For our first major article for the inaugural issue of Cygames Magazine, we had a chat with Executive Director Yuito Kimura about what kind of company Cygames is. A member of the company since its founding and also the producer on a number of titles, our discussion covered the history and changes in the company, his hopes for the future, and the mentality that Cygames holds dear.
- Cygames Executive DirectorYuito Kimura
- After finishing graduate school at the University of Tokyo, Kimura worked at Kanaden and Silicon Studio before establishing Cygames in 2011 alongside President Koichi Watanabe. He has worked as producer on a number of titles, including Rage of Bahamut, Granblue Fantasy, Shadowverse, and Princess Connect! Re: Dive.
He was appointed executive director in April 2019. In addition to his administrative duties, he is also still deeply involved in game development as a producer of some of the company’s most well-known titles.
Looking back at Cygames’s growth and changes: The key to creating hit products.
Let’s begin by having you describe what things were like in May 2011, when the company was first founded. I believe you started with the development of Rage of Bahamut.
Kimura: That’s right. We started out with just five people.
We paid particular attention to creating beautiful visuals, which was a major selling point for Rage of Bahamut. President Watanabe, the other project members and I all worked as hard as we could to create a game with the kind of quality no one had seen before. It was released in September 2011 and is still to this day played by many. As a member of its development team, I couldn’t be happier about this.
Astonishingly, the game was released only four months after the company was established. What happened after that?
Kimura: We developed and operated a number of titles, before plans for Granblue Fantasy came about around the summer of 2012. Watanabe and the president of CyDesignation, Hideo Minaba, had designed a hero image, saying that was the kind of game they wanted to create. That was how the project started.
At the time, we were continually pushing the boundaries of what you could do with a browser game. Implementing the kind of crazy sounds and effects we wanted to include would slow things down so much the game would crash, so we were constantly going back and forth with the engineers to strike a balance between what we wanted and what was actually possible.
We also wanted music, but there had never been a browser game that included background music, sound effects, and voices all playing at the same time. Working out how to implement that also involved a lot of trial and error.
It sounds like it was a lot of hard work. Why were you so focused on creating a browser game like that?
Kimura: One of the reasons was our desire to create a game that could stand alongside our biggest title, Rage of Bahamut. Another major reason was that browser games can be quickly updated to bring greater enjoyment to players, for example by adding new features or making improvements. The whole team was really enthusiastic about making a browser game and pushing the limits of the medium.
Later in 2016, Shadowverse was released. A PvP TCG for smartphones was quite rare back then.
Kimura: We came up with the idea for Shadowverse wanting to tackle a genre we hadn’t tried yet. I’ve always been a card game fan, and other members in the company had voiced their desire to make one, so I’d been considering expanding the fantasy card RPG, Rage of Bahamut, into a competitive card game.
During development, we introduced the evolution system to differentiate it from other existing card games. Having all the follower cards be able to evolve was something new to the genre. We were also very particular about the sound and visuals, and even went through a massive overhaul at one point.
Two years later, in February 2018, Princess Connect! Re:Dive was released. Does that mean it underwent development concurrently with Shadowverse?
Kimura: Technically, yes. But, being the sequel to Princess Connect!, I had a tough time coming up with ways to ensure that players both new and old could enjoy the title, while also differentiating it from existing RPGs. That’s when I came up with the concept for an anime RPG genre. The release came after about a year and a half of development.
We were particularly careful to create a game that even casual players could enjoy by implementing concepts like a predominantly automatic game system that allows easy progression, and a UI that fully utilizes the better aspects of the anime style.
Your most recent title, Dragalia Lost, was co-developed with Nintendo and was launched in September 2018.
Kimura: That’s right. Dragalia Lost is a traditional fantasy action RPG that depicts the bonds between humans and dragons. Here at Cygames, we place emphasis on pursuing genres in their traditional forms. The game is also filled with Nintendo’s knowledge of action games, so I think, as a collaborative title, Dragalia Lost really features the best from both parties involved.
After its release, the game ranked number one on the App Store not only in Japan but also in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, and was well received even by players in other countries, including the United States.
Looking back at it like this, you really have released a wide range of games, haven’t you? Is there some kind of secret to putting out hit games like this?
Kimura: There’s no single secret, no. But regardless of the game, my desire to provide players with a fresh and surprising experience—and something they’ll find incredibly fun—remains the same. I believe games should be fun. It’s only natural that they’re fun. That’s why I’m always thinking about what I can do to move the hearts of our players.
Interesting. When thinking about that, then, what do you place your emphasis on?
Kimura: I try to think of things that suit the times, that people today want. Even if you make a fun game, it’s pointless if no one wants to play it.
Also, while I wouldn’t call this a secret, I try to remain conscious of the genre at all times. For example, just because a system was popular in genre A doesn’t mean you can introduce it into genre B. With different genres come different demands, so trying to force something like that has a good chance of falling short of players’ expectations. That’s why, for every game, I focus on the desires and demands of players of the genre.
