An interview with Sohei Niikawa, President of NIS America
Since 2012, Nippon Ichi Software President Sohei Niikawa has lead a team dedicated to providing the best of Japanese entertainment stateside. Gamers Heroes spoke to Sohei Niikawa at a recent NIS press event regarding his background, his company, and his plans for the future.
Gamers Heroes: Thank you for your time. Now Mr. Niikawa, what inspired you to get into the game industry?
Sohei Niikawa: I really like games, but when I first went to college I wanted to become some sort of scholar. I wanted to become an archaeology professor — I wanted to be Indiana Jones. So I really like games, and throughout college I played a lot of games. When I played Final Fantasy V, I thought about why they did something, how they did something, or how the game would be funner if they did this. And when I started seeing how things could become funner and funner and funner, that’s when I wanted to work in the game industry.
Gamers Heroes: You’ve been quoted saying that you have an “Entertainment for All” philosophy. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Sohei Niikawa: So ultimately we want to become a company that offers not just games, not just anime, manga, music, but all kind of entertainment. To become that “entertainment for all,” we need to take quite a few more steps. So we think that we are really good at making games — what we want to do is create a game, and we want other entertainment to offer us jobs to sprout out from the game genre using the same IP, like Disgaea. Our goal within the next five years is to make two more IPs that we could call our flagship titles — besides Disgaea. Take Disgaea out of the equation. [laughs] We would love to see Witch and the Hundred Knight or The Guided Fate Paradox become one of those titles, so help us out you press people and write good things about us please!
Gamers Heroes: We’ll do our best! [laughs] So how do you figure out a series to localize? For example, what drew you to Danganronpa?
Sohei Niikawa: Our mission is to spread out Japanese pop culture into the US. With Danganronpa, it has wonderful content, and Spike Chunsoft only has publishing abilities overseas in Japan. So we started talking to them about how we can localize their content for them.
Gamers Heroes: What’s the craziest localization request you have received?
Sohei Niikawa: So in terms of difficulty, Disgaea and Danganronpa are the hard ones. In terms of ones from fans that we could not do, text-heavy adventure games take time and normally don’t do well over here so those are always crazy from a business standpoint. Danganronpa could be classified as a text game, but ultimately it was a real good challenge for us.
Gamers Heroes: What is your favorite series at NIS?
Sohei Niikawa: I can’t just say one! Personally I like Disgaea and The Guided Fate Paradox — at the company, I have put a lot of time into them. There’s another game that we have not released in the United States, Hayarigami, that I enjoy.
Gamers Heroes: Last question: What does the future have in store for NIS?
Sohei Niikawa: We want to become like Disney or Pixar. We want to make a Nippon Ichi Land and we want Prinny to be the next Mickey. [laughs]