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Level-5: understanding Japan’s best-kept secret

Thursday, 6 December 2012 08:58 GMT By Dave Cook

Level-5 has created some of the most successful Japanese exports of the generation, yet its inner workings remain a mystery. Dave Cook speaks with the CEO Akihiro Hino to gain some insight.

Level-5

Based in Fukuoka, Japan. Founded by president and CEO CEO Akihiro Hino.

Creators of Professor Layton and the Curiuos Village, the Ni No Kuni series, Inazuma Eleven, Dragon Quest VIII, Dark Cloud and Rogue Galaxy.

Level-5 has a busy schedule for 2013, with key future releases Fantasy Life for Nintendo 3DS, Gundam Age and Little Battlers to look forward to.

The city of Fukuoka rests on the northern shore of Kyushu, Japan’s third-largest island. It’s said to be a place where metropolitan living, clean streets, and innovation are commonplace, and serves as one of the country’s key entertainment-producing hubs. Among the prosperity and potential sits Level-5, arguably one of the most successful game studios in Japan today.

Founded in 1998, Level-5′s notoriety in the West has grown considerably over the years, thanks to critically-acclaimed releases such as the stellar PS2 role-playing epic Dragon Quest VIII, and of course its highly successful Professor Layton series, which saw it building a strong working relationship with Nintendo.

The Layton series is itself a phenomenon – having surpassed lifetime sales of 13 million units sold in March this year – but it’s still rare to hear the company talking about its good fortune, or about the way it operates internally. Typically, Nintendo or other publishers do all the talking on its behalf.

Here in the West, developers and their publishers often wax lyrical during pre-planned and often-expensive press junkets, giving game critics an insight into how they function. Yet here is Level-5, a company that remains relatively guarded in the West, saying very little on these shores itself, but still enjoying significant success.

It’s a mystery to many, yet a growing number of its games are globally recognised. In 2010, Level-5 released a set of photos from within its lush Fukuoka HQ, giving the impression that the studio was doing rather well indeed.

Try this glittering view on for size:

This rare glimpse sparked new interest in the press concerning Level-5′s inner workings, and highlighted a studio enjoying great success across the globe. It’s a studio that has always fascinated me, yet I’ve actually known very little about it.

I was lucky enough to secure an email interview with Level-5 President and CEO Akihiro Hino in an attempt to strip back some of the mystery and ask him about how the company operates, the role of its newly-opened ‘International America’ studio, and its next releases Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, and Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney.

It’s important to note that Hino conceptualises and produces every game that comes out of Level-5, suggesting that he has a good eye for quality. In fact, Hino holds standards in high regard, as suggested in his official Level-5 mission statement. This keen eye for quality and bankable concepts is an asset that has helped the studio become one of the ten largest game companies in Japan today.

Among his company’s many qualities, Hino attributes Level-5′s current standing to its broad reach beyond Japan’s borders, “I believe that it’s because some of our original titles such as the Professor Layton series or the Inazuma Eleven series have gained so much traction outside of Japan.

“I also believe that it’s because we put in the time and effort to make every single release a success, even if it doesn’t end up becoming a franchise. Our company started with only ten people, and we’ve grown to house close to 300 staff as well as new departments, such as PR, marketing, and sales. We’ve also expanded our stage beyond video games into anime, manga, and movies.

“Time moves extremely fast in this generation, and so it is very important to predict what audiences want now more than ever before.”

“But we still maintain the ideals we had at the beginning: We want to create five-star titles that everyone can enjoy. We’re striving to become one of the top entertainment brands in the world.”

It didn’t start this way for Hino of course, as he first got his foot in the door at now-defunct studio Riverhillsoft in the early ’90s. His first job was as lead programmer on PlayStation survival horror title Overblood, and after work had wrapped on the game’s sequel, Hino decided to branch off with a group of colleagues with a view to creating his own company.

