Taking inspiration from team based third person shooters such as Splatoon 2, as well as adding the summer beach themed spin of Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, it was only a matter of time before Senran Kagura would get in on the action and add its own take to what has come before. Of course, with Peach Beach Splash taking the Senran Kagura franchise in new directions, it was only best if I spoke to Michael Fisher (Marketing Manager, Marvelous Entertainment) to get the full low-down on the title – as well as to find out more about the possibility of it appearing on Switch and XBox One platforms.
Peach Beach Splash is a continuation of the Senran Kagura franchise even though it’s set in a different genre entirely, and is based more on mini games…
Yeah, it’s a mainline entry into the franchise. It’s set after the previous game.
So there’s a story?
Yeah, there’s a story.
What’s the story?
It’s an ancient shinobi tournament, which is Peach Beach Splash. It’s a water gun tournament with a price to be won at the end of it.
Comparisons will be made with Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball. In what was is it similar? In what ways is it different?
It’s similar, in that everyone is wearing bikinis. You can choose to have more clothing if you prefer. Where it isn’t similar is that Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball had a selection of mini games. In Peach Beach Splash there are two core gameplay elements to it. First are the matches, which is more akin to what people would describe as Splatoon. The other part of the gameplay is the card element, card collection and everything around that.
The game is coming out on PS4. What else?
Just PS4 at the moment. Steam is proving to be very popular. Japan is interested in Steam. All Senran Kagura games are on Steam.
Why has there been a renaissance in PC gaming? Not even a “renaissance”, because that would imply that it went away. But PC gaming has really come to the fore over the last couple of years. If you think about the hardware, Windows OS and everything else, the format has been there for 30 years. But it’s only really been over the last three years that Japanese developers and publishers have taken the format seriously…
Japanese developers are finally seeing the worth of Steam. They’re like, “Oh, we can put the effort into PC game and get good sales.” We released Valkyrie Drive on Steam. It’s by the same producer. In a week, we’d done what we’d estimated what we’d have sold for a year. That made Japan go, “Oh, let’s talk more about Steam and what we can do.”
That’s partly because the user base is in the hundreds of millions…
Our biggest market by volume, not revenue, is China… even though the game isn’t even Chinese. That is a big takeaway that, “Oh, maybe we should localize our games into Chinese in the future, especially for Steam.” Fate/Extella also came out on Steam. I believe that was a similar situation with China being such a big market. Definitely something people need to take advantage of.
I know that Senran Kagura, not the Peach Beach game, but Shinobi Refle, is coming out on Switch…
Sir Takaki is the producer. He had an event in Japan last month, and he announced two Switch games: Shinobi Refle and a pinball game called Peach Ball.
What’s the likelihood of Peach Beach Splash coming out on Switch?
I’m not entirely sure. I don’t know how that discussion’s happened in Japan. Japan sees value in the Switch. We’ve got the two games coming out on Switch. Fate/Extella came out on Switch. Switch is popular. It’s sold out everywhere. It’s hard to get a hold of…
That’s partly because Nintendo have engineered artificial shortages… I don’t care what anybody says. They’ve been in the business long enough to have figured it out.
I think Japan sold over a million so far.
It’s interesting to determine how much of the Nintendo hardcore have bought the machine versus the casual market. For people who have a general interest in video games, it would be nice to know as how much of the Wii U and Nintendo demographic have bought the Switch…
I’ve got a Switch. I play it on transport. I travel a lot. But I’ve had a couple of people ask me what it is.
Is it like a Wii U portable adapter? I don’t know, you tell me. It seems to have Mario Kart 8 and Zelda on it. Are those games running on your base Wii U machine at home?
(Laughs) You could call it a portable Wii U. I’ve never had someone coming to me on train and be like, “Oh, what are you playing?” or “What is this thing you’re playing?” But that’s happened three times with Switch. It’s interesting.
From a European and Western perspective, has the success of Switch taken you by surprise?
I think so. I think people were cautious because of the Wii U. People were still not going full in. They were dipping the toes in the water a little bit. But now Switch has got over a hundred games on it, which compared to PS4 is nothing. But it came out in March, so it’s been a couple of months and is already selling very well.
I know that the development team for Peach Beach Splash is primarily Japanese. There might be a lack of success for the XBox brand in Japan, but Microsoft has still done pretty well in the grand scheme of things, and in the West. Why have we still not seen Senran Kagura on Microsoft XBox, even though it shares the same sort of architecture as PS4 and PC?
It is because of the Japanese development team more than anything else. But that is something we will have to do… If we wanted to make that sort of change, we have to suggest it and give reasons why. Senran Kagura is from Japan and XBox isn’t popular in Japan.
What inspired Peach Beach Splash as a game? It’s quite different from what’s come before. I know that some people might hate me for this, but the previous games were almost like glorified Dynasty Warrior type games. But Peach Beach Splash is… more like Splatoon, and it’s also a glorified card game. Is it like Gwent then?
The card element of Peach Beach Splash is when you finish a match, you get a pack of cards. You open the cards. There are weapons, pets, and skills… they all come from them. And any duplicate cards go into a pool, depending on rarity, and you use that pool to upgrade your cards. There are 810 cards in the game. You collect them. You upgrade them. And you make your own build of abilities and pets. That’s how the card element works.
What inspired Peach Beach Splash? And what caused the deviation from the main successful formula?
I think Takaki is always interested in trying new things. He said in an interview that he likes to think that it is the characters and the elements of the series that make Senran Kagura what it is. And he’s always keen on trying to put it into new genres. We had the 2D or side-on 3DS games. With PS Vita, we had Bon Appétit which is a rhythm game. We have 3D action games. Now, we’ve got shooter games. So I think he’s very keen on trying new things. On Nintendo Switch we’ve got Refle which is a dating sim, visual novel sort of thing. And we’ve got pinball. He’s very keen on trying to imagine the game in new settings and making sure it doesn’t become too predictable.
