Last month a group of former employees from Nippon Ichi Software's North American branch founded publishing company Acttil, which will focus on guiding indie studios through the publication process and help foreign developers break into the U.S. market.
Nao Miyazawa, NIS America's former vice president of marketing, said she left the Japan-based development and publishing company — responsible for publishing and localizing dozens of games including the Disgaea, Atelier and Hyperdimension Neptunia series — because she was ready for something new.
"I joined NIS America as a part-time translator in 2004," Miyazawa told Polygon. "I worked on [role-playing game] Atelier Iris, [strategy game] Generation of Chaos, and other games released around that time. After a year and a half, I was offered a PR and marketing position."
Miyazawa found herself at home in the company, serving as a marketing specialist for its North American branch and investing herself in NIS's dedication to bringing games overseas and localizing them for a wider audience.
"The reason why I decided to join NISA full-time is because their core philosophy resonated with me," she explained. "It was an exciting eight years, for sure."
But after those eight years, Miyazawa, along with NIS America vice president of production Hiroko Kanazashi and producer Jack Niida, were ready to apply the same philosophy to a different part of the market: indie games.
"I gained plenty of experience and knowledge at NISA, and I am grateful for it all," Miyazawa explained. "We simply wanted to challenge something new, using our gained experience and knowledge."
On April 30, 2013, the trio left to form Acttil. They are still the company's only members, but hope to grow their company as their work gets underway.
Acceptance, creativity, teamwork, trust, innovation, and love.
Miyazawa explained that the name "Acttil" is an acronym for the company's philosophy, a string of words that embody what the team hopes to foster in their relationships with indie developers: acceptance, creativity, teamwork, trust, innovation, and love.
"We first came up with words that are important to us," she explained. "The three of us carry similar values, so it was easy to decide on which words we wanted to have in the company name. What was hard for us was thinking up a good word using the letters."
Acttil may not have access to the same resources as larger publishers like the worldwide-established Nippon Ichi, but Miyazawa is confident that their small size will allow them to work more quickly and efficiently with indie developers that need assistance.
"Our advantage lies in our flexibility and our ability to adapt quickly because of our smaller size," she said. "We believe that there are many different ways to work with developers. Some developers might just be looking for help with production, or localization, or help with marketing their titles. Others still might be looking primarily for a publisher. We would like to work with developers in a way that both parties will be happy with the result."
Localization is listed first on the indie publisher's page of services, and Miyazawa says one of Acttil's main goals is to publish more games by smaller developers outside of their home region.
"Nowadays, simultaneous worldwide releases are possible for video game publishers," Miyazawa said. "But localizing the product for each region is not a simple task. We believe that localization is not simply translating the text. You have to know about the culture, local expressions, and idioms well enough to be able to tweak the text to best suit each region.
"We don't believe it isn't possible."
"So if a U.S. developer is looking for localization services for the Japanese market, we can definitely bring Japanese cultural references to the table for them and vice-versa for Japanese developers looking for a localization service for the U.S. market," she added.
Miyazawa noted that Japanese translation is the group's greatest strength but is by no means the only language they will support. For now, however, Acttil plans to capitalize on this strength and focus on bringing Japanese content to the west as the company gets the ball rolling. Miyazawa said the company will begin by localizing Japanese ebooks currently unavailable in English, including travel guides, picture books and cookbooks.
The Japanese indie games scene has been crawling steadily into the spotlight, with events like the Japanese BitSummit conference calling attention to the often-under-the-radar community. Miyazawa agrees that while marketing games is always a challenge, a Japanese developer hoping to break into the U.S. market faces that challenge ten times greater.
"We know how tough it is to market video games nowadays because there are so many games out there, even for U.S. developers," she said. "So, if a developer is from different country, it probably looks like it would be a massive struggle to tap into the U.S. market. But we don't believe it isn't possible.
"I believe that BitSummit is encouraging and motivating for indie developers in Japan," she added. "We would like to work with Japanese developers in a similar manner. We won't make any grand claims, like we plan to do something similar to BitSummit, but we would love to work with Japanese developers and bring their games to a worldwide audience.
"Taking baby steps is all we can do right now, and we are proud to have made it this far."