Hino was initially unsure of his ability to form a company that could compete as an independent studio, so he turned to Sony and began talking business. Sony quickly offered him a PlayStation 2 publishing deal on the provision that he create his own studio first, and as such, Level-5 was born. In 2000 the studio began work on its first title, the critically-acclaimed RPG Dark Cloud.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Level-5 released its first self-published game: the runaway Nintendo DS hit Professor Layton and the Curious Village. While the game was published by Nintendo in the West, Hino had proved that his growing studio could stand up on its home turf among a sea of giants.

Hino agreed however that these are now volatile times, and that the gaming populace and market at large are becoming harder to predict as the industry advances, “I believe that our success can be attributed to LEVEL-5’s speed and flexibility as an organization.

“I may be at the helm, but our greatest strength as a company is our ability to adapt quickly so that we don’t miss out on opportunities, whether they are in production or advertising. Time moves extremely fast in this generation, and so it is very important to predict what audiences want now more than ever before.

“I believe we will eventually see things separate into two polar extremes,” Hino added in regard to the way software might shift moving forward, “One type of game that can be picked up and played on the go, such as those on cell phones for example, while console and PC games will be more cinematic, with higher quality imagery. Games continue to grow and develop based on these loose definitions.”

“Ni no Kuni began as a concept that for our 10th anniversary as a company, we wanted to create something that we were passionate about and that would have meaning, instead of focusing on sales.”

In an attempt to catch wider trends and to branch out into the global market, Level-5 opened its first Western site earlier this year, dubbed ‘Level-5 International America’. The studio recently released the GUILD01 collection on Nintendo 3DS, which is a four-game compilation featuring contributions from Grasshopper Manufacture founder Suda 51, creator of Dreamcast oddity Seaman Yoot Saito and Ogre Battle creator Yasumi Matsuno.

I asked Hino what Level-5 International America exists to achieve, and whether or not this expansion overseas could lead to a collaboration with Western studios further down the line, “One way they benefit us is to help us understand the culture outside of Japan. Another is to make LEVEL-5’s entertainment available to everyone in their native language. Level-5 International America is an invaluable partner to making these things happen.

“We don’t have any plans to partner with any Western studios at this time. However, these types of collaborations between two popular studios seem to create hype and set player expectations that could be compared to the feeling you get at a celebration in some ways.

“From a developer’s point of view, these opportunities are very appealing, as we get to understand and learn each other’s culture, techniques, technology, and see a new point of view on product development.”

So that’s not a ‘no’ on the Western collaboration front, but given Hino’s scant reply to questions regarding the way in which his studio operates, I got the feeling that it’s still an area that remains shrouded – whether this is deliberate or not remains up for debate.

Thankfully Hino seemed much happier to discuss the studio’s incoming releases – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney – due for release on PS3 and 3DS next year respectively.

Working with the ‘Disney of Japan’

Hino believes that through Level-5, and his involvement with local movement the Game Factory Friendship, he can help turn the studio’s home of Fukuoka into what he calls the “Hollywood of the gaming industry.” Collaborating with Studio Ghibli – widely regarded to be the Japanese equivalent of Disney – is a solid step towards realising this lofty goal.

The partnership resulted in the development of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch on PS3, and the Japan-only DS release Ni no Kuni: Shikkoku no Madōshi. The PS3 game has yet to launch in the West, despite releasing in Japan back in November last year.

Hino confirmed that the delay is largely down to translation, with the game’s entire script resulting in, “a million Japanese characters.” Given the size of the RPG, it’s no surprise that localisation has taken so long.

“We gave Studio Ghibli and Momose-san a general plot idea and the high concept of the world. Then we gave them complete freedom to create their own world that would realise Studio Ghibli’s style to the fullest.”

I ask Hino to go back to the beginning, and to recall how the collaboration with the artistic driving force came about, “Ni no Kuni began as a concept that for our 10th anniversary as a company, we wanted to create something that we were passionate about and that would have meaning, instead of focusing on sales.

“We discussed the idea with Studio Ghibli to give the game its unique identity, which is more important than anything else when creating a game. We had many discussions with Momose-san, the animation director from Ghibli, about each character’s concept art, the art boards, and the story boards.

