Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain will soon release for PS4, marking the first simultaneous worldwide launch for D3 Publisher.
Compared to the mainline numbered Earth Defense Force series, the game has been designed to be attractive to a worldwide audience and aims to bring new fans into the fold.
To learn more about what this entails, Twinfinite talked with producer Nobuyuki Okajima at D3 Publisher’s headquarters in Tokyo, and he discussed several aspects of the game and of its western launch.
Giuseppe: You recently announced the western release date, and it’s the same as the Japanese launch. I believe this is a first for D3 Publisher. Has it been difficult to achieve?
Nobuyuki Okajima: It honestly wasn’t that difficult, because we kicked off the project with a worldwide release in mind. Until EDF 5, we were just aiming for the Japanese market first, and then we considered the western release. In that case, it was more challenging.
This time it wasn’t difficult at all.
G: Is a simultaneous release something we can expect to regularly happen in the future for your titles that are going to get a western release?
NO: It’s possible, but of course, it depends on the game.
G: How did Earth Defense Force 5 do in the west? Were sales satisfactory?
NO: It’s been a month since the western release of EDF5 in the west. For now, sales aren’t as high as we expected. We believe that one of the reasons for that is that the localization process was delayed and the fans had to wait longer. I think that caused a degree of disappointment.
On the bright side, we know that there are a lot of hardcore fans who got EDF5 and are looking forward to Iron Rain.
G: Do you think Iron Rain has better chances in the west, considering that it’s a bit more geared for the international audience and will be released simultaneously worldwide?
NO: Yes. We’re working really hard for that.
G: Do you think the fact that it’s only on PS4 might be a bit of a hindrance for the western release? Are you looking into expanding to other platforms like Steam, the Switch, or even Xbox One?
NO: We understand that many would like EDF games on different platforms. From a technical standpoint, it’s actually a bit difficult to port the game to Switch. However, ports to PC and Xbox are possible.
G: Lately I’ve seen many Japanese developers exploring Steam as a venue for their games. Have you been considering expanding Steam support for the rest of your games as well, beyond EDF?
NO: We have released some of our titles on Steam as we understand that it’s good for the western market. We will continue to launch our games on Steam going forward.
G: Nowadays the Epic Store is becoming more and more relevant, and Iron Rain is made with Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. Are you interested in that?
NO: It could be an option, possibly.
G: With Earth Defense Force 5, you had a collaboration with the latest Starship Troopers animated film. Are you looking at more crossovers and collaborations for Iron Rain?
NO: As of now, we haven’t planned any collaboration like that. Personally, I’m a fan of Starship Troopers, so I’d love to try it again.
G: Speaking of that. Was there any inspiration from Starship Troopers when creating the Earth Defense Force franchise?
NO: We actually didn’t create our games to be similar to the movies. However, when designing our marketing and trailers we have been taken some inspiration from them.
G: Now that Iron Rain is close to its completion, are you already working on the next mainline EDF game?
NO: Our top priority is not to disappoint our core fans, so I am always thinking about the next EDF, and I am right now.
We have plans. However, we don’t have anything to share right now, so please look forward to announcements in the future.
G: What do you think are the most important differences between Iron Rain and the mainline EDF games? Are there any that you think are going to specifically appeal to western gamers?
NO: The core gameplay experience is the same.
The biggest difference is in the approach. In numbered games of the series, the setting is always in Japan. The storytelling and everything else is geared towards the Japanese audience. Gamers in Japan are familiar with the world and setting.
For Iron Rain, that’s completely different. Locations, storytelling, character development… everything we created from the ground up has been designed for gamers in the western markets.
That’s the fundamental difference that we think is very relevant.
G: Interestingly, Iron Rain includes an opposing human faction on top of the alien Aggressors. Is that another element you feel is geared for the western market, as opposed to storytelling more focused on unity and collaboration which might be more familiar to the Japanese culture?
NO: I’m fairly old and my team members are of a similar age. We’ve been working together for a long time. When we were younger and working on the early games of the series, we got a lot of inspiration from classic anime and indie science-fiction movies from overseas.
It’s actually difficult to answer your question, but we simply put everything that we liked into the storytelling. We don’t even know everything about it ourselves.
We were inspired by many Japanese anime like Hokuto No Ken [Fist of the North Star] and Gundam. On top of that, there was also a lot of inspiration from pop culture like Bruce Lee, western science-fiction, Starship Troopers, Mad Max, and more.
G: Since the Japanese market has shrunk a little due to the rise of mobile games, many developers are looking with increasing interest to the western market. How important is it now for D3 Publisher?
NO: In the end, it’s all about our customers and players. As long as there are players looking forward to new titles from our company, we’ll always try to release the games for them.
Things like digital distribution and social media created more reasons for us to release our titles in the western markets. We’ll definitely make a big effort to launch our games outside of Japan.
G: Do you think the western market is difficult to approach for a Japanese company like D3 Publisher?
NO: Yes. It’s difficult. We’re very close to our Japanese fan base, and we’re used to developing our games for the Japanese audience.
We don’t have a long history of releasing our games outside of Japan, so we’re in the process of learning right now.
G: You probably noticed this yourself, but there certainly is a sizable niche in the west made of gamers who like Japanese games a lot. From my experience, those gamers actually prefer to be approached in the same way as Japanese fans. Is that something you have seen as well?
NO: You’re 100% right. We’ve always been approaching those hardcore western fans in the same way as we do Japanese fans. They’re among our most important customers and they’re part of our community.
That is exactly why we’re still releasing the traditional EDF series. On the other hand, we decided to develop EDF: Iron Rain which is completely different, and that’s why we’re not calling it Earth Defense Force 6.
The main objective for the numbered games is to make those hardcore fans happier and give them what they want. EDF: IR is targeting everyone outside of the core fanbase. That was our mission.
We wanted to explore how we can reach outside of our core fans by changing locations, storytelling, and character development. We hope to see new fans grab the game, and after giving it a try, become interested in the traditional numbered games.
Earth Defense Force: Iron Rain will be released in Japan and in the west on April 11, 2019, exclusively for PS4.