GDC 2013: Crispy’s failed pitches and why SCEA didn’t want to publish Tokyo Jungle

Crispy’s president Yohei Kataoka revealed SCEA’s disinterest in publishing Tokyo Jungle and the numerous struggles it faced getting its games published during his talk at GDC 2013.

The Tokyo Jungle developer was founded in 2007 by a group of designers with zero previous development experience before their first international release, Tokyo Jungle, last year. Crispy’s president Kataoka revealed that the company – funded through SCEJ’s start-up programme PlayStation C.A.M.P – struggled through multiple failed pitches for games, though they managed to develop and release PSP title MyStylist, a wardrobe database that used the PSP camera add-on in 2008.

These failed pitches included “Project ME:CO,” which he described as “a hybrid between a social networking service and a game.”

“The more records [from friends] you collected the more your spaceship would grow and be able to go further,” he said. “It was what people would call a social game but it was perhaps too early for that.”

Other pitches included a 3D action game where players take the role of the “god of rain” and Planet and Baby, a bizarre title where players would nurture a “megababy” on a planet in a style vaguely similar to Lionhead’s Black & White. Though they chose to concentrate on one pitch, “World of Colours,” a game about a traveller who lands on an undiscovered planet and quests alone to construct a map of it, it was ultimately rejected by SCEJ for “lacking the logic of fun.”

However, Kataoka wanted to make a game without traditional level-based play, and so re-considered the game to find more universal themes, deciding to concentrate on an “animal x ghost town” theme. It was through the rules animals inhabit – required to find prey or plants and breed to survive, that Kataoka says the “logic of fun” was finally found.

However, though the game was accepted by SCEJ, they still faced some challenges. Unusually, Crispy’s creates all of its own promotional materials, and was requested to create a “noisy, showy” cover for Tokyo Jungle. “I don’t think this design showed the maximum appeal of Tokyo Jungle,” he said. “I removed all of the animals apart from the Pomeranian … I needed the design to have this level of impact, and as the result the packaging was a hit.”

Though both Japan and Europe were on board to publish, the title was not accepted for North America, and Kataoka revealed the feedback that was originally returned:

“’Why is the setting in Tokyo and not in the US? Why are we using animals as our main characters? We think it is a niche idea. Only in Japan can you sell these ideas.’ That was the comments that were originally sent to us from SCEA.”

It was only through support of SCEJ and sustained online buzz from Japan that it was finally accepted, though Kataoka said it was “at the very, very last minute.”

“Thanks to the fans and all the supporters out there, the title performed well,” he closed, noting that “It seems the fans in the US enjoy the game in similar ways to the users in Japan.”

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