“We also had the actors give us their performance advice at the motion capture studio for direction. Momose-san was overjoyed that the game ended up very close to Studio Ghibli’s hand-drawn animation style, to the point that it’s like playing a game inside a Studio Ghibli film.”

Hino’s not wrong. Ni No Kuni really does capture the essence of what makes Studio Ghiibli’s films so endearing. It follows orphaned boy Oliver who is sucked into an alternate reality and begins a long quest to find his mother Arie. it’s a turn-based RPG that feels like a solid amalgamation of Level-5′s work to date.

It has the art style of Ghibli combined with the colourful palette of Dragon Quest VIII, the charm of Professor Layton and the strategic thinking of Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy and other Level-5 titles. It’s a wonderful celebration of all the things Hino strives for, and its an end-product that relied heavily on mutual respect.

“We gave Studio Ghibli and Momose-san a general plot idea and the high concept of the world,” Hino explained. “Then we gave them complete freedom to create their own world that would realise Studio Ghibli’s style to the fullest. Since we gave them free reign to work exactly as they do when creating an animated film, we did not ask them to do anything outside of their comfort zone. All-in-all it went very smoothly.”

The puzzling professor

Level-5 is also working on the madcap Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney for Nintendo 3DS, in with the studio’s flagship hero crosses paths with Capcom’s blundering lawyer Phoenix Wright. The game takes the pair back to the days of witch hunts, in which innocent women were charged with witch craft – which of course is the perfect kind of court case for Wright-flavoured escapades.

It’s a bizarre crossover, but the project’s strange nature is exactly why Hino pursued it in the first place, confident that the freedom of both franchises would yield positive results, “When the project began, I was very excited to see what kind of story would evolve when the worlds of Professor Layton and Ace Attorney were merged.

“The main characters wander into a place where knights and magic are reality, and they have to tackle a large puzzle called a Witch Trial in a world where common sense is invalid. The story unfolds in a way that’s never been done in either series, and I think that players will be excited to see how it all works.

“We have many, many elements included in the game, and it will not only be a puzzle-solving game, but true entertainment.”

“It’s interesting how at first, having the two characters and their distinctive styles in the same game seems very fresh and unique, but as you progress through the game, the two characters and their worlds start to collide and this fusion starts to feel like it was normal all along.”

Beyond Level-5′s crossover, the core Layton series is approaching its final chapter. The game’s working title is Professor Layton and the Azran Legacies, and it’s also in development for 3DS. Hino teases that this will be a vast, globe-spanning outing for the professor, and one that the studio has gone to great lengths to achieve.

Hino explained, “We are preparing some grand mechanics that are fit for such an end. I think the story will also end up being the best in the series as the truth behind Professor Layton and all the characters who have become regulars in the series is revealed.

“This will be an adventure that traverses the entire world, a first in the series, allowing the player to move around the world map freely. And of course, the sheer volume of puzzles will be greater than ever before. We have many, many elements included in the game, and it will not only be a puzzle-solving game, but true entertainment.”

“When establishing LEVEL-5, I was set on creating games that would bring the children of today the same excitement I felt as a child. This single desire is what inspired us to start this company.”

Will the series continue on with a new lead or off-shoot? Hino isn’t entirely down on the idea, “I don’t know for sure. We haven’t planned anything yet, but I feel that there are many great possibilities in the style of Professor Layton, so we many end up creating something similar to it or in the same vein.”

While Layton’s adventures are coming to a close, his mark on the industry – in terms of sales, critical reaction and the educational nature of its puzzles – have been felt far and wide. Looking back, Hino is grateful for the series’ success, and for the success is has brought to Level-5′s door.

“Yes. It has been deeply rewarding,” he admitted, “being that Professor Layton was the first title we published ourselves here in Japan. Of course, I always hoped that it would be accepted in the West, but I never expected it to become this popular. It’s the greatest feeling to know that Professor Layton is so well loved in the United Kingdom, because the series is set in England and the character is modelled as a true English Gentlemen.”

