This is my interview with Kazuma Kujo, Lead Creator at Granzella Inc. It was lost when our server crashed so I am re-posting it. I want to personally thank Kazuma and his staff for their kind assistance and help with translating and editing. This took months to produce as I do not speak any Japanese. I hope you enjoy it. YPSH : Today we are quite fortunate to have with us Granzella's Kazuma Kujo. Thanks for taking the time to visit today Kazuma. Kazuma : Thank you for inviting me. Pleased to meet you, I’m Kazuma Kujo. YPSH : Tell us a little about you. What is your official title at Granzella and what are your reposnsibilities there? Kazuma : At Granzella, my responsibilities range from producing products to developing overall services. I also create games and direct the content creation for PlayStation Home. It’s still a small company, so I concurrently serve as a game designer, director, producer, and game business manager. YPSH : Did you have a formal education in video gaming? Kazuma : No I did not. I’ve never received formal education in creating and managing video games. It was not until I entered the work force that I learned about video games. I picked up the skills and knowledge through hands-on experience. YPSH : What got you started in the video game business? Was there one game that really got you interested in persuing a career in video games? Kazuma : Well, it was very simple. I started my career by applying for a job at a game company. IREM, the company I first entered, was very eager to cultivate game planners and directors. At this company, I was given my first opportunity to learn how to create games from scratch. YPSH : How did you come to work for IREM Software Engineering? Kazuma : I began my career as a game creator at IREM Corporation, the predecessor of IREM Software Engineering Inc. I left the company in 1994 when it decided to withdraw from the gaming business. Three years later, when IREM Corporation became IREM Software Engineering Inc. and reentered the gaming business, I joined the new company because I really wanted to take part in rebuilding of the company. YPSH : What was your title and responsibilities at IREM? Kazuma : My title at IREM was a Chief Producer and General Manager of Game Business. I supervised the whole processes ranging from planning and developing games to the sales marketing, distribution, PR, and so on. YPSH : When you worked for IREM, did you work mostly on Home related projects, video games or both? Kazuma : At IREM, the video gaming section worked on Home related projects, too. Obviously, everybody was involved with both Home and video games and I was no exception. Thinking back, having all the staff engaged in both Home and video games—always thinking about them both—was a good thing for IREM. So, we carry on this tradition at Granzella. YPSH : Is IREM where you first got introduced to Playstation Home? Kazuma : That’s correct. I think it was in the spring or summer of 2008 when I first came to know about PlayStation Home. YPSH : You worked on the game Diaster Report, which was a different type of game. Was Disaster Report your concept originally? What inspired you to produce that game? Can you tell us a quick idea of what it was all about? Kazuma : I came up with the original idea of “Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (Disaster Report)” titles. I was involved in everything from creating the first draft and the original script to the actual develop of the game. Japan has been an earthquake prone area for a long time. There have been novels, comic books, and movies about earthquakes. For example, I was inspired by Sakyo Komatsu's novel, “Nihon Chinbotsu” and Takao Saito's comic book, “Survival”. Another thing that had impact on me was the Hanshin Earthquake that happened in 1995 when I was working in the game industry. I lost some of my friends to the disaster. This experience definitely gave me the motivation to create “Disaster Report.” YPSH : You worked on other games such as R-type and Steambot Chronciles. The next in the series of Disaster Report was scheduled for release the day before the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It was postponed. Was it behind schedule or was IREM losing interest in the project? Kazuma : It’s a difficult question to answer. The release was delayed because the development of Disaster Report was behind schedule. YPSH : Three days after the earthquake, it was announced that Disaster Report was cancelled. Many felt that it would be distasteful to release the next installment of Disaster Report. However, many felt it should have just been postponed, not cancelled. Was there much public support to continue Disaster Report? Kazuma : The management at IREM and I decided not to postpone but to just cancel “Disaster Report” entirely. At the time, we could choose to postpone it, but we had no idea when we would be able to release the title. Under such circumstances, if we decided to postpone the title indefinitely, we believed it would be disingenuous to our users who were looking forward to the release of the game. After the announcement, we received many letters from our users asking us to withdraw the cancellation. YPSH : Did this play a role in your decision to leave IREM or had you already decided to leave? Kazuma : Now, it’s difficult for me to answer this question. For sure, it was becoming more and more difficult to do what we