Aksys Games Interview: COO Bo deWindt on Otome Games for Switch, Horror Games, Localization, Ports, Limited Editions, Steam Deck, and More

We’ve covered Aksys Games releases for about a decade by now here including the publisher’s old iOS releases like 999 (now delisted) to its output on Nintendo Switch and more-recently Steam Deck. Aksys Games was most known for Zero Escape and BlazBlue on consoles before the original Japanese publishers of those games set up their own branches. Aksys has since been doing otome visual novels, horror games, dungeon crawlers, and a lot more across console and PC platforms. It just launched Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- on Nintendo Switch this week, and I had a chance to chat with Aksys Games COO Frank “Bo" deWindt II about the publisher’s output, otome games, moving from PS Vita to Switch, the upcoming Switch release of Tokyo Xanadu eX+ that I’m excited to play, potential ports, and a lot more.

TouchArcade (TA): Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Aksys Games.

Frank “Bo" deWindt II (Bo): I’m the COO at Aksys Games and handle a little bit of everything in all of our departments, but I’m also the head of Production as well.

TA: Aksys has been around for a while now, and there was a point some years ago where it felt like the franchises that hit the West through Aksys were now moving to the original publishers who set up their own Western branches or localization houses for new games. How has it been for the team throughout this and how do you decide on what games to localize right now?

Bo: Yeah, it’s understandable to see various Japanese developers/publishers start to expand to the West.
While that does take away some of the potential titles to localize it also allows us to be more selective on what we decide to publish. We have our eyes and ears to all the upcoming titles as well as what our fans are asking for too, so we take everything into consideration when trying to pursue games.

TA: One constant has been otome games. Back on PS Vita, we saw many localized, and the genre has now moved to flourishing on Switch. How has it been for Aksys handling the transition across platforms, and did you ever consider getting the games ported elsewhere then and now?

Bo: The PlayStation Vita was definitely a good start for the Otome brand, but we have found the Nintendo Switch to be even better for our fans to play the games on nowadays. As for porting, that is normally up to the developer/IP holder, but we’d love to see Otome titles on other platforms too.

TA: Aksys releases multiple otome games a year now, with some even getting limited edition releases or store exclusive bonuses. Did you ever think about how multiple releases each year might saturate the market?

Bo: Now that Aksys as well as other Western publishers are releasing Otome titles, it does give the consumer more choice. So to help balance things out, we try to look for Otome games that are the most appealing and exciting to our user base.

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TA: Otomate and Idea Factory are clearly strong partners, so how do you decide what games to localize from them? I ask this because some Otomate titles are released in the West through Idea Factory International.

Bo: If there’s a title we’re aware of and are interested in, we’ll approach them directly about it, but on the flip side, they will let us know of potential games that are available for localization as well.
So if we have a title we are trying to pursue, we’ll normally evaluate it internally as a company and then make our decision from there.

TA: What goes into the decisions for when to do a limited edition versus just a standard release? Do you take the Japanese sales into account for this?

Bo: There are various factors that go into deciding this. Normally if it’s the first time a game is coming out, it’ll depend on how much hype and demand is surrounding the title. In the case of a sequel, as there is already an established fanbase, then doing a Limited Edition makes more sense to proceed with.

TA: What has been your favorite game to work on in recent years?

Bo: It’s hard to choose just one, but I’m very fond of the Spirit Hunter series (Death Mark, NG, Death Mark II), Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, the upcoming Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ on Switch, as well as Muramasa Rebirth, Shiren The Wanderer 5, and the Zero Escape series from our past titles.

TA: Tell us a bit about the otome game community that has been thriving in the last few years with many otome-focused websites covering the genre. How important has this been for Aksys?

Bo: The Otome fans have always been important to us and we’re more than happy to see the community expand and grow, all the while introducing Otome games to new fans as well. We hope to continue to bring out more Otome titles for old and new fans alike to enjoy.

TA: Barring otome games, there are a few titles I’ve been glad to see hit the West thanks to Aksys. I want to touch on them right now for a bit. The first is Tokyo Xanadu eX+. It is coming to Switch in June with a revamped localization. I’m glad to see this finally hit the West. Are there plans to bring this updated localization to other platforms?

Bo: Yeah, I’m very excited for Tokyo Xanadu eX+ on Switch as well and we’re excited for fans to play the game with the updated localization. A little birdy told me that the release date will be in July though, so we hope our fans can wait a little bit longer. As for bringing the localization to other platforms, that’s something we are considering, but there aren’t any plans at this time.

