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Konami promises more Arabic gaming

New regional president admits the publisher has lost its innovative edge

President of Konami Europe, Shinji Hirano admitted the firm had fallen behind its competitors in Middle East support, but pledged the firm would catch up with and overtake its rivals.

In a frank interview, Hirano, formerly president of Konami USA, said he realised the potential of the Middle East market, which falls within his new remit.

“We obviously have our competitors. They are doing much better in terms of localisation. We actually want more than them. That is our goal – we are trying to seriously get into this market.

“Unfortunately, I cannot say exactly what’s coming, because I have to wait to the right time to say so. But it’s obviously more than our competitors.

“I clearly recognize how important Arabic language is to localisation. We want to localise as much as possible, not just the soccer game [Pro Evolution Soccer, which contains Arabic commentary in its most recent release], but as many as possible.”

Konami, which began its existence as a jukebox firm in the late 1960s, was a key player in the days of arcade gaming, responsible in the early 1980s for games like Frogger and Time Pilot, which are still played today. In 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, the firm was ranked as the fifth largest gaming company by Software Top 100, and the 23rd largest software company.

Their rise was helped by innovative games which explored new forms of gaming, such as Metal Gear Solid, which helped create the stealth genre, and Dance Dance Revolution, which started the dance craze.

Hirano, “Honestly speaking, Konami used to have much more innovative creations, like Dance Dance Revolution, everything new challenges. We haven’t had that kind of innovation for the last three, four or five years. So we have to come back to that kind of innovation again.

“We’re always looking at the back catalogue, like Gradius, Contra, that kind of thing, all the potential we have. But at the same time, how can we create a new way of gaming?”

One area the company is exploring is mobile and social gaming. Last year, it revealed its social gaming division had nearly tripled its revenues in the first three quarters of the 2011-12 financial year, taking it to $348 million (Dh1.28 billion). That made it the world’s second largest social gaming business, though considerably behind Zynga, which reported revenues of $1.14 billion for the year.

“I don’t think that’s a short-term trend. Yes, Zynga is a bit of a problem right now, but the way people are playing social games, connecting everybody, that kind of play style itself should not disappear. That’s the new way of playing,” Mr Hirano said.

“We think mobile has a lot of potential right now, but that doesn’t mean we will forget about the console. Consoles, PCs, everything will be linked. As a publisher, we are the content provider. We have a responsibility to bring content which is a good way of playing for that platform, that playing style.

“We used to develop mobile games and console games separately. Sometimes that was an easy decision to make – hey, let’s go this way! – but we are trying to use one engine to bring the multi-platform, so it’s not so different now. We don’t think separately.

“A mobile game cannot be a 360, but there’s still some kind of link, even in the play style.

“We aren’t looking at advertising support, but at games with reasonable pricing, like a 7.99 price point, and next year we’ll try to do a premium model with DLC [downloadable content]. The result is better.”

Notable Konami Games

Konami has created hundreds of video games. This list aims to hit some of the highlights, from the days of the arcade, through early home consoles to PCs and modern consoles.

  • Frogger (1981)
  • Super Cobra (1981)
  • Time Pilot (1982)
  • Hyper Olympic (1983)
  • The Goonies (1986)
  • Castlevania (1986-present)
  • Metal Gear (1987-present)
  • Top Gun (1988)
  • Aliens (1990)
  • The Simpsons Arcade Game (1991)
  • X-Men (1992)
  • Frontier: Elite II (1993)
  • Pro Evolution Soccer (1996-present)
  • Vandal Hearts (1996)
  • Dance Dance Revolution (1998-present)
  • Metal Gear Solid (1998-present)
  • Silent Hill (1999-present)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! (1999+)
  • Zone of the Enders (2001)