Irem’s status as a core games studio dispelled last year after it cancelled its two major PlayStation 3 projects, Disaster Report 4: Summer Memories and Steambot Chronicles 2. Kazuma Kujo, creator of both franchises, left Irem in May to form a new company called Granzella. According to Kujo, speaking to 1UP, Irem decided to return to its roots as a slot-machine game developer and “concentrate only on slot-machine games.” In order to continue making console and handheld games, Kujo had to take his own path.
“At the moment, we’re planning a title for the PlayStation 3 and for the PlayStation Vita,” Kujo said of his studio’s current projects. Why on PlayStation platforms? Because “Sony provides the most support for creating games for a worldwide market,” said Kujo. And Granzella has a long relationship working with the company.
A recent part of that history involves Disaster Report 4, a PlayStation 3 title. While it may have been cancelled at Irem, it’s not stopping Kujo from creating similar titles.
“We [Granzella] don’t own the IP to that title but we will continue to make earthquake disaster games,” he said.
Questioned about the game’s cancellation, Kujo touched upon two prime factors: 1) the game’s development was behind schedule, and 2) the Tohoku earthquake.
“There was no way we could have released the title after that event [Tohoku earthquake] in March,” said Kujo. “So, we discussed, well, can we release it three months from now? Six months? There was no way we could decide on something like that after the earthquake. We also couldn’t continue to tell the press and public that we were working on a title that we couldn’t set a release date to. So, our only option was to cancel the title.”
The game’s cancellation was announced three days after the earthquake. Irem received 500 letters asking that they withdraw their announcement, and about 20 before the game’s cancellation, criticizing the studio for creating such an “insensitive” game. One of the 500 letters was written by a government employee living in a disaster-struck area, asking Irem not to cancel the game. When Kujo read that letter, he “strongly felt” that he must release the game “someday.” But unless Granzella buys the IP from Irem, it’s not his business to put out.
Steambot Chronicles 2, another cancelled PlayStation 3 title, was announced dead not long after Disaster Report 4‘s cancellation.
“At the time that [Disaster Report 4] was cancelled in March, Irem had cancelled all the other titles except Steambot Chronicles 2,” said Kujo, “and that title was also on the list of titles to be cancelled. “They started pulling out website content and pulling the plug on all games except for a few slot-machine titles. Irem is originally a slot-machine developer, so they’re shifting their focus back to that. So, those of us who wanted to make console and handheld games had to go separate ways.”
If the game hadn’t been cancelled, Kujo would have expanded upon “politics,” allowing the main character to decide the game’s political direction, such as “whether to make the village more democratic or socialist,” or “put efforts into military or to making the village more eco-conscious.” The player would have been the mayor of the city, and social and moral outcomes would have had more room to expand.
Before it was cancelled, development on the game’s robot controls were finished, a plot was ready, but the scenarios were only “about half way done.”
When it was announced canned, many of Irem’s fans were upset. As with Disaster Report, Granzella doesn’t own the Steambot Chronicles property, but, once again, it’s not stopping Kujo from creating games of this genre.
“I feel that we’re the only ones who can make games like that and I think that we can make a game with a much wider outcome. Along with the disaster game, I feel that it is our mission to continue making these types of games.
“When I left Irem, I was happy that many people were disappointed to hear that we would no longer be making the games that were in development. But, there’s no reason to be disappointed because that’s the reason why we made this company.”
The full interview is a very interesting and revealing read. Be sure to give 1UP their kudos and read the full thing here.