wanted at IREM. I would have left the company anyway even without the cancellation of the game. I mean, I would have left only after I could manage to release Disaster Report 4. YPSH : Can you ever bring sequels of Disaster Report or Steambot Chronicles to market? Would you make similar games someday? Kazuma : Yes, we’ll release a disaster-themed game in the future. That’s one of the reasons why we formed Granzella. Also, we’d like to release games like Steambot Chronicles because they bring out our characteristics. YPSH : A lot of our members (yours truly included) love to visit Japan Home. I've been there almost from the start. IREM was a major part of that. IREM was a major player in the development of Playstation Home Japan. What got them started with that project? Kazuma : Since IREM still exists, I can’t say anything about how the company made that decision at that time. All I can say now is that they saw new possibilities of entertainment in Home. At Granzella, we asked ourselves if we could show our presence in Home? We ran a simulation to consider whether it would be possible to realize the entertainment we want to provide. As a result, we went for it. YPSH : I am guessing you had a major role in IREM's April Fool's event on PS Home Japan? Kazuma : You guessed right. I planned and supervised the April Fool’s event on PS Home Japan. I found that PS Home was an invaluable venue to hold such a time-limited event. YPSH : That was a LOT of fun. I'll come back to that in a minute. It seemed to the casual user that IREM was doing very well. We were all shocked in 2011 when IREM suddenly started to disappear from PS Home Japan, and then we got the offical word : "Due to various reasons, we will be closing all of our PlayStationｮHome spaces in North America, Europe, and Asia (*) on September 29th.". It was a sad day for those of us who loved PS Home Japan. There was much speculation as to why IREM made that decision. Was it financial or some other reason? Kazuma : I can’t comment about the decision IREM made, because I’m no longer with IREM or in charge of their gaming business. YPSH : Was IREM leaving PS Home before you left or did they decide that after you left? Kazuma : I’m sorry, again, no comment. YPSH : No problem. Then came the news that you had left IREM and were starting a new company, Granzella. Was the birth of Granzella just you or was it a team of ex-IREM people who started it? How many of you were there at the begining? Kazuma : I founded Granzella with several ex-IREM people that I had created games with. At the very beginning, there were 7 people. Within a few months, more ex-IREM people joined us and now there are 15 ex-IREM coworkers in total working together at Granzella. From IREM, we have got producers, directors, game designers, art directors, technical directors, chief planners, namely all of the roles necessary to create games at Granzella. YPSH : Where did the name Granzella come from? Kazuma : It was named after the revolutionary armed forces which appeared in R-TYPE TACTICS 2, which was released in Japan in 2010. YPSH : Granzella seems to have grown quickly. How many are employed by Granzella now? The develpoment team at Gz works out an idea. Kazuma : Currently, there are 21 employees. In addition, we have ex-IREM freelancers and those from local game develop companies in Kanazawa. So, in total, there are always around 30 people working at Granzella. YPSH : What is your personal vision for Granzella? Kazuma : We adopted “Fun comes first” as our slogan and that idea is the core of our activities. We want to center on games and expand our business to everything and anything that's entertainment. Of course, we’re interested the challenge of creating a much wider varieties of games. Also, I think it’s our mission to provide environments in PlayStation Home, such as our April Fool’s event, in which users have unforgettable experiences. By the way, it’s our corporate philosophy to pursue “fun” and “the true nature of things” and use our “accumulated logic” and “uncontrollable urge to create” to revolutionize entertainment to eradicate boredom from the world. YPSH : IREM was concentrated on the Playstaion platform and Granzella seems to be following that tradition. Will Granzella develop for other platforms besides Playstation 3? Kazuma : We are currently developing games for PlayStation VITA, PlayStation Mobile, and Android. That is all I can say at this moment. YPSH : As a developer. what features about the Playstation platform do you like the best? Kazuma : First, the online facilities are abundant. Second, it has the highest performance / expressiveness of the game consoles. Third, it has a great established framework to provide users with games. And lastly, strong support is provided for the platform holders. YPSH : What would you like to see added to the next generation Playstation console? Kazuma : It’d be great if it was possible to store saved games in the cloud and then play the same game using a console and a hand-held concurrently. I also hope that the next-generation console will have PlayStation Home installed. If PlayStation Home was installed on the PlayStation VITA, we believe we could offer a terrific gaming life. YPSH : Would you like to see Granzella produce games for the hand-held or mobile markets? Kazuma : Yes. As a matter of fact, we’re currently developing games for PlayStation Mobile. In the future, we’d