Level-5 is an entity that has enjoyed great success so far, penetrating Western markets with a great deal of success, and enjoying the kind of sales that should ensure its future for many generations to come. It’s refreshing that Hino has never lost site of what makes games special along the way.

Going back to Hino’s official company statement one last time, there is a particular line that sets out his vision for Level-5, and it paints a noble, humble view on why his studio makes games in the first place.

“When establishing Level-5, I was set on creating games that would bring the children of today the same excitement I felt as a child. This single desire is what inspired us to start this company.”

Judging by the playful, entertaining nature of Level-5′s games, and millions of titles it has managed to sell worldwide, I’d say Hino has stayed the course so far. Wouldn’t you agree?

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9 Comments

  1. matirishhh

    Amazing studio. Very good interview Dave. You could also attach the latest behind the scenes video from Ni-no Kuni.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 funnily enough I wasn’t aware of the clip until this morning, thanks to the way my shift works. But good point, I should attach it :)

    Thanks for the feedback!

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Ireland Michael

    Level 5 is one of the few remaining great examples in Japan for the quintessential eastern gaming experience.

    Although White Knight Chronicles was honestly utter garbage, almost everything else this studio has released has been absolutely stellar, and they are the benchmark for JRPGs in general. Dragon Quest VIII is still one of the greatest JRPGs ever made.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @3 “Dragon Quest VIII is still one of the greatest JRPGs ever made.”

    Absolutely :)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Ireland Michael

    It was the first time I evet played an RPG and truly, genuinely felt like I was in a huge world of immense scope and size. And thats saying a lot, considering I’m an Ultima fan.

    It completely redefined the genre and set incredibly high new standards for the genre in general. Even to this day, very few other video games have been able to come even close to matching its sense of scale and immersion.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Hino has such a strong hand in the involvement of every game the company produces. Level 5 is one of the very few companies where I can say that a demand for excellence and quality isn’t just PR buzztalk, but a genuine mindset of the studio. I hope these guys keep going for a long time to come – Square Enix could learn a thing or two from them right now, to be honest.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Dragon246

    Great studio, although they aren’t doing very hot in japan right now, with some big releases not living up in sales. Hope they jump back though.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. KrazyKraut

    Some weeks ago I played Overblood 2 on PSX and read Akihiro Hino in the opening credits…sounded familiar and BAM I checked and knew where I heared it. Thx for the interview.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Dave Cook

    @7 small world :) No worries, cheers for reading.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. kwando1313

    Hmm… Was wondering about this part here: “Professor Layton vs Ace Attorney – due for release on PS3 and 3DS next year respectively.” Can we take that as confirmation that Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney will be localized for next year?

    #9 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • Avalanche is making sure Mad Max stays “true to the collective body of work”

    Mad Max developer’s Avalanche Studios sat down with Game Informer, as part of its month-long exclusive coverage, to discuss the game’s development and physics-based car combat. In the video below, director Frank Rooke and senior producer John Fuller explain the process of designing the open-world game; how the narrative was fully integrated into the gameplay […]

  • Destiny will get another update before House of Wolves drops

    Destiny got a major update with patch 1.1.1 last week, but Bungie isn’t done. The next major Destiny update will arrive before the House of Wolves expansion. In this week’s Bungie Weekly Update, the developer said it wasn’t ready to share details yet. However, more information will be shared in the coming weeks. The update […]

  • A beta version of Guild Wars 2′s streaming client releasing soon

    ArenaNet has announced a beat version of its streaming client for Guild Wars 2 will be released alongside its upcoming update. How it works is explained in the latest blog post, but in short, it gets players into the game faster, much the same way the streaming client works in World of Warcraft. “Our goal […]

  • Steam storefront updated with Steam Machines, other product pages

    Valve has updated the Steam storefront with a list of various Steam Machines on offer, which range from $460 to $5,000. There is also a store page for the Steam Controller and Steam Link, both of which are out in November for $49.99 each. Steam Machines listed on the service feature a link to the […]

