yes, this is a different interview.
The Japanese localization for Blizzard Entertainment’s PC/mobile trading card game “Hearthstone” made its surprise announcement on October 3. We were able to inquire Mr. Hamilton Chu, the executive producer that was on stage at the event, about the intent of the Japanese localization and future support.
For this, we had the assistance of “matsujun” who runs community websites for PC games that are not localized in Japan yet (including Hearthstone) as well as the eSports tournament organization JCG.
Not just localization, but will “support” with someone in charge to take care of only Japan
Congratulation on starting the Japanese service for Hearthstone. I’m happy about the Japanese localization that many fans have long awaited for. What kind of events do you plan to hold in Japan once the Japanese service begins?
We don’t have a concrete schedule solidified yet. However, thanks to Japan having a wonderful partner in SANKO, we hope to be able to do all sorts of things by tag-teaming.
As you know, the community is the main driving force behind Fireside Gatherings (official tournaments sanctioned by Blizzard) being held all over the world. Hopefully this will be the catalyst for people in Japan to invite their friends and enjoy Hearthstone.
This was the first time where a Blizzard website page was created with Japan as its target, and where you could enter an official tournament from Japan. In the future for the global Hearthstone tournament scene, will Japan be treated as a “country that has eSports”?
Of course. Kno has already done very well, and I believe that Japan will enter the genre of eSports more and more as time goes on.
I have the impression that Blizzard supports various activities of the user community. Are you thinking about supporting the Japanese community as well?
Of course. We would like to communicate very openly and actively send our thoughts concerning games to Japan as representatives of Blizzard, and of Hearthstone.
At the same time, we are going to release a Japanese version of the client, so we would like to actively receive feedback from the players through the community. We will be bringing up the Japanese language forum in full force soon, and this will be managed by a Community Manager that will work solely with the Japanese community. Said members will also manage the official Japanese Twitter account, so we hope that we can get active information distribution as well as communication through those channels.
Will those that disseminate information live in Japan?
No. There is no office in Japan, so they will be part of the APAC team in Korea. However, that does not change the fact that they are specializing in the Japanese forums.
Any plans to make an office in Japan?
We have just begun our involvement with the Japanese market, so we are not able to provide you with plans as such at present.
(I’m asking such questions because) It would be great to strengthen the ties if there is someone that will actually come watch the activities of the community. Thus, this is a request to consider having a representative that resides in Japan as well.
Indeed. It is very important for the staff to actually meet the people of, and to deepen the understanding of, the community.
The Japanese qualifiers for Hearthstone was held recently. How would you assess it?
The Japanese qualifier tournament was very good. I was happy that Kno secured his victory, and that he did very well at the Regional Championships afterwards as well. I was extremely amused by Myrzaki who got second place. Before the tournament, he was a little-known player, but starting from the Fireside Gatherings, he lost once yet climbed all the way up to the finals from the losers bracket. I’m sure his run through the brackets also increased the amusement of the spectators, as he showed that “you can really get this far”.
Most Hearthstone players seemed oblivious of the existence of this tournament. In most Japanese games, the app itself has an integrated news page that would inform players of tournaments. The Japanese players are used to that, so they don’t check news media on their own. Furthermore, I don’t think most of them acknowledged that this was an event that they cold actually attend.
If you are going to provide service to Japan, I believe you need to think of better ways to make announcements to the users. Do you have any such plans?
It’s just like you said. I don’t think it’s a good idea to aggressively send information to players much like spam e-mails, but I believe there also is a need to send out information, especially information of this nature, with the strength of the community as a whole.
Of course, there is official information that comes from us as the publisher, but the fact is the sharing of information among the community is the easiest way to disseminate information. I do believe that there is room for us to improve in terms of being a publisher that can send out official information.
After a month or two after the release of the Japanese client, if there is a lack of communication between us and the users from your point of view, it would help us a lot if we can be notified as such.
Can you tell us the ratio of PC to mobile for the Japanese player environment?
I don’t have specific data as present. And as someone from Blizzard, I believe in the idea that “no matter what platform you use, the user experience must be the same”.
