Nintendojo at the 23rd Annual Natsume Holiday Party

Hints of something huge were dropped alongside the festive revelry!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/09/2019 00:32 Comment on this     ShareThis

Natsume has been making video games for over 30 years, but in all that time the company hasn’t lost any of its soul. Even today’s tech startups can quickly fall victim to the cold lifelessness of corporate thinking and methodologies— to think that Natsume has managed to avoid this dreary fate for over three decades is nothing short of astounding. Yet, it’s clear after my fourth year attending the company’s annual holiday party that the sense of family that pervades the event is a genuine part of its day-to-day business operations.

This was especially evident during this year’s festivities as Nintendojo contributor Angela Marrujo, her boyfriend Zack, and I stood among the crowd listening to Natsume President Hiro Maekawa give his yearly speech. There’s always such warmth and genuine humor that comes from Maekawa as talks about the past year for the company and thanks everyone for their support. It’s so easy for this sort of thing to devolve into droll platitudes, but Maekawa comes across as a man that seems to truly care about the people who work for him. Heck, every time I come through the doors with Angela and Zack, Maekawa and his wife both give us all a hug and thank us for coming!

Maekawa and Graham Markay, the Vice President of Operations for Natsume, both spoke about the concept of family, and I have to admit, it was a nice thing to hear. With studios shuttering and talk of things like “crunch” being the norm for so many people in the development community, Natsume appears to strive at being fair and magnanimous to its workers. Maekawa’s kindness extends to his friends, too, as yet again we found ourselves at the lovely Sakae Sushi & Grill in Burlingame, California. Chef Endo’s food is always a delight, and watching the enormous tuna that gets brought out and turned into sushi before our very eyes is always the perfect capper to the evening.

It’s not just about food and fun at the Natsume holiday party, however— there’s always a little bit of news to discuss afterwards. For one thing, Maekawa said that both Reel Fishing: Road Trip Adventure and Harvest Moon: Mad Dash are selling well. Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, meanwhile, is showing remarkable staying power a year later as it continues to be a hot commodity among consumers. What was even more interesting was word that Natsume is working on something very top secret that the company hopes will fuel its business moving into the future. No specifics were given, but Maekawa talked about the changing dynamics of the industry and the opportunities that can afford.

I asked Markay about the status of Cosmic Defenders, the first game in Natsume’s Indie Program. I’d gotten the opportunity to sample the game at this past E3, but was curious when fans will be able to play the final build. I didn’t get any specifics, but Markay said it’s looking like Cosmic Defenders is headed for a tentative Q1 launch in 2020. As a final tease, I will say that Natsume has something up its sleeve that I think will make fans very, very excited. No official announcement yet, but when it drops, there’s going to be quite a frenzy! Really, the future continues to look bright for Natsume, and as a lover of the industry I’m all for seeing video game studios doing well. When they’re populated with people this nice, however, it makes rooting for them even easier.

A final shout out to Kit Ellis and Krysta Yang of Nintendo for repping the House of Mario yet again. The hosts of Nintendo Minute are always very nice to talk with and add some star power to the occasion. It’s also cool to see Nintendo taking the time to make an appearance in quiet, old Burlingame, supporting one of the publishers that has been a consistent presence on the company’s various consoles ever since the days of SNES. Here’s hoping 2020 continues to do right by everyone once it’s time for the next Natsume holiday party!

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