A few years ago, NIS America was most known for franchises like Disgaea and for localising the likes of Danganronpa. NIS America today is much bigger and it releases games for multiple systems. For our first interview ever on The Mako Reactor, I spoke to Erin Kim, Public Relations Coordinator at NIS America about new Japanese games, Nihon Falcom, marketing niche games for mainstream audiences, and much more.

NIS America has been adding more partners in Japan to its repertoire. The likes of Aquaplus and Furyu who had titles released in the West through Atlus USA are now with NIS America. I wanted to know what NIS America aims for when it comes to bringing in newer fans to existing franchises and consistency for older fans in games that have been localised through other publishers before.

“Keeping games consistent within a series is important, especially so with a title like Trails of Cold Steel III,” says Kim. “We worked with staff that previously worked on the localisation of past instalments to preserve the game’s overall tone and other factors such as characterisation.”

With The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III and Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA, NIS America seems like the face of Nihon Falcom in the West. I was curious about the potential plans to bring some earlier Nihon Falcom games to modern platforms.

“We’ve been incredibly honored to be partnered with Nihon Falcom for Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA and Trails of Cold Steel III, and although we don’t consider ourselves as the Western face, we hope to one day earn that comparison,” says Kim.

“There are no plans at this time for their earlier titles,” she says. “But should things change we will make announcements on our official channels.”

When it comes to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III, promotion and marketing for the game surpassed almost everything else seen for Falcom games in the West combined but one aspect of it stuck out. Most of the branding and marketing dropped the moniker ‘The Legend of Heroes’. NIS America had a big task of getting new players interested in the third entry in a franchise.

“The Legend of Heroes retains itself in the game’s official listing, such as on its game page and our website,” Kim says before explaining why the ‘Trails of Cold Steel’ branding is now more prominent – recall value.

“However, we did notice that the ‘Trails of Cold Steel’ naming was more familiar than the former thanks to the series’ strong performance on the previous console generation,” she says. “We also wanted to keep the focus on the instalment itself, so we opted to stick with Trails of Cold Steel III for most of our messaging.”

On the topic of prior games in The Legend of Heroes series from Nihon Falcom, the company recently announced two PS4 ports of earlier games for Japan in the form of The Legend of Heroes: Zero no Kiseki Kai and Ao no Kiseki Kai. A localisation hasn’t been announced at this time.

Here’s why NIS brought Disgaea 4 and not Disgaea 3 to Nintendo Switch and PS4

Over the last two years, many older NIS titles like Disgaea 4 and even Yomawari have been brought to Nintendo Switch and PS4. A few of the smaller titles like A Rose in the Twilight and Firefly Diary still remain only on PC and PS Vita. It seems like it is more of a matter of time for a lot of ports at this rate and fans have been wanting to know the possibility of English releases of older NIS developed titles for newer systems.

“Our internal philosophy at NIS America is to bring our products to whatever platform we think fans will want to see those titles on. In the last few years we’ve had success bringing over Disgaea to the Nintendo Switch, and before that, to PC. We’ve even worked with our licensors to bring their games to new consoles just for international release. While we’re always looking towards new horizons, we also consider how we can utilise new platforms for older titles.”

Disgaea 5 Complete on Nintendo Switch was a big success. That led to Disgaea 1 Complete for PS4 and Nintendo Switch and more recently Disgaea 4 Complete+. I wanted to know why Disgaea 4 was chosen over going with Disgaea 2 which already has a PC port or even Disgaea 3.

“We learned from last year’s worldwide fan survey that Disgaea 4 ranked second in both story and gameplay popularity,” she says. “These factors did play a part in going forth with Disgaea 4 Complete+

NIS America on Google Stadia, Project xCloud, and the future of gaming

For those who watched The Game Awards and even anyone who has paid attention to gaming news over the last year, a lot of platform holders and storefronts are expanding their subscription and streaming services like Xbox Game Pass and Google Stadia. I wanted to know what NIS America thought about these services for their titles.

“Just like how we’ve got our eyes on the upcoming consoles, streaming platforms are also on our radar as they introduce new avenues to introduce players to our titles”, she says. “However, this does not diminish our plans and commitment to traditional console publishing. We don’t have any announcements to make at the moment, but we are excited to see what the future may bring.”

When looking at what many game publishers are focussing on today, digital sales and recurring spending, NIS America is an outlier with a big focus on actual physical game releases and limited editions thanks to the boutique storefront it has online selling exclusive lavish collector’s editions. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA had a massive box that included bookends, a SteelBook, a high quality artbook, and much more. It is always interesting to know how physical games for smaller publishers are doing with the rise of digital game sales.

“Like you mentioned, we continuously put out physical Limited Editions for which we are well known, and even some special physical standard releases such as the ‘A Promise of Sardines Edition’ for Disgaea 4 Complete+ or the ‘Early Enrollment Edition’ for Trails of Cold Steel III.”

That is not to say that NIS America is ignoring digital altogether. It is attempting to court those audiences with bonuses as well.

“We’re also expanding our digital outreach via art books and soundtracks offered with our games,” Kim tells us. The reason for this is simple: it helps the publisher stand out.

“We want to ensure that whether someone buys our games digital or physical, you are getting a little something extra to reflect the effort NIS America puts into its titles.”

How to get NIS America games in India

In India, NIS America doesn’t have a distributor but a lot of titles make their way here through import stores or digital purchases. Niche franchises in gaming often have small but vocal audiences and everyone would prefer having easier access to the games they want to buy.

“If you’d like to see more of our games, we’d like to hear it,” she says. “Feel free to reach out to us via social media, our Discord, or our online store. We’re always looking for ways to offer our titles in more places and platforms.”

It is going to be interesting seeing NIS America’s output in 2020 with many games slated for the next few months already like La Mulana 1&2, Psikyo Shooting Stars Bravo, Trails of Cold Steel III on Nintendo Switch, and more.