Japanorama: Yo-Kai Watch studio Level-5 abby talks its latest projects

Can you introduce Level-5 Abby?

A joint venture between Denstu Inc., one of the top-ranked global advertising networks and video game publisher Level-5, Level-5 abby delivers franchises which originate from video games and which translate successfully onto screens of all sizes, from mobile phones to cinema multiplexes and from there to consumer products. Yo-Kai Watch has been a recent success for the company, following its launch in 2016.

What new franchises are you excited to introduce for 2018?

Two franchises and one new contender, originating from gaming IP! Inazuma Eleven and Professor Layton will shortly be celebrating their 10th anniversaries, a key milestone we consider to be an entry point to transgenerational appeal.

Inazuma Eleven Ares tells the story of a small but passionate football team from a remote island who discover that their club is under threat, unless they can win at least one game to gain a sponsor in Japan’s biggest tournament! Based on a hit franchise with over 8m games sold and 4 theatrical movies, Inazuma Eleven Ares goes beyond football, tackling topics like friendship, surviving the odds, underscored with awesome music and super cool moves.

Lady Layton Mystery Journey builds on the success of the Professor Layton puzzle solving series, a new chapter in the franchise begins with Lady Layton Mystery Journey. Professor Layton has generated $650m in sales over 6 video game titles, with 70% of that originating outside Japan. With a hardcore fanbase who love solving mystery puzzles, the new chapter follows the Professor’s daughter, Katrielle, as she investigates the Professor’s disappearance. Lady Layton Mystery Journey debuted globally this summer on mobile platforms and launched on Nintendo 3Ds version just last month.

The Snack World brings audiences to a surreal CGI fantasy world, where princesses, dragons, medieval weapons and mighty castles meet smartphones and convenience stores! The IP is a fusion of fantasy and technology, with a big dose of humour, which should make for innovative and super kawaii consumer product executions. This adventure will appeal to collectors with 100+ collectable “Jara” and “Snacks” created for a fully interactive gaming experience.

We have new animation in production for Inazuma Eleven Ares and Lady Layton, for delivery in 2018, so it’s an exciting time for us, with broadcaster discussions well under way.

The potential we see is in the creation of worlds and eco-systems where videogame, mobile game, TV content, marketing and consumer products interact seamlessly with each other, creating a rich and engaging universe for the end consumer.

Sandrine de Raspide

What unique licensing opportunities do video games have?

Level-5 founder, Akihiro Hino speaks of his inspiration being the games he played as a child – low-tech by today’s standards, but awe-inspiring in that he could hold a ‘world’ in the palm of his hand. 

The potential we see is in the creation of worlds and eco-systems where video game, mobile game, TV content, marketing and consumer products interact seamlessly with each other, creating a rich and engaging universe for the end consumer. Mobile games will become a significant part of the landscape for Level-5 abby in the very near future.

Gaming is an immersive medium, which demands and rewards concentration in a way that other media do not. So people of all ages are building a relationship with the content, free of distractions and this is linked to greater engagement with the franchise across its other touchpoints.

Why do Level-5’s properties translate so well for western audiences?

Proven play patterns, universal themes, great music and extensive localisation working with best in class local partners!

Tell us about the Asmodee partnership?

We’ve just signed Asmodee to distribute The Snack World toys in UK and Eire, France, Benelux and Scandinavia, which we’ll be unveiling at Deauville Toy Fair this month.

The Takara Tomy line will initially focus on innovation at accessible price points and will include the weapons and snacks seen in the The Snack World TV show, some of which will unlock hidden features in the game. These launched in Japan over the summer and are already trading at 500% above forecast. Asmodee will import or manufacture additional trading card games, toys and collectable items to complement the master toy. 

The toy launch will complement The SnackWorld eco-system which already includes a TV series (51 half hours, one of the highest rated kids series on TV Tokyo so far), publishing, video games and mobile games, and we’re partnering with Asmodee to enrich this eco-system with new touch-points, in particular from the digital space. The programme will launch in Europe in AW2018, so watch this space!

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