  • Finally, we get a look at Necropolis in action – video

    No longer content with releasing only gifs of Necropolis, Harebrained Schemes has decided to provide a short video. The upcoming third-person action rogue-like with procedurally generated levels is headed to Linux, Mac and PC sometime next year, with a possible console release as well. If you made to PAX East despite the weather, don’t forget […]

  • Super Dungeon Bros will be one of the first cross-play titles for Xbox One, Windows 10

    Another cross-device multiplayer game for Windows 10 and Xbox One has been announced, and it’s Super Dungeon Bros – a “rock-themed, co-op dungeon brawler” from React Games. Super Dungeon Bros tasks four “bros” with raiding underground crypts built by the gods through an ever-changing layout. There, they will be up against “dangerous foes, deadly obstacles, […]

  • Pre-ordering State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition in US nets an in-game knife

    Those who pre-order the State of Decay: Year-One Survival Edition will net a bonus, according to Undead Labs. Select retailers in the US will offer the following knives as in-game pre-order bonus content: GameStop -  The Avalonian :  A true work of art, taken off the body of a fantasy enthusiast whose excitement at having […]

  • Rollercoaster Tycoon World gameplay teaser video released

    Today, Atari has provided a look at gameplay for Rollercoaster Tycoon World. Set for release during the first part of this year, the game allows players to build their own rides and which can be shared with other players. It will also feature four-player co-op.

  • One Heist challenge in GTA Online pays out $10 million in cash

    GTA Online’s new Heists content was previewed by various outlets at GDC 2015 this week, and according to hands-on with the free upcoming content, there’s over 20 hours worth of things to do and quite a bit of money to gain. Oh, and a VTOL Hydra jet too. According to a really informative piece from […]

  • Activision Blizzard makes Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list

    For the first time, Activision Blizzard has been named to Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list for 2015. The survey conducted by Fortune found the company “ranked highly with its employees” which felt the atmosphere was friendly and place in which they could “be themselves.” “We have always considered Activision Blizzard to be […]

  • Evolve Hunt for Gold Weekend nets players special monster skin

    A Evolve community event is taking place this weekend, and participants will receive a special skin for Goliath, Kraken, and Wraith. Dubbed the Evolve Hunt for Gold Weekend, it’s the first in a series of upcoming online community challenges and events taking place over the coming months. Those who log-in starting today at 9pm PST […]

  • This video teases contents of Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 3

    A teaser video and images for Resident Evil: Revelations 2 – Episode 3 have been posted by Capcom. The assets can be considered potential spoilers, so just be aware of that before having a look. The game’s Season Pass costs $20, and the disc version releases March 17 in North America and on March 20 […]

  • GTA Online Heists teaser video is extremely short

    With Heists coming to GTA Online next week, Rockstar has released one of the shortest teaser videos we’ve seen in ages. Hopefully you didn’t blink. Heists, along with Daily Objectives and Adversary Mode, arrive next week on March 10. The PC version of Heists will arrive on April 14 when the PC version of the […]

  • The Division rumors claim Dark Zones support up to 100 players – video

    With the recent leak of older, pre-alpha footage of the The Division, rumors over the game’s contents have been swirling, and today we have a video for you discussing said rumors. Once of the rumors pertain to the game is that it contains 50-100 Player Dark Zones, which are PvP areas. Supposedly, these areas also […]

  • Here’s a look at MGS5: The Phantom Pain emblem creation, limited edition bionic arm

    A look at how to create your own emblems in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain was demonstrated in the latest Kojima Station broadcast, along with a look at the bionic arm replica included in the limited edition. A Venom Snake emblem will come with the limited edition version of the game, parts of […]

  • Elite: Dangerous coming to PS4 once Xbox One exclusivity period ends

    Elite: Dangerous was announced for Xbox One at GDC 2015 yesterday, and those disappointed over the lack of a PlayStation 4 announcement will be pleased to know it’s in the cards. According to Frontier boss David Braben the space-sim will head to PS4 at some point, once the console exclusivity deal with Microsoft has expired. […]