Japanese fetishes are normally frowned upon as far as the West is concerned. Nintendo is a lot more conservative, and have their kiddy image to protect. How difficult was it for Senran Kagura as a franchise to appear on Nintendo platforms? I might be wrong here, but I think a few years ago, Nintendo were denying third-party developers to release games on the Wii U if the game was too similar to what was already out on the console… they were like, “We don’t want it.” From that perspective, and on the Switch going forward, if you’ve got a game that’s like Splatoon and it’s “risqué”, for a company like Nintendo that wants to maintain that “uniqueness of product”, as well as protecting its parent-friendly image, how difficult was it for Honey Parade Games to pitch and to get a successful license for Senran Kagura to appear on Switch?
I don’t know the specifics about that, but talking from a personal point of view, if you’ve got Switch, you can see there are tons and tons of small third-party games and tons of things here and there. I think Nintendo are generally being more open. But as with any publisher or platform holder, all they care about is that we have an age rating: the USK, the PEGI, the OFLC, and ACB. If we have their ratings, that’s all that matters because they’re the bodies that are connected to the government bodies who rate the games and promote the sales if they allow it in the region. That’s all that platform holders really care about. You’ve always had odd games appearing on systems for years. On PS2, there was Leisure Suit Larry and other weird games.
For example, Night Trap, if it’s all about revenue, then… Even recently, Nintendo turned around and said, “We don’t want to be associated with Night Trap.” It’s a seminal game for maybe all the wrong reasons, but they still don’t want to be associated with it. And I think in the grand scheme of things, Night Trap is infinitely more tame in comparison to some of the stuff that’s out there right now…
I’m not familiar with Night Trap.
The Mega CD game?
It rings a bell.
The girls were in a mansion and were hunted down by goons… sort of like in Scream.
Oh, I think I recall that.
It was one of those haunted house sort of things.
I guess there’s a big difference between a murderous violence type rating and a sexual innuendo type rating.
In America, one has higher precedence than the other.
But I think it’s important to remember that these games are developed in Japan.
That is true…
Yeah. And Nintendo is Japanese. Maybe Marvelous and Nintendo get on quite well. Marvelous is a big company in Japan with 800 employees or something. Marvelous Europe has 6.
Will Senran Kagura for Switch be getting a physical box release?
Only in Japan.
Do you know why that is?
I’m not sure. I think it’s because he’s just trying new things. Physical versions of Senran Kagura in Japan always sell pretty well. I think it’s because of his experiment with Senran Kagura in the dating sim and visual novel format. I think it costs 7000 yen or something, which is like £7. It’s very cheap. They want it to be an experimental type of thing.
There’s been a certain uproar with regards to the disparity in pricing between physical PS4 and XBox games, versus an inferior version of the game on Switch which costs more. If Marvelous were to release a game on Switch, would you also have to charge £10 more than if the game was coming out on PS4 and Xbox One?
I wouldn’t say so. When Fate/Extella came out on Switch, we priced it for £10 more, but that’s because it had all the DLC included. It was released on PS4 as well. I think it’s the publisher’s choice whether they want to take advantage of the fact that the Switch’s a new console. People want games. But there has to be a reason for you to charge £10 extra.
I think it was Rime or Sine Mora… Their publishers were charging £10 more. And there was a certain uproar.
The cartridges are more expensive. There was a report about the cost of cartridges on Eurogamer. I think it will die down. I think the games are coming down in price already. When they first came out on Amazon, they were like £49.99 and £59.99. Now that’s dropped down to £44.99. It just took a couple of months. I remember that in PlayStation as well when it came out.
Yeah, but now games drop to £15…
A week after launch.
Something like that. It’s nice in a way… I know that Senran Kagura and Marvelous have their own audiences, and they’re prepared to pay. A lot of the games are marketed towards Japanese enthusiasts. Even on PS4, the mainstream consoles… you guys have always charged £35. But it’s just that. The average consumer is accustomed to paying something like £20. When you’re asking the same person to pay twice as much… How much did you charge for Fate/Extella on Switch?
See, that’s the thing. From that perspective, especially when people will be getting inferior versions of the same game… There might be parity, but people are essentially being asked to pay above the average. Even Fate/Extella on PS4 was like £35…
I think it launched at £39.99.
You can get it for like £30 now…
So you’re asking people to pay £15 more. Does that make you more wary in terms of supporting Switch?
Not really. When it comes out, you price the game what you want to price it. You look at the cost and you want a percentage return. The Japanese development team have included all the DLC with Fate/Extella on Switch, so more than anything else, it was a more complete version than what people got on PS4. People were pissed off about that. People were tweeting at us, and they still do, about why the PS4 version didn’t get a more complete package etc.
Like a “Game of the Year” edition…
Speaking about DLC, is there any DLC plan for Peach Beach Splash?
Yeah, all the DLC released in Japan will be released over here.
Is that just costumes?
Costumes, hairs, card packs are one time purchase only. There’s not like micro-transactions or anything. And there are also characters as well. There are licensed characters like Ikki Tousen.
Dead or Alive?
Yeah… Dead or Alive, Ikki Tousen.
How close is the relationship between Team Ninja and the developer of Senran Kagura?
I have no idea. I think it must be quite close because they’re always in each other’s games.
Do you think there will ever be like a Dead or Alive vs. Senran Kagura? Like how there’s Marvel vs. Capcom… Do you think we’ll ever get something similar like that?
I hope so. For that, you’ll have to look to Japan more than us.
Michael Fisher, thank you very much.