I presume that means you need an understanding of the characteristics and appeal of each genre. How might you arrive at that kind of understanding?
Kimura: The key is, of course, to play lots of games. By playing different games and experiencing different kinds of fun, you start to get a feel for what makes each one enjoyable. That feeling is a huge asset when it comes to making games yourself. When making a game, it’s extremely important to be able to think to yourself, “Now this is fun!”
Cygames’s values: The spirit behind our vision and mission statement.
Part of the Cygames mission statement reads, “play lots of games.” Can you tell us a little more about your mission statement and corporate vision?
Kimura: Our primary vision is to be “a company that produces the ultimate content.” It’s exactly as it sounds, and expresses our intent to create content that anyone would find amazing. The reason it says “content” and not “games” is because we intended from the start to create not just games, but all sorts of entertainment content.
In order to achieve this vision, we came up with a mission statement composed of three parts. I’ve already mentioned one: “To play lots of games together.” The remaining two are “To never forget the Cygames team spirit,” and “To aim to become the greatest brand.”
Could you explain the intent behind each of these statements?
Kimura: At Cygames, we place a lot of emphasis on the feelings people experience when playing games. We want our team members to take their own personal fun and incredible experiences and use them to make games. That’s why one of the statements is “To play lots of games together.”
As for “never forget the Cygames team spirit,” this is in place to ensure as a company that everyone is working for the sake of the team at all times. It isn’t possible to create the best content alone. It can only be achieved if everyone combines their skills, experience, and sensibilities. That’s why we aim to be a company where we all respect each other. By attaining a true sense of team spirit, we can reach our full potential.
Finally, “To aim to become the greatest brand” represents our policy of striving to be the best, not only in terms of content, but also as a company.
No matter how great the content we create is, if our specifications are poorly written or our staff lack morale, then we will never be a company that creates the ultimate content. This statement is our banner, our way of showing that we intend on becoming the greatest brand around: not just for our content, but as a company.
Cygames currently employs more than 2,000 people. To be quite honest, I feel like with so many people it could be hard to get these ideals across to everyone.
Kimura: I’m always surprised by that myself, but it actually isn’t an issue at all.
All our staff are positive about our vision and mission statement, and are applying them to their work in various ways every day.
For example, with Princess Connect! Re:Dive, I mentioned how thorough we were in regard to the system and UI in our pursuit for a level of user-friendliness that hadn’t been seen before. But in the process we often came up against a brick wall. So we had the entire Cygames staff help out.
We gave everyone a survey asking for UI ideas, and had those who like games but aren’t that good at them play it and give their opinions. There was a lot of trial and error involved, but this gradually led to the answers we were looking for.
Taking into account all the opinions collected, veterans from various positions in the development team then considered what could be done to make the game more interesting, and even potential new ideas, further brushing up the final product prior to release.
I think this exemplifies my point that the mentality of striving for the best is firmly rooted in all of our staff. I think that’s one of our characteristics, as well as one of our strengths.
Taking in perspectives from a variety of different standpoints indeed seems to illustrate your unity as a company. I’m guessing this also creates quite an open atmosphere in the workplace.
Kimura: Yes, I think our company culture is quite open. The managerial staff, myself included, have desks on the same floor as the rest of the staff, and anyone can approach us whenever we’re needed. Since everyone knows that they’re a part of the Cygames team, interaction and work requests are common not only between members of the same team but also between different sections, regardless of age or position. I often hear people say that there isn’t a single employee who pulls a face when asked to do something. Team members are happy to take on additional tasks if it will make the end product better, with no one willing to compromise.
Continuing to create the ultimate content: The future of Cygames.
That’s wonderful! Now, may I ask about your plans for the future of Cygames, including endeavors in areas besides games?
Kimura: As we continue to provide entertaining content for our existing releases, we’re also hard at work on new titles such as Uma Musume Pretty Derby to ensure that we can continue to deliver only the very best content.
Furthermore, we’re also looking to expand into console gaming, as well as anime and manga. For example, the console titles we’ve already announced are Project Awakening, Granblue Fantasy Versus, and Granblue Fantasy Relink. We’re working hard on all of these.
It’s also been confirmed that Princess Connect! Re:Dive is going to have a TV anime series, while season two of Granblue Fantasy The Animation has also been announced.
I can’t wait to see them. Finally, could you share with us your hopes and desires for the future of Cygames?
Kimura: The Cygames vision hasn’t changed since our inception. We strive to bring enjoyment to the world with the very best content. For that reason, we’re going to continue to create fun games and content. In recent years, we’ve also moved beyond just games, providing content across a wide range of areas, including anime, manga, and esports.
We will continue to provide the highest quality in entertainment, centered on games but encompassing other mediums as well. So I hope that more people will learn about Cygames and come into contact with our content.
Everyone here at Cygames will continue to work hard so that, one day, whenever people hear the word “games,” our name will be the first to come to mind.