  • Here’s two new The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt screenshots to salivate over

    Two new screenshots from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt have been released, and they are gorgeous as always. The screenshots follow the two released over the weekend. You can look at the new images in full HD glory over on Only Single Player. CD Projekt Red is at PAX East this weekend showing off the latest […]

  • Microsoft looking into streaming PC games to Xbox One

    With Windows 10, Xbox One users will soon be able to stream their games to PC. Microsoft is also looking into streaming PC games to Xbox One, according to news out of GDC. Speaking with Polygon at GDC 2015, Xbox program director Mike Ybarra said the company is also looking into the ability to stream […]

  • Free! Vindictus Lann Revamp codes worth €25

    We have 400 Lann Revamp codes worth €25 to giveaway for free to VG247 readers. All you need to do is enter your details in the box below and you’ll be given a code to redeem in game. The codes are for warrior character Lann and offer a 7 day unlimited Inner Armour pass, battle […]

  • US eShop update: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, OlliOlli, more

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, OlliOlli and a demo version of Azure Striker GUNVOL. Your full update is below. eShop Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars – Wii U, 3DS – Cross Buy OlliOlli – Wii U, 3DS – Cross-Buy Proun+ – Proun+ […]

  • Rock Band 4 confirmed for Xbox One and PS4: supports old instruments and 2,168 songs

    Harmonix has lifted the lid on the long-rumoured Rock Band 4, stating it will support 2,168 previously released tracks and last-gen instruments on PS4 and Xbox One. The game will be out this year. Harmonix has yet to reveal specific features for the game, but it has been built with a completely new engine. As […]

  • First run of Rodea the Sky Soldier copies on Wii U come with Wii version

    The first print run of Rodea the Sky Soldier on Wii U will come with the Wii version packed in, NIS America has confirmed. The publisher confirmed today in a press release that anyone who buys the first run of the retail version of Rodea the Sky Soldier on Wii U will find the Wii […]

  • Unreal Tournament 4 lets modders sell cosmetic items to players

    Unreal Tournament 4 is a game built with the help of the modding community. So it’s only natural that it will feature a marketplace where all cosmetic items can be sold. Epic Games has confirmed that it will allow modders from the community to sell the cosmetics items they’ve created on the game’s marketplace. The […]

  • D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is coming to PC – rumour

    SWERY 65 has shown off D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die running on PC at GDC this week, teasing that a possible port may be on the way. D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is SWERY 65′s latest project. An episodic detective affair, D4 came out on Xbox One last September and utilised Kinect as its main […]

  • Valve’s Lighthouse, VR controllers and more explained

    Valve’s less-talked about prototype VR controllers and its Lighthouse technology have been shown in more detail. When HTC announced Vive, the VR headset it’s working on with Valve, it mentioned “base stations” and ergonomic controllers. Now we know what they meant by that. The controllers are still in prototype phase, and will look better when […]

  • Listen to two professional Counter-Strike players explain why Dust2 is so popular

    Hear what makes iconic Counter-Strike map Dust2 one of the most popular maps in shooter history from two former eSports players. Sal “Volcano” Garozzo and Shawn “FMPONE” Snelling are both retired professional Counter-Strike players who are currently working as designers. At GDC this year, the pair hosted a panel titled “Community Level Design for Competitive […]

  • Core Morpheus hardware locked in, no plans for wireless version

    Sony has finalised the core hardware for its VR headset Project Morpheus, and does not currently plan on releasing a wireless version. SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida spoke to Gamespot at GDC and confirmed that the core hardware of Morpheus is “pretty much done” but that “lots of tweaks and improvements” are still being […]

  • Watch the full Phil Spencer keynote from GDC 2015

    The full GDC 2015 keynote of Xbox boss Phil Spencer is now available to watch. In case you missed last nights’s Phil Spencer keynote at GDC 2015, the whole thing has been made available to watch on YouTube. The address is titled “The Future of Gaming Across the Microsoft Ecosytem,” and it’s where Spencer announced […]

