Mitsuya Fujimoto, CEO of Ganapati Malta, discusses how the company combines the European online gaming experience with unique Japanese entertainment ideas
Can you talk us through your history in the gaming industry?
I do not have a great deal of background in the gaming industry, but I have always been in the design business. I used to make cartoons in America, which is when I made a lot of connections with great talent, both in America and all over the world. After that I got into the music business, which is where I built up my strong understanding of intellectual property rights. I then got into film and television, and have been doing that for a long time. In short, I have worked in a great number of different areas, across all aspects of entertainment. I have no idea what I’m getting myself into, but I think sometimes that degree of naivety helps, because you’re not afraid of trying something very different. We have a great team at Ganapati, with people like Richard Hogg, who has given me a great deal of support and guidance. I think to have an outsider like me working with such an experienced team of operators in this industry gives us something completely new.
Can you talk me through the history of Ganapati?
Ganapati was founded about three years ago by entrepreneurs like myself and investors in Japan. Less than a year ago we set up the operation in London to go about producing games, and it’s only been six months that we’ve been in the industry with the two and a half preceding years devoted to research and discussion, as well as making deals with my creators. In other words, there is no history. We are like a tiny little toddler, able to bring a new and exciting outlook to iGaming.
What sets your games apart from the competition?
I think the games themselves have been thoroughly tested in the market, but our biggest selling point at this stage is the bundles of assets that we have from Japan, and the bundles of assets that we have created in Hollywood. These combine to give our content a very different angle.
So are you looking to target any specific markets in the coming year?
Our target markets will always stay wide and vast, but I think we’ll be very strong in the Millennial market. The familiarity of our IP is important here - one of our new games is built from one of the biggest selling video games from the year 2000. These kids who used to play in 2000 are now adults. We are carefully planning year-by-year strategic marketing ideas from now to 2020, meaning that as all these Millennials are starting to earn their own money, they will then play the games.
How much of a challenge has Ganapati found recruiting and retaining the right people? And how important is that for you as a company?
It is very important for us to hire the right people; there is no use hiring someone who doesn’t fit in with our plan. I need someone who’s innovative, open-minded, with good experience and one of the most important things - because of our Japanese focus - is that many of our administrative departments require staff to be bilingual.
Retention has not been too difficult, which I think is in partly a result of the exciting environment that we offer at Ganapati. We are trying to do something different, something that it is possible for our entire team to be engaged by and will seek to become involved with. We do not limit our employees, and a big part of our culture is making sure their ideas are heard.
Are there any trends you see on the horizon that are going to impact the industry in 2017?
The danger from the direction the industry is going in is too great a focus is being placed on licensing third party assets to bring games to market. That’s going to work and draw players in, but the asset holders understand how much the rights to their IP are worth. This will start to see companies shooting themselves in the foot, because as competition for the assets and IP increases, the prices will go up. We put a lot of effort into creating characters that stand out and fit organically into our slot content, brands that can grow into other media areas, such as TV series. If you spend whatever these people are spending on securing third party brands, why not spend that money on creating your own assets? Especially because those assets you have bought aren’t going to last long, with your rights to use them lasting two or three years. The assets we work with at Ganapati are ours, so if we want to expand on them, using the idea of making a TV series as an example, then we don’t have to go to anybody for a licence, resulting in a more streamlined process, and ultimately larger revenue streams.