By joseph Leray
XSEED — a publisher that specializes in localizing and distributing Japanese games in the States — made news late last week when they announced a North American publishing line-up for 2013 that includes Goichi Suda’s slick, stylish action game, “Killer is Dead.” That’s well and good, as is the news that the game will be released in the States this summer.
The first inkling of XSEED’s plans came last month when the company registered a few “Killer is Dead”-related web domains, including “killerisdead-game.com.” Here’s the twist: in the time between XSEED’s domain registries and official announcement, Grasshopper Manufacture, the studio developing the game, was acquired by GungHo Entertainment Online.
GungHo is primarily focused on publishing MMORPGs, particularly the uberpopular “Ragnarok Online,” though they’ve made a habit over the years of buying small, innovative companies — their subsidiaries include Acquire Corp., known for the “Tenchu” series, and Game Arts, who made the “Grandia” and “Lunar” RPG franchises. GungHo also opened a North American division last year, which originally piqued my interest as a potential way for “Killer is Dead” to make it stateside.
To make matters worse, XSEED has already published several games by GungHo-owned studios in North America — the two companies seem to have a strong relationship. The love-triangle between XSEED, Grasshopper, and GungHo seemed a bit confusing to me — why would GungHo acquire Grasshopper and then not publish its white-hot new project in the States? — so I asked the companies in question for some clarification.
“Suda and his team will see through the development of all titles signed to publishers prior to GungHo Online Entertainment’s acquisition of Grasshopper Manufacture. This includes ‘Killer is Dead’” an XSEED rep explained to me.
As for GungHo’s future plans, it’s important to remember that even though the company now owns Grasshopper Manufacture, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be acting as a publisher, or that Suda’s future projects will come to the US through GungHo Online Entertainment America. “The plan is for Grasshopper Manufacture to remain and continue to work in a similar capacity,” a GOEA spokesperson told me. “They will work alongside other companies in addition to titles developed for GungHo Online Entertainment.”
Whether GungHo uses Suda51’s edgy, independent sensibilities as a jumping off point for a push into North America in the future remains to be seen, but in the meantime, the XSEED-published “Killer is Dead” will be available this summer. Did I mention you get to fight a yakuza riding a tiger?