  • Elite: Dangerous won’t be “dumbed down” for Xbox One

    The Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous will in fact be the same as the PC one. Elite: Dangerous developer Frontier came out on stage last night at GDC to announce the game making its console debut on Xbox One. Some have feared that the port would not provide the same experience as the PC […]

  • Virtual reality: by gum, it’s really happening

    Virtual reality has exited the realm of peripheral gimmick and turned into something that just might go mainstream. VR has an uphill battle ahead of it. The tech is going to be expensive, and there are a number of problems that need to be solved before it could be considered an inclusive technology (motion sickness, […]

  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor takes Game of the Year at GDC Awards 2015

    And the winner is: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor beat out Alien: Isolation, Bayonetta 2, Destiny, and Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft to win Game of the Year at the Game Developer’s Choice Awards 2015. Elsewhere in the awards, Ustwo’s mobile hit Monument Valley was a stand-out favourite, with wins in the Innovation, […]

  • Alien: Isolation was prototyped in third-person – video

    Alien: Isolation is one of the most effectively scary triple-A games in years, but it didn’t start off a perfect creation of pure terror. Creative Assembly prototyped Alien: Isolation in third-person perspective before they nailed down the final approach. The developer revealed this during a GDC 2015 presentation, and it’s a good reminder that games […]

  • Madden 15 added to EA Vault

    Madden 15 is now included in EA’s all-you-can-eat subscriber service. Madden 15 is the ninth game to be added to the EA Vault, a stash of games available on demand for EA Access subscribers. It's still Madden Season for EA Access members – Madden NFL 15 is now in The Vault for all members. Go […]

  • Source Engine 2 doesn’t have hidden costs or royalties – but is Steam exclusive

    Three major engines went free at GDC 2015, and each of them is monetising in a different way. There’s been a heck of a lot of discussion about development tools and the costs associated with them during GDC 2015. First Epic announced that Unreal Engine 4 would be free, bar royalities on successful releases. Then […]

  • Final Fantasy creator hates sequels

    Final Fantasy, a byword in prolific franchises, was created by a man who hates sequel. Final Fantasy games are famous for being reinvented with each core release, and it was not until series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi began to withdraw from the franchise after Final Fantasy 9 that we started seeing regular sequels and spin-offs. Speaking […]

  • Guardian complaints led to the closure of Destiny’s Loot Cave

    Destiny players are to blame for the shuttering of the much loved Loot Cave. Early in Destiny‘s history, many players got hugely excited about the “Loot Cave”. Accessible shortly after starting the game for the first time, this high-volume spawn point allowed players to stand in one place, taking out waves and waves of low-level […]

  • Xbox and PC games boss Phil Harrison to leave Microsoft – rumour

    Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business VP and EMEA head of games Phil Harrison is rumoured to have thrown in the towel. Microsoft has not issued a statement on Harrison’s alleged departure, despite repeated questioning by press at GDC 2015. Instead, word comes via multiple sources speaking to GamesIndustry at the show. According to the rumours, Harrison […]

  • Metal Gear Online commentated trailer explains stuffed dog – but not invisibility

    Metal Gear Online developer Kojima Productions has provided significantly more insight into how the multiplayer side of The Phantom Pain works. Metal Gear Online is the online multiplayer component of Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. Konami hasn’t shared a great deal about it yet, but we did see a very cool Metal Gear […]

  • Elite: Dangerous Xbox One trailer shows off space MMO

    If Elite: Dangerous looks this good on Xbox One we have nothing to complain about. Microsoft revealed Elite: Dangerous is coming to Xbox One this year during its GDC presentations today. We don’t know very much about the port, but I suppose we ought to have expected it; Frontier Developments has a very close relationship […]

  • Battletoads to appear in Shovel Knight Xbox One

    A Battletoads remake must be on the horizon. Right? Right?? The Battletoads will appear in the upcoming Xbox One version of Shovel Knight, Yacht Club Games revealed today. The Battletoads drop in for a fight! Shovel Knight is headed to Xbox One and meets up with @RareLtd brawling trio! pic.twitter.com/OCQIuWbH3W — Yacht Club Games (@YachtClubGames) […]

