Indie gaming continues to be a place in which vast and varied imaginative projects come to life from the individualized desires of various creatives of all walks of life. It’s a never-ending oasis of gems to say the least. Among all the publishers out there, PLAYISM has had a notably eccentric hand in the support of indie projects, helping push the likes of DEEEER Simulator, Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, and even Bright Memory: Infinite (advertised as a marquee third-party title for the Xbox Series X), just to name a few.
Back during the Tokyo Game Show, PLAYISM showed off a wealth of new information on ongoing and upcoming projects during what it called the PLAYISM Game Show (PGS) on the publisher’s YouTube channel. 2D platformer Mighty Goose, horror adventure Mad Father, and new info on Bright Memory: Infinite were shown among the lengthy stream which can be seen below.
PLAYISM definitely has its hands full going into the next generation. With this in mind, Shacknews caught up to PLAYISM Executive Producer Shunji Mizutani to talk about what draws PLAYISM to indie gaming in particular, the thrill of seeing Bright Memory: Infinite appear during an Inside Xbox stream for Xbox Series X, and the future of indie gaming as we go full-speed ahead into next-gen gaming.
Shacknews: PLAYISM has its hands in a lot of interesting work throughout its history. Even the PLAYISM Game Show (PGS) showcase was a vastly varied display for what's in store for the future with the likes of Mighty Goose and Bright Memory. What is PLAYISM's current philosophy in choosing the games and projects it chooses to publish?
Shunji Mizutani: The genres of games we publish are indeed varied, but the most important thing for us when evaluating games is if they are truly “indie games” or not. The question “What is an indie game?” is a difficult one to answer, but we at PLAYISM believe they are games which were created because the developer fervently wished to create it, or it is a game that only exists because a specific developer or team decided they wanted to make it. These games just have a special something, a special kind of passion that you can very much feel while playing it. These are the games that we feel are “indie” and those that we strive to publish. So, I guess the reason why we publish such a vast range of genres is because indie games are vastly varied in their content and that is reflected in our portfolio.
Shacknew: Bright Memory: Infinite in particular has seen some serious attention as of late. What was it like to have a PLAYISM product in Xbox's spotlight as part of the conversation about next-gen console games?
Mizutani: As a small indie publisher handling quirky indie games, it was extremely exhilarating getting support from such a massive company like Microsoft. When the Bright Memory: Infinite trailer came up first in the lineup of the inside Xbox stream in June of this year and the PLAYISM name popped up, I couldn’t really believe my eyes. But most of all, I was happy that we were able to get Bright Memory the attention it deserves as we feel it is one of the most high-quality indie games to date. For many years now I have been receiving helpful advice from the person in charge of Microsoft Japan’s indie games and I felt I could finally return the favor for all their support through the years by bringing such a great title to the next generation of Xbox.
Shacknews: Interestingly enough, PLAYISM is also working with Why So Serious? and Team Ladybug on a Casltevania-like game based on the classic anime, Record of Lodoss War, which is an interesting license to see pop up in the modern gaming space. How did Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth come to PLAYISM's attention and how has it felt working with such an interesting take on both Metroidvania gaming and a beloved work of classic Japanese animation?
Mizutani: Daichi Saito of Why So Serious? is participating as a producer in the game development himself and is also the man who masterminded this project. As the Record of Lodoss War franchise was approaching its 30th Anniversary, he approached the publisher of the series and convinced them that a gamification would act as great PR for the franchise in general and we were brought on as the game publisher at Mr Saito’s request.
We were aware of Record of Lodoss War’s cult status but could not imagine the reaction we received when the game was finally announced. Now that we have a better idea on how much the franchise is loved globally, we are extremely proud that we could once again shine a light on it in this day and age and the fact it is through the medium of indie games brings us even more joy. Furthermore we couldn’t be happier that Team Ladybug is making such a great game after Touhou Luna Nights. It is great seeing them in action.
Shacknews: PLAYISM certainly doesn't shy away from what might be considered bizarre titles. Among the publisher's previous catalog are titles like Yume Nikki. Currently, the company is working with everything from DEEEER Simulator and Fight Crab to Mighty Goose and Mad Father. Would you say games that could be perceived as strange or bizarrely unique are as much of PLAYISM's publishing identity as the likes of what might be considered more "normal" like Bright Memory?
Mizutani: Bright Memory is a title created by a sole young man from China, and I consider it far from “normal”. What I mean is that for a single person to be able make something of that caliber is truly bizarre to me. As I mentioned earlier, our goal is to publish the indie games that are born from the passions and desires of indie developers. I think it just so happens that these games turn out to be extremely unique.
Shacknews: As the next-gen era dawns and we get ever closer to the launch of PS5 and Xbox Series X, PLAYISM has clearly shown its interest in being part of it with the likes of Bright Memory, but there are still so many unanswered questions as to what potential this coming generation has in store. How do you feel going into the next era of gaming?
Mizutani: The coming of the next generation of consoles is, for lack of a better metaphor, like sailing into a massive storm. We don’t really know the best route or what the gaming world is going to look like on the other side, but we have to keep plowing on. At least, that is how it feels lately. The next generation of consoles will bring with them more features, improvements to visual quality and gameplay among other things. We will of course continue to publish games that are worthy of all the horsepower these consoles will bring. However, while I do enjoy those rich, visually stunning titles, I am and always will be an indie game fan. I would like to continue bringing these small-studio indie titles to the latest platforms and make sure that even in the next generation (and beyond) that they will always have a place to shine and be enjoyed by players across the globe.
Shacknews: As a follow-up, platforms like the increasingly popular mobile, Epic Games Store, and Nintendo Switch have given a new life to smaller projects and indie titles. Do you see the presence of smaller budget titles continuing to grow with these platforms even amid the launch of next-gen gaming?
Mizutani: I think this is something that will take a lot of effort and planning. Even within the indie game scene there are already huge differences in the budgets that go into these titles. The indie game market has expanded rapidly in recent years and budgets have been increasing along with it. Personally, I feel that if this continues then it will become increasingly difficult for smaller budget titles to gain attention. What would then happen is that in the unique and quirky indie game market there will be an increasing number of formulaic games that are designed for one purpose: to sell. This is not what indie games are about in my opinion. For me, indie games are about creative freedom and passion.
I do think the indie game scene still has some growing to do, but the last thing that I want to happen is for indie games to start to stagnate - a route that can arguably be seen in the AAA market.
For unique games to be born, there needs to be a diverse market so creators that can let their creativity flow. So our job is to continue supporting the smaller studios and projects, to bring the best of the indie game scene to gamers all over the world and ensure that indie games will continue to entertain people for the foreseeable future.
Want to see more from PLAYISM? Be sure to check out our impressions of Record of Lodoss War - Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth and DEEEEEER Simulator and follow the publisher on Twitter to keep an eye on updates coming on these titles, Bright Memory: Infinite, and more coming soon.