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Tecmo Koei CEO Talks 3DS and Fist Sequels

Kenji Matsubara expects core players to respond to new Nintendo system first.

Tecmo Koei CEO Kenji Matsubara

Nikkei BP has started up its annual "Keyman" interview series, where it quizzes the top brass at Japan's major game publishers on the previous year and the year to come. Responding to questions on Friday was Tecmo Koei CEO Kenji Matsubara.

Tecmo Koei had mixed results for its first year as a merged entity. The company saw sales of ¥34.5 billion and operating income of ¥600 million. While ahead of revised targets announced in February, the company still failed to reach its initial goals.

Matsubara describes fiscal 2009 as "a pretty tough year" for Tecmo Koei. While taking note of the bad fiscal environment, he places the blame on himself and his fellow decision makers at the company, stating "the number one reason things became the way they are lies within us."

He points to two major issues that lead to the February revision. First, a number of large titles that were scheduled to be released in the fiscal year slipped to 2010 (see below). Also, some major releases failed to reach their target sales.

Regarding the latter, he pointed to Wii's Sengoku Musou 3 (Samurai Warriors 3), which failed to reach 500,000 units despite respective sales of one million and 600,000 for parts 1 and 2.

Not all titles faired so poorly, though. Fist of the North Star, released on March 25 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, crossed 500,000 units shipped in its first two days and continues to see repeat orders. "We really wanted to release it earlier," said Matsubara. "I'm glad we made it out within the fiscal year."

Matsubara spoke a bit about overseas developments for Fist. The series is popular in North America and Europe thanks to the anime being broadcast there, he said. In Europe in particular, Japanese anime is seeing more popularity than expected. Gundam Musou saw a higher-than-expected percentage of its European sales from Italy where the Gundam anime was broadcast. In similar fashion, he expects big things from Tecmo Koei's European partners for Fist.

The delayed releases he was referring to included Trinity 0'll Zero, Troy Musou and Quantum Theory. Quantum Theory, developed by Tecmo, mostly targets North America, he said. Trinity targets international and domestic markets half-and-half. Troy Musou, developed by Koei's Canada studio, targets North America and Europe.

Nikkei asked Matsubara for some of Tecmo Koei's upcoming plans regarding major titles for release this fiscal year. "I can't share details yet," he said, "but there are games that have yet to be announced. Whether or not those will be shown to the world around the timing of E3 is to be determined."

He also became one of the first CEOs to comment on Nintendo's new 3DS system, although he didn't say anything about support from his company. The site asked him what user group the new hardware targets. Responded Matsubara, "3D games don't have a sales record yet, so I don't know. However, I suspect it will be more accepted by core gamers rather than casual players. When you bring something new to the market, the core player group first finds it interesting, and then it expands from there. I believe current DS core gamers who like new things and core gamers who don't have a DS will be the first to jump in. After that, it will be up to the content."

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