The fact that many Japanese people play games on their mobile devices must have had some influence on the decision to create a Japanese localization of Hearthstone. Do you have anything to say regarding that?
It’s not entirely the case that such a situation was the catalyst. Since last year, when Japan first became a country eligible for the Hearthstone World Championship, we have always had the thought that we would like to see the people of Japan continue to play our games. After thinking about what would give the most enjoyable experience for the Japanese players, the plan for a Japanese localization came to fruit. Many players in Japan use their mobile devices to play, so we believed that this will be a plus for us as well.
Were the sales in Japan any part of the decision?
I’ll just say from the PR standpoint that Japan is an important market. (laughs) As a game player and a game developer, there is a given that we must provide an experience that satisfies the players. We must create games that players will find wonderful, and the results will come as a result of that.
Are there any points where Japanese player are different from players elsewhere, such as how long they play and how much they make in-game purchases?
I don’t have that data. (laughs) However, strangely enough, players of any country you look at shows similar patterns. Therefore, there is no such case that players from a certain country play 3 times as long compared to other countries, or anything like that.
Will there be more Japanese localization for Blizzard titles outside of Hearthstone?
It’s very hard to say what we would do for our other titles. However, when we released a Japanese version of Diablo III last year, we had very positive feedback. We’re looking forward to what will happen now that a localized version of Hearthstone is being released.
There were previous titles where the localization updates stopped midway. How long will you continue service to Japan?
Forever! (laughs) We believe we will support every country in the exact same way. I believe that you will continue to be able to play for millenniums to come. (laughs)
We’ll never do an easy, literal translation. We’d like to be notified of things to improve on.
Honestly speaking, I didn’t find the Japanese localization quality to be that high. It felt like some text was too literally translated, and didn’t feel like it created an atmosphere that was apt for the Japanese.
Thank you for your honest opinion. That makes me a bit sad, but we do have a policy to “avoid literal translation”, so we translated with the intent that we included elements that were fit for each destination country without losing the essence of what is already in the game including lots of humor.
It would be great if you could point out specifics such as “the selection of this word for this spot is not right.” However, we would like you to realize that we didn’t merely go for an easy, literal translation. We kept moving forward to incorporate various elements that were uniquely Japanese, and this position is something that will not change in the future.
We will be creating a window for such feedback to be received by the APAC team. We will let you know once that officially opens up.
Will you ever make Hearthstone with cards in real life?
The answer to that is no. First off, Hearthstone was created on the given that it will be a game that was played digitally. We thought about how you can enjoy playing a card game in a digital environment, such as effects, voices, matchmaking, and arena. This is what makes Hearthstone uniquely Hearthstone. It is impossible to reenact this experience with a physical card game.
I love offline events, so I’m looking forward to seeing “BlizzCon Japan”!
That’s a great idea! The best part about BlizzCon is to have an event where the community and publisher comes together, and everyone who enjoys what you enjoy all comes together for a single event. Personally, the developers have fun directly speaking with the community members of that nature. It would be nice if we could hold an event similar to BlizzCon in Japan as well.
Even with Japanese localization, all “assets” to present will continue to be usable
Users that have already been playing must be curious about whether or not there are changes once the Japanese localized client is out. We asked a few additional questions.
So this is just a Japanese client, and not a server for Japan?
There are no changes at all server-wise. People all over the world can play in the language of their choice, on the server of their choice.
For instance, I can connect to the Americas server using the Japanese client/app?
Can players use the cards and content that they have already purchased?
The collections themselves are tied to the server, so as long as you are using the same server, you can continue to use what you have even after switching languages.
The launch is set for sometime in October. Will the PC and mobile versions all come out at the same time?
The launch is simultaneous for all platforms.
There is a preregistration campaign. Can veteran players also participate?
Yes. If you enter your name and e-mail address for the preregistration, we will send a code for a card back by e-mail once the Japanese client launches. The localization is a celebration, so we would like all veteran players to participate as well. It’s not just to gain new players.
Can users receive the preregistration goodies no matter what region they play in?
It will be limited to players who are on the Asia server.