definitely like to focus on games for smart phones. YPSH : Any plans for a full-fledged disc based game? Kazuma : Yes, we do have plans, but it will probably happen after 2013. YPSH : Coming back to Playstation Home, the April Fool's event many called their most favored event in Japan Home. Rumors spread that Granzella was going to continue that tradition this year. It never happened. Rumors said the original plan was to base the April Fools event in PS Home loosley on Diaster Report. Was that why the April Fool event got postponed? What happened in 2012 that prevented it? Kazuma : Actually, we did have plans and were preparing to hold the April Fool’s event in April 2012 on PlayStation Home. Unfortunately, we were not able to complete the development required to implement the event within the time limit. For 2013, we're making adequate preparations to implement the event on the PlayStation Home. YPSH : Would you like to see Granzella re-start that tradition in 2013? Kazuma : You are talking about the April Fools event, right? Of course, we will re-start with the event in 2013. YPSH : I have to ask, a friend noticed that the owl used in the April Fools event was a very close copy of the owl in the Legend of Zelda. Was that a nod to that game? Kazuma : No. What a coincidence! YPSH : In less than 2 years, Granzella has turned out some very nice spaces in PS Home rather quickly. What is Granzella's secret to that quick turn-around time? Kazuma : Our speedy development activity for the PlayStation Home is something we should be most proud of. When we established Granzella, we built a new system for development based on our reflections and our experiences at IREM. Though I can’t tell you in detail, we have our distinctive ways to release new items and launch unique spaces in a short span of time. We’re developing services by combining some of those mechanisms. YPSH : Were the problems at first with the South Sea Resort and Neon Downtown due to publishing them too quickly? Kazuma : No. The problems in those spaces did not happen because we rushed too quickly to publish them. We’re improving our spaces on a daily basis and the problems took place in the process of such improvement. We were so sorry for the inconvenience. YPSH : Removing a space momentarily to fix problems was something rarely seen in PS Home. Granzella also made the "Customer Service" counter to give users who had purchased products revised versions at no charge. Many users, including myself, applauded Granzella's desire to fine tune their products. Was that your idea? Kazuma : Well, we closed the space temporarily because we feared that the visitors might have unpleasant experiences if we continued to keep the space open without the problems fixed. It might not have been the best way, but at that time we thought it was relatively better than any other way we could think of to address the problem. I took the initiative in setting up the customer service system. I believe it’s essential to provide after-sales services in the digital world, too, as is the case in the real world. The customer service facility is currently only available in PSHome Japan. But we’re gearing up to be able to launch the same system into North America, EU, and Asia in the future. YPSH : Do all Granzella employees work on just one project at a time or are they split up into groups working on various projects? Kazuma : At Granzella, all the employees work on a single project. We are not split up into groups. YPSH : Home users just love it when a developer updates a space (public and personal) rather than just publish it and let it sit. As an example, Granzella amazed us all when the planetarium was added to the museum in Japan. Is it part of Granzella's plans for the future to re-visit published products and update them? Kazuma : That’s right. We improve and update what we've already published on a regular basis, and that is our bottom line strategy. So we will continue to update the spaces regularly (both public and private). YPSH : The Sky Festival and the Edo Bon-Odori events were welcomed by us all. Does Granzella have plans to continue such events? Kazuma : Yes, that’s for sure. We will continue to hold seasonal events. YPSH : What new innovations would you like to see developed for PS Home? Kazuma : I'm strongly hoping that we'll be able to enjoy PSHome via PSVita, PSP, and smartphones, rather than seeing new innovations to be developped for PS Home. I believe this is what will trigger the biggest change ever in PSHome. Just imagine yourself playing PSHome anytime, anywhere you want! It will be so exciting, won't it? I'm sure we will be able to enjoy PS Home in more different ways. YPSH : Do these innovative ideas come from your own use of PS Home? What inspires your creations? Kazuma : I'm not sure if they are innovative or not. Sometimes my ideas come to me when I was playing in PS Home, and other times, like when I'm watching people going by in the street, when a new building is opened, when I see people gathering, and when I find a new service being available on a website...I'll have a flash of insight about what I must do and what I should do. YPSH : Granzella has produced some interesting ideas. The build-your-own palm tree; the beach towels; the photo booths; the beach mats and chairs, to name a few. Users love these new ideas. I assume we will see some more innovations like these? Kazuma : You bet! It’s our