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Ignition: "The Japanese market is shrinking"

Publisher Ignition Entertainment, which has development studios in the US, UK and Japan, remains firmly committed to development and localisation of Japanese content despite a faltering market.

"There are very few independent guys in Japan that don’t have a Western subsidiary, but those little guys need someone to help them," business development director Shane Bettenhausen told Siliconera.

"Trust me, I was just in Japan two weeks ago and the little guys I was meeting with don’t know how to succeed in the West and the Japanese market is shrinking.

"I think the future is to make games together for the global market. That’s what I really want to do with Japan is actually from the ground up create a game with a Japanese developer that would work everywhere."

The executive outlined his plans to continue supporting creative games, rather than treading a pure marketing line, like El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, which he called "unique".

El Shaddai TGS 2010 trailer

"I’m proud to get to work on a game like that where the artistry came before the product. It wasn’t born in a marketing meeting – what are the notes that gamers are looking for? Does this have all of the things that you know Call of Duty has? This is a piece of art, really.

"More things like that, maybe not on the same scale as El Shaddai. ... I think it’s easier to get smaller games for handhelds or download that are a little more avant-garde out of Japan.

"My commitment to bringing cool Japanese games out is not going away and if anything I want to save the little guys in Japan. There’s a real trend away from small development."

Bettenhausen confirmed details of Ignition's closures in Florida, reduction in the UK studio, and the maintenance of projects from both developers.

"I’ll admit… when the US office, the office in Florida closed down, that studio as you talked about did close down. The UK development studio isn’t actually gone, but it is smaller.

"I’d say [Reich and an unnamed Japanese title] aren’t actually necessarily canceled, but the form they were taking previously isn’t there anymore. They are going to be reworked. I can’t really comment on those so much.

"Ignition, at the end of last year, there were decisions being made. ... Their main office is now in Texas, Austin, where we merged with True Games which is our sister company that makes free to play and browser based games."

On a positive closing note, Bettenhausen added that the company expects to have a strong E3 lineup, before hinting that the El Shaddai universe isn't done yet.

"Clearly, the world is deep. I played through the whole game now and it left me with tons of questions. What happened a thousand years ago? What happens after this? What does this character do?

"I think those guys, when I was just there, are thinking what else can we do with this world? The characters have taken off in Japan. It’s a big meme. Everyone is into it. There are character goods coming out from Bandai. I really think El Shaddai has the potential in Japan to become a big franchise with lots of games."

Ignition's latest title is the action game El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, which is expected to release on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in late April in Japan, and towards the end of the year everywhere else.

Other recent titles include Blacklight: Tango Down and Arc Rise Fantasia, with the much discussed Reich still in development, alongside the Project Kane-rebranded Wardevil.

Late last year, Ignition closed its Florida office, and moved its HQ from LA to Texas.

Thanks, D'Toid.

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