Meet The Team That's Bringing Indie Games To Japan

by Keenan McCall on Dec 19, 2017 at 12:00 PM

For many indie developers, bringing their game to Japan presents several new headaches and challenges. Dangen wants to change that.

Launched in April and comprised of industry veterans with years of experience across marketing, translation, and game publishing, Dangen Entertainment was created with the intent to aid indie developers looking to expand their games’ audiences with a Japanese release. While there are micropublishers available in Japan to make this possible, it is often difficult and costly to find one willing to take a chance on new or unproven titles. 

Even when an indie title is accepted, how the game is marketed by these micropublishers can be its own gamble. Some smaller titles are released with little to no marketing, crippling potential sales.

Ben Judd, one of the founders of Dangen and a veteran of Capcom’s localization department, saw the potential for indie games and the challenges they face in localization while attending BitSummit 2015. Determined to do something, he gathered a team of seasoned game industry veterans to create a new, more dedicated micropublisher for fledgling independent developers. 

“We wanted to provide more options to those indies who really didn’t have as much as you’d think were out there,” Judd says. “When we’re working with an independent developer, they’re getting 100 percent honesty, 100 percent of our focus.” 

From left to right: Nayan Ramachandran, Chad Porter, John Davis, Ben Judd, Dan Stern and Dan Luffey.

Using their experience and connections from across the industry, Dangen offers indie publishers access to resources they otherwise wouldn’t have: Assistance in applying to the Japanese ratings board, marketing the game through streaming and advertising, and even acquiring dev kits, which can be difficult to obtain in countries like Greece or India.

“Often times, many of these developers are working inside something like Unity or Game Maker, so they’re using engines that are pretty scalable and are able to go to other platforms. They just don’t have the connections,” says Nayan Ramachandran, who scouts developers and content for the company to publish. “It’s an opportunity for them to get to those other platforms in a pretty easy way.”

The company also provides new opportunities for developers to get in touch with famous developers or team members who worked on games which inspired their projects. Through former lines of contact, the team has connected indie developers with the creators of series that inspired them. Koji Igarashi, creator of Castlevania, agreed to do let's plays and promote the Castlevania-inspired Brave Earth: Prologue upon its release in 2018, after seeing it for himself at Dangen's request.

Likewise, a collaborative effort is in place for Antonis Pelikanos’ The Takeover. Inspired by the art and gameplay of classic games like Streets of Rage, the games proved a perfect chance to collaborate with members of the original titles’ teams.

“Yuzo Koshiro, who did the music for Revenge of Shinobi, Streets of Rage, and Act Raiser, he’s going to do a song for that game,” Judd says. “It’s a small thing, but it’s still totally motivated the creator.”

Internally, the company strives to offer fairer business practices to those working in localization.

“Even today, lots of companies – both big-name companies and translation companies themselves – do not credit translators for their work,” says Dan Luffey, the founding member who oversees localization. “We give them very fair pay for their work. We also give them a revenue share, so once the game sells a certain amount, they’ll start getting a percentage of the profit for the game.”

The company has already found success in its first few months, with one successful release and six more titles still in development. While there are still risks that they run as a new company supporting new ideas and creators, they’re happy to take them on for the benefits they bring to all parties involved.

“We’re taking [the risk] with them,” says Judd. “Because of that, they’re like ‘Hey, publish worldwide,’ and ‘We trust you guys.’ We’re able to help out a team in a way that other publishers wouldn’t be able to.”

Interested in checking out some other indie titles in the works? Check out our preview of InnerSpace, as well as footage from Igarashi's own indie project Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.