Lumines Framework"--the collective name for Lumines Mobile, Lumines Live!, and Lumines II--reflects the company's culture of mobility and cross-border thinking. "We're inviting artists from around the world to participate in Lumines II," Mizuguchi said. "If we see a video or hear a song we like, we're trying to put it into the game. We've contacted about 20 groups. Almost all gave us the OK"--including the Black Eyed Peas, the Chemical Brothers, Beck, Fatboy Slim, Gwen Stefani, Hoobastank, and New Order. Shinichi Osawa from the original Lumines will also return to contribute songs.

Mizuguchi felt that the company's ability to sign such big artists reflects how far games have come over the past 10 years. He drew a parallel to car licenses: "When we were making Sega Rally and asked the big auto manufacturers' permission to use their cars, we were told, 'Games are no good.' They changed their tune when we showed them the 3D graphics...Musicians are [now] slowly becoming aware of games, and a new synergy is in the process of emerging...I think it's great that we can incorporate music and music videos, just as the artists created them, into games."

Utsumi wrapped things up by hinting that even more projects are underway. "We still have projects we can't talk about yet and are facing many new challenges. We will gradually announce these."

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