The Nintendojo Interview: Corey Warning and Eric Eberhardt

We chat with the folks at Rose City Games and VIZ Media about The World Next Door and much more!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/03/2019 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Finally, we’ll conclude with our interview of Eric Eberhardt:

Nintendojo (ND): VIZ Media is a name synonymous with manga, anime, books, and other pop culture delights, but this is the first time that the company has published a video game. What made now the right time?

Eric Eberhardt: The past few years have been fantastic for VIZ, with hit manga series like My Hero Academia, Tokyo Ghoul, The Promised Neverland and many others, and the massive success of One-Punch Man as both a manga and anime. There have also been a lot of changes in our business, and getting involved in games publishing is just one of the ways that VIZ is adapting. In the past few months, we also launched a brand-new Shonen Jump app and website that gives readers access to 10,000+ chapters of manga, announced our first original animated series for Netflix and introduced a new line of original graphic novels. All of these new undertakings are guided by feedback from our fans, and they’re all great opportunities to tell compelling stories in new and exciting ways.

ND: With so many manga and anime franchises to choose from as part of your publishing wing, what helped shape VIZ’s first game project into being a wholly original IP?

Eric Eberhardt: Our friends at Bandai Namco have been doing an amazing job with games based on Naruto, Dragon Ball, One Piece, and other Shonen Jump series for years, and with the massive, worldwide audience for these franchises, it’s a tough act to follow! By starting out with smaller, original titles, we’re hoping to explore new types of gameplay and stories, while still building on the core elements that we know our fans love.

ND: Rose City Games has done a great job with The World Next Door. What led to that partnership?

Eric Eberhardt: We first found out about Rose City Games via a game jam they hosted for Cartoon Network in 2016. Their work on the jam encapsulated a lot of the goals we had already been talking about in terms of launching a games business: building community, working with talented indie developers, and, of course, the cross-over between games and comics/animation. Rose City has been a great partner due to their understanding of those goals, as well as their connection to the Portland indie game dev community via PIGSquad.

ND: Have there been any interesting challenges or opportunities that have arisen tackling a video game for the first time? What has the learning curve been like stepping into this area of the entertainment business?

Eric Eberhardt: I personally have some experience in games prior to starting at VIZ, having worked at Telltale Games and other developers here in the Bay Area, but even so there have been a lot of new things to learn. Probably the biggest challenge has been just sorting through all the endless possibilities of what a game can be. Given that this is our first one as a company, we wanted to make sure it would appeal to our fans while also giving them something they hadn’t seen before. As for opportunities, it’s been really great working with tools like Unity and platforms like the Switch in order to prototype and build something rapidly, and then bring it to a massive, worldwide audience once it’s ready.

ND: With manga, anime, and video games, there’s a lot of overlap in terms of the sorts of stories that are told, characters, and so on. What’s different about developing something as a video game versus a manga or anime? What’s the same?

Eric Eberhardt: Telling stories is definitely at the heart of what we’re trying to do with games, but we know that ultimately, they’re going to be judged by their gameplay and how the story is told, as much as on the characters and narrative themselves. With The World Next Door, we set out to wrap a really compelling story around a gameplay mechanic that felt natural in that context. Of course, we also know that everyone plays games differently, so we also created an “Assist Mode” that allows players to proceed through the game easily, even as the puzzle battles become way more challenging. And for players who can’t get enough of those battles, we’re introducing a new “Vs. Mode” that will allow you to face off against your friends in a non-stop series of matches on both Switch and Steam.

ND: Freshman outings are often imperfect, but The World Next Door is a really solid experience. Have VIZ and Rose City stumbled upon some sort of secret sauce they’d like to share with everyone else? In seriousness, though, it’s a great achievement; how does VIZ feel about the response it’s been getting to The World Next Door?

Eric Eberhardt: The response has been encouraging, and we’re excited to continue building on this with future games. If there’s any secret sauce, I would say that it’s partnering with talented folks who share your goals and vision, and paying close attention to the feedback from fans and reviewers. Even though the response to The World Next Door has been great so far, we are definitely listening to both the good and bad points of what people have had to say about the game, and we’ll be applying all this to all the games we make in the future.

ND: Are there plans for future world-building with The World Next Door? It feels like it would be a natural fit for anime and manga, which VIZ knows a little bit about…

Eric Eberhardt: It’s definitely something we’ve discussed, however at this time we don’t have anything new to announce. The response to the prequel comic that we created has been positive, so I’m hoping we can continue telling this story in a variety of formats in the coming years!

ND: Are there plans for a sequel to The World Next Door at this point?

Eric Eberhardt: It’s something we’ll definitely be continuing to evaluate as the fan response dictates.

ND: Finally, everyone is curious if VIZ will be making any games revolving around the myriad properties it publishes like Full Metal Alchemist, The Promised Neverland, and so much more?

Eric Eberhardt: We know the audience for these properties is massive and the fandom is incredibly passionate, so when the right opportunity presents itself, we’ll be ready to take it.

We would like to thank both Corey and Eric for taking the time to chat with us!

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