kyotomascot.jpgAll photos courtesy of Dylan Cuthbert.

Playism occupies a unique role in the game industry. The company is at once a localizer, a publisher, and a storefront. Playism's staff facilitates the release of Japanese indie games in the west and western indie games in Japan, through their own storefront and/or through Steam. They've also been involved with BitSummit since the beginning. Since they have a unique perspective on both the Japanese indie scene and BitSummit, I asked Playism's Nayan Ramachandran to answer some questions for us about BitSummit and Playism's involvement in it.

Weren't Playism staff present at the first BitSummit as interpreters? How did that come about and why did that change for the second and third BitSummit events?

That's right. I wasn't there, so I can't be sure, but yeah, we collaborated with them to assist with interpretation. I was working for Playism at the time, but was telecommunicating from the US, so I can't be absolutely sure.

Last year, you had your own little corner for Playism and its developers, but this year there was no Playism booth and the developers you work with were all over the place. What led to that change?

It was just a byproduct of the planning, and what we wanted to do this year. While the corner was a cool idea last year, I really thought giving all our developers Playism shirts with their games on it worked out better, showing how our family of developers has grown. We were also heavily involved with the booth arrangements last year, and we had a reduced role this year.

Do you mean that you assisted BitSummit staff with coming up with the booth arrangement last year? If so, was Playism kind of on the ground floor of getting BitSummit started and has since floated more to the pure exhibitor side of things?

We did! NIGORO and Playism helped with booth arrangement last year, but we decided to take a less involved role this year due to other responsibilities.

samurai.jpgWhat do you think about BitSummit this year as compared to last year and the year before?

It's an unmitigated success. Amazing booth arrangement, great crowds, and a really cool stage show. I liked that you could stage from every corner of the hall. It was a stroke of genius, to be honest. The vibe was fantastic, everyone was really positive, and having Indie Megabooth bring a group of devs with them as well was super cool.

What if any effect do you think the presence of Indie Megabooth had on the Japanese developers who were present at BitSummit?

I think it gave a lot of Japanese developers a better idea of what's actually being made in the West. A lot of Japanese indie devs aren't necessarily exposed to the full breadth of the western indie scene, so it's great to have them right there, showing off the best the West has to offer. My hope is that this does two things: 1) it gives the Japanese scene some insight into the progress the West has made, and 2) it motivates them to up their game and compete head on with the western indie scene.

If nothing else, that alone legitimized the event in the eyes of the western indie scene, and that means a ton for the Japanese indie scene.

How does BitSummit compare to other events you've been to like Comiket, Tokyo Game Show, and PAX?

Those are all considerably larger events, but I found BitSummit this time out far more organized and manageable than something like Tokyo Game Show. To be honest, I think it was the perfect size, and had a great turnout of attendees. You never want to go too big and not fill to capacity, so I think they made a great call on the size of the event.

In what ways has Playism benefitted most from attending BitSummit over the years? Do you feel like it's benefitted you as a digital storefront selling to Japanese gamers?

It's a great way to support our developers by connecting them with foreign media. It's also an awesome way to catch up with developers and platform holders that we haven't seen in some time. We mostly do business over email, but the face-to-face time is really fantastic, and it's a great chance to show people in person what we've all been working on.

necrodancer.jpgWhat sort of things do you hear from the developers you work with about BitSummit?

Lots of positive stuff. They get a chance to engage not only with fans that already know their games, but also people curious enough to check out a game event that might not be familiar with what they make. BitSummit brings in people that normally might not be interested in Comiket, so that's definitely a boon for them.

What if any effect do you think BitSummit has had on the Japanese indie community in general?

I've been noticing that it's been solidifying the notion of "indie" as its own entity apart from doujin, which I think is important for a lot of developers. D4 director Swery gave a talk during the show about how indie is a different thing, and how he believes that the true test of indie (vs. mainstream development) is owning your own IP, and having the power to do what you want with it, even when working with a publisher.

For Japanese devs, I think that's really important. They can work with a publisher who can cast a wider net marketing wise, and deal with logistical issues the developer can't, but the developer retains the rights to their IP, giving them the potential to continue working with that IP in whatever way they see fit.

What would you say is the difference between indie and doujin games? I associate doujin with manga, and specifically with fan manga; I know many English speakers associate it more specifically with sexual fan content. However, at BitSummit last year I saw some developers who classified themselves as doujin developers but weren't making fan works for any IPs that I knew of.

Doujin is what I would consider the hobbyist dev scene. There are tons of incredibly talented doujin devs, but most consider it a hobby alongside their real jobs. Indie, to me, is when developers make it their full time job, and work on their own original IPs.

There's no doubt everyone has a different definition for indie and doujin, but that's mine.

bitsummitgame.jpgWhat do you think are BitSummit's greatest strengths and weaknesses?

At this point, its greatest strength is being a stylish, positive event for Japanese indies, and something that is already getting global recognition. I honestly don't have any complaints about it this year. It had its issues last year, but this year's event was pitch perfect. I can't wait to see how it grows going forward.

Do you have any other thoughts on BitSummit that you'd like to share with our readers?

Only that if you have any interest in Japanese gaming at all, you owe it yourself to read up on the great games that were at BitSummit. Also, if you find yourself in Japan at the right time next year, make the trip to Kyoto and check out the event. It's a lot of fun, and full of passionate, talented people. The Japanese indie scene is growing in a big way, and western gamers owe it to themselves to check out these games.