mission to offer new experiences for PlayStation Home users. YPSH : Playstation Home Japan has almost no items that play music. In NA, musical itema (sucah as dance floors, etc.) are very popular. Will Granzella develop any items such as these? Kazuma : Yes. Regarding musical items, we have some ideas we want to make into reality. We are gearing up to bring out these items in the future. YPSH : Let's talk virtual clothing items for PS Home for a moment. Women appreciate unique style much more than men. Because of this, most fashion designers place a much stronger focus on women's clothing. This is no secret and it is evident even in PS Home. However, often times we hear that male users of PS Home feel slighted or ignored by developers of virtual clothing for Home. It was the first complaint I heard when men found out that the only way to participate in the Glittering Sands Halloween Event was to purchase a female costume. What are your feelings on this? Kazuma : We are trully sorry that there were initially only female costumes available for taking part in the Halloween event. At that time, we immediately addressed this issue by delivering some cosutmes for both genders for the flight event. In fact, we create more avatar costumes for female than for male. If we have to choose either female or male costume due to the limitation of the resources available, then we will most likely to go for female outfits. But we will do our best to secure resources necessary to create outfits for both genders in the future. YPSH : With every core update of PS Home, we see more capability and more tools for developers. Will we see more flexability in how we dress our avatars in the future? Like wearing different jackets on top of a shirt or blouse of our choice, as an example? Kazuma : It is undoubtedly true that PS Home has achieved impressive development. But the kind of function you suggested is way too sophisticated so it seems difficult to realize by either Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. or a game developer like us. So what about if we work together? … Still I can’t say for sure at this moment, though it sounds like an interesting and challenging assignment. YPSH : Granzella is now releasing in Japan first, then EU and finally NA. Will we see a day when Granzella releases new products in all regions simultaneously? Kazuma : At this moment, we are restructuring the framework that will enable us to release items and start events at the same time in all of the regions. We will definitely make that happen. YPSH : So far, Granzella has used themes based on the rich history of Japaneese culture, a seaside resort and a downtown club atmosphere. What other themes would you like to see come to life in PS Home? Kazuma : We want to provide anything and everything for PlayStation Home. One thing that we intend to provide which is extremely lacking is science fiction. So, I definitely want to introduce a science fiction themed space to Home. YPSH : Speaking of a downtime club atmosphere, will we see Neon Downtown come to NA and EU sometime soon? Kazuma : The release of “Neon Downtown” in the other regions has been under consideration since the beginning of this year. Actually, this spring we were about to launch a project to make it happen. Unfortunately, the project ended up being shelved as the other project was given higher priority. Now, the project has restarted and we are now gearing up for the launch. We can't give you an exact date, but we are looking at sometime before the April Fool's 2013. YPSH : Granzella seems to have a close relationship with Peakvox and GAW. Will we see any joint efforts with those companies? Kazuma : Yes. We talk regularly with Peakvox and GAW to cooperate with each other. In fact, we jointly hold events on a regular basis. We’ll continue to further strengthen our relationship with them. Also, we are interested in holding events in collaboration with not only Japanese companies, but also overseas developers. YPSH : Lastly, I know you can't go into details, but can you give us any idea of what Granzella has in store for the future? Kazuma : We are currently gearing up a development system to bring a better life to PlayStation Home. At the same time, we’re developing games for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation Mobile. Disaster-themed games similar to Zettai Zetsumei Toshi (Disaster Report) are also included among them. YPSH : Lastly, what's in store for you? Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now? Kazuma : One thing is for certain, I will be still creating digital entertainment in five years or ten years from now. I have no doubt about it (lol). YPSH : I know I speak for many Home users that we have very much enjoyed Granzella's efforts and will continue to anxiously await what Granzella has in store for us next. Thank you very much for chatting with me today. YourPSHome.net will continue to follow Granzella's developments. Best of luck to you and Granzella. Kazuma : I’m so glad to hear that. We promise to continue giving PlayStation Home our best efforts. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize for the delayed releases in North America, Europe, and Asia. We’re now gearing up for a framework that makes it possible to launch our services in all regions at the same time. Please keep looking forward to our exciting and thrilling activities on PlayStation Home. Arigato.