TA: What led to the decision to do an updated localization rather than just release it with the same one people played on PS4 and PC back in the day?

Bo: Back when we originally released to Tokyo Xanadu and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ there wasn’t a specific standard or style for the Falcom related titles, but since then things have been better established, so we wanted to refine Tokyo Xanadu eX+’s localization so that it is more in line with the standards of Falcom’s titles of today. We hope everyone enjoys it!

TA: Tokyo Xanadu was one of the few localized Falcom games to not get an English dub. Was it ever planned?

Bo: A dub was considered when the game came out originally, but due to the volume of text and voice and time involved, it was decided to have just the Japanese voices only.

TA: Experience Inc’s Spirit Hunter and Undernauts titles are amazing. I’m glad to see the team bring them to multiple platforms simultaneously in the West, but I wanted to know if the team considered doing Xbox ports of the games not currently on Xbox from Experience Inc in the West?

Bo: Unfortunately there are no plans at this time to port any of those titles to Xbox.

TA: How has the response been to these games from players?

Bo: There have been a lot of positive reviews and comments for all the Spirit Hunter titles, as well as Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi, so we’re happy to see fans enjoying them!

TA: Aksys did a lot of games in the past that haven’t seen re-releases. I wanted to express interest in a port of Muramasa Rebirth for Switch, PC, Xbox, and PS5. I know Marvelous likely decides that, but I hope this shows that there are people who would love to replay or play this for the first time on modern platforms given how much everyone likes Vanillaware right now.

Bo: As much as we’d love to see port(s) of Muramasa Rebirth, that would be up to Marvelous and Vanillaware.

TA: Back to otome, how has it been expanding Aksys titles to Europe, EMEA, Australia, and more regions?

Bo: So far things have been going well with the European side of things, but we hope to continue to expand and spread the word about Otome games in the other regions as gamers learn about the genre.

TA: Has there been any specific genre you’ve seen do better than you expected in these regions?

Bo: RPGs seem to resonate well in Europe. Usually the more mainstream titles, especially if they’re multi-language.

TA: How do you decide on what platforms to port to in addition to the main Japanese release when you bring titles to the West?

Bo: Normally we release the same platforms as the original Japanese release, but if we port to another platform, it would normally be for Steam.

TA: On TouchArcade, we focus on mobile but also cover Switch and Steam Deck games. How has the response been to your games on Steam Deck in the last year or so?

Bo: Our latest Steam Deck compliant release was Spirit Hunter: Death Mark II and so far the reception has been positive, so we hope to see more of our Steam titles work on Steam Deck in the future.

TA: Do you get any additional work done for the system?

Bo: For Steam Deck, there has to be a little additional work from the developer to make sure the proper SDKs and such are implemented and that the game works properly.

TA: Aksys has done a few iOS releases years ago like 999: The Novel, but nothing since. Is there a chance we’d see some otome releases brought over or maybe the Spirit Hunter games?

Bo: Unfortunately there currently no plans to port or release titles on mobile platforms.

TA: What do you think of the current state of the console and PC industry for your specific niche?

Bo: So far console and Steam/PC titles have done well for us both physically and digitally, so we’re happy to continue releasing titles that support those platforms.

TA: What should players expect from Aksys Games in 2024?

Bo: As you may have seen from our All Aksys event from earlier in the year we made a few announcements such as Tokyo Xanadu eX+ on Switch as well as a handful of Otome titles, but we definitely have more in store to announce later in the year, so please stay tuned!

TA: What was your favorite game from last year, and what are you currently enjoying?

Bo: From last year I was playing and enjoying The Legend of Heroes: Trails to Azure, which I also finished. Currently I’m playing through Shiren The Wanderer 6 on Switch, and planning to play Final Fantasy VII Rebirth after. Also very excited for the upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes, as both a Kickstarter backer and a huge fan of Yoshitaka Murayama (may he rest in peace).

TA: How do you like your coffee?

Bo: I don’t drink coffee, which may surprise some haha.

I’d like to thank Frank “Bo" deWindt II from Aksys Games and Kate Hedstrom from MMPR for their time and help here.

You can keep up with all our interviews here including our recent ones with Dave Oshry of New Blood, Digital Extremes for Warframe mobile, Team NINJA, Sonic Dream Team, Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, and more. As usual, thanks for reading.

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