“Does anyone know any indie games from Japan? Do you know any indie games that have been successful in Japan? Probably not so many,” Robert Pontow says at Casual Connect Asia 2014. “Actually, there is no indie game scene in Japan. At least, up until recently, there was no real communication between developers, for example.”
Robert Pontow, Marketing Director at Active Gaming Media, puts emphasis on the importance of positive thinking – especially in regards to the indie scene. He says, “There’s so much positive energy in the indie scene, and when you’re able to harness that, it’s easy to see why there’s so much success among indie developers.”
Guiding The Way
Unfortunately, although many indie developers possess the brilliant skills required to develop unique games that provide amazing gameplay experiences, they are often held back by an unfortunate lack of knowledge regarding regional markets, or how to publish, distribute, and market their games. AGM’s purpose is to bring these wonderful works to Japan and the rest of the world so that indie developers can concentrate on what they do best: creating great concepts and games.
Robert had always wanted to work in the entertainment industry, but he tells us it was a coincidence that led him to work with video games in Japan. He happened to run into AGM CEO Ibai Amaztoy while AGM was looking for people to help localize console games. Later, probably because of his business background, he ended up shifting his focus within the company from game localization to marketing. He enjoys working in an environment in which he has the opportunity to meet so many interesting and creative people who make so many great games. In this fast paced industry, he finds it fascinating to see how games evolve every day.
Dynamic By Nature
This dynamic, creative nature of the industry is what keeps him going. He emphasizes, “I think ‘playing’ is one of the fundamental characteristics of the human experience, so I am glad that I can make something of a contribution to making people happy. I also like the idea that video games can create a sort of bridge between different cultures and that people from all over the world can enjoy playing them.”
Since Robert is responsible for marketing and business development at AGM, he comes together with different kinds of companies, including indie developers, publishers, ad networks, and other marketing companies in order to collaborate on a variety of levels. AGM started out helping developers and publishers with the localization of their games for the Japanese market. As more companies started to ask for more varied types of assistance, the company began offering a further range of services, such as publishing assistance and the management of games in different languages for different publishers. This experience led them to co-developing, publishing, and distributing games through Playism.
The most exciting part of Robert’s career so far has been being part of the Playism team at AGM and being able to work with the game Unholy Heights for mobile devices. He says, “The game is just awesome. I already love the original PC concept, but what the developers are working on right now for mobile just takes my breath away. I really hope that I can meet many more great indie developers and be a part of more development projects.”
Understanding The Audience
Robert believes that in order to present games to a Japanese audience successfully, it is important to understand how they live, what they like, and how they spend their free time. So in his free time, he plays video games, especially on his train ride to work – a very common sight in Japan. He also enjoys the city nightlife and social culture. On weekends, he often finds a quiet spot to spend time in nature.
He plays a wide variety of games, and because of his work, he gets to try out many great games before they are available to the public. He often plays games by Kairosoft, most recently Beastie Bay. Robert has also been replaying Devil’s Attorney, particularly enjoying the humor and finesse of the art style. Other games he has been enjoying include Happy Street, Darklings, and Nameless. And of course he also plays a lot of AGM’s Playism titles as well: Papers Please, The Legend of Alfur, One Way Heroics, Kero Blaster, and Astebreed (to be released at the end of May).
Robert believes that there will be many more diversified games coming onto the scene over the next few years. One new title in particular has really managed to catch his eye. It is a game he feels has the potential to start off a whole new trend, and one that he can’t wait to get his hands on: Supernaughts!
At Casual Connect Asia, Robert announced the release of the mobile version of Unholy Heights.