  • The Division pre-alpha footage leaks, Ubisoft says it’s well out of date

    The Division fans finally got a look at Ubisoft’s MMO this week, but the publisher has said the footage is not in any way representative. Pre-alpha footage of the The Division was leaked this week, but has since been thoroughly smacked down by takedown notices. All that remains are a few screenshots and a GIF: […]

  • Microsoft HoloLens designer killed in hit and run accident

    Very sad news out of Redmond this week, as Mike Ey was killed in a tragic accident. Ey, 30, was one of the key project designers on Microsoft’s HoloLens AR headset. He was killed on Saturday morning in a rear-end collision. The driver of the second vehicle fled the scene but was tracked down by […]

  • AMD throws support behind VR with new low-latency anti-nausea tech

    GPU manufacturer AMD has released a new SDK compatible with “a broad set of VR devices”. Called LiquidVR, the tech is designed to “bring better content, comfort, and compatibility to VR applications” including games, simulation, entertainment, education, social media, travel, medicine, real estate and ecommerce, apparently. AMD said maintaining comfort and realism in VR environments […]

  • Danganronpa 3 in the works, but a long way off yet

    A new Danganronpa is happening. Danganronpa 3 is in the very, very early production stages, writer Kodaka Kazutaka has confirmed. Nothing about the project is “set in stone”, Kazutaka told Polygon, so there are no details to share yet; the characters and story may change several times before being finalised. The writer said he’s weighing […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League 2015 schedule announced

    Major League Gaming has announced the full schedule for the 2015 Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare MLG Pro League. The eSpots firm revealed two more seasons of Pro League, a live Relegation tournament for Season Three, and a season ending World Championship with $250,000 up for grabs You can watch all the action on MLG.tv […]

  • Happy Birthday PlayStation 2, you are almost old enough to drive

    Amidst all the GDC 2015 hoopla today, we forgot to wish PlayStation 2 a Happy Birthday. The system turned 15 years old today, going by its March 4, 2000 launch date in Japan. It was released in the west that autumn, and had shipped 100 million units in less than six years post launch. PS2 […]

  • Here’s what the final version of Valve’s Steam Controller looks like

    A look at the updated Steam Controller has surfaced via a hands-on post from Polygon. Valve said what you see in the images below is the final version of the controller. The controller has gone through numerous revisions since it was first revealed, but it seems Valve has decided on two touch pads which work […]

  • The Sims, SimCity developer closed down

    The Sims 4 developer Maxis has been shuttered, EA has confirmed. The Sims, SimCity and the rest of the Sim franchise has traditionally been helmed by Maxis, which had its flagship studio in Emeryville, California. Now EA has confirmed with Kotaku that this studio is being closed. “Today we are consolidating Maxis IP development to […]

  • Gigantic MOBA coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One with cross-play

    Today during GDC 2015, Microsoft announced that the new IP from Motiga called Gigantic will be cross-play enabled. Slated for Windows 10 and Xbox One, the five-on-five third-person battle arena game allows the player to select from an array of heroes with distinctive powers and play styles. Players will then make their way through areas […]

  • Here’s a look at Unreal Tournament DirectX 12 gameplay

    Epic Games is creating Unreal Tournament using Unreal Engine 4 running on DirectX 12, which Microsoft says “sets a new bar for visual fidelity.” DirectX 12 is a single API developers can access across Windows devices, which can result in a 20% improvement in performance over DX11 running on the same machine. The Unreal Tournament […]

  • Wireless adapter for Xbox One controllers out later this year

    Microsoft announced at GDC 2015 today it will that all wireless Xbox gaming accessories will be designed for and supported on both Xbox One consoles and Windows 10 PCs moving forward. Later this year, a wireless adapter will be released, allowing current Xbox controllers and future devices to be used wirelessly on PCs. This will […]