It's highly likely that if you're a fan of Japanese animation you've probably got a Crunchyroll account. The company has existed in some form since 2006 and began to extend its reach into the games publishing realm in the last few years, focusing on mobile. 

Naturally, we were intrigued by a big video streaming service moving into games publishing so we had a chat with Terry Li, who was appointed Head of 360 and General Manager of Games earlier this month. We discussed the companies move into games publishing, what the future might hold and a host of other interesting games related stuff. 

Does having anime show distribution rights make it easier to get the same rights to publish and develop a video game?

Although having a particular anime show’s distribution rights will make it easier to broach a discussion on potential game rights, today the two are still managed by different committees and stakeholders. Depending on the IP, the game rights may be as competitive to obtain as the show rights. That being said, Crunchyroll works to present a holistic IP representation strategy to a number of IP holders, which includes both the anime show and potential game adaptations.

You've been publishing games for a few years now but how long does the idea date back and what made you decide to start publishing games alongside your current streaming service?

Crunchyroll has been thinking about participating in the anime games space for some time now, though we did not have a specific goal of publishing until recently. Our original motivation for entering the games space was to find more ways to deliver a complete anime experience to our fans. We knew of the huge overlap between an anime show’s audience and its respective games audiences, and it made sense to us to incorporate both into our offering to broaden our audience engagement and value proposition. Over time, we recognized that to fully realize our goal of super-serving our audience, we needed to be more involved than just loosely advertising anime games, and hence that’s how we arrived at the publishing strategy.

Are there any particular genres you'd like to tackle with future games?

Anime games span almost all game genres, though most of the heavy hitters are within the RPG space. While Crunchyroll intends to tackle the RPG space, it also sees a lot of opportunity for anime games to develop further in puzzle and strategy games.

Are there any upcoming games based on specific anime that you'd like to tell us about?

Crunchyroll has a game coming out later this year based on the “Overlord” anime, called “Mass for the Dead”. We are really excited to publish that game because of its true-to-anime narrative and play style. The game is incredibly well crafted visually, has heavy ties to the anime, and has deep RPG and hero collection mechanics. We think the core gameplay is strong, and fans of the Overlord anime and its characters will love this game.

Do you have a set roadmap for the future of the Crunchyroll games?

The anime game landscape is ever-shifting, so we try not to plan too far ahead as we want to make sure we stay current with the requests of our fans. With that said, Crunchyroll games does intend to explore some original IPs and games that, while evoking the feeling and visuals of anime, may not necessarily be locked down to a single IP. We see an interesting opportunity in original games as they can incorporate collaborations from a number of anime titles, which provide our fans with interesting crossover scenarios.

Will you always stick to free-to-play games or do you plan on making some premium titles as well?

We are open to both, and ultimately our focus is going to be around the title and gameplay experience. Our current audience and focus has been on mobile games, which is predominantly free-to-play. However, we have explored discussions of publishing premium titles on other platforms including console and PC, it will just depend on the right partner and opportunity.

Since becoming a publisher of anime games, have you had many developers reach out and offer to make games in partnership with you? If so, what is your vetting process for selecting them?

We have certainly had a lot of developers reach out, but as Crunchyroll is a relatively new player and because we are known for a massive anime audience platform, most developers are seeking more of a marketing and advertising partnership, rather than a true publishing relationship. To that end, we’ve had to be quite careful about choosing who to work with, and though we’ve opted to do several marketing and branding partnerships in the past, our forward focus will be more around a broader publishing model.

Do you know any stats regarding whether new people have discovered and started using Crunchyroll because of your games? And similarly, do you know how many existing users play the games you publish?

A lot of our existing users discover our games and play the titles we release. However given that Crunchyroll games is quite new, especially as it pertains to actual game publishing, we think it’s safe to say that most of our audience today is going from the shows to the games. However, our long term goal is certainly to make the games side standalone and capable of acting as an audience driver and engagement funnel back to the show side and Crunchyroll holistically.

Do you ever envisage benefits within your suite of games that can be gained by having a premium Crunchyroll memberships? For example, free summons in Mob Psycho every month

That’s an idea we’ve definitely explored, as there are a lot of interesting ways we can mix up in-game benefits as part of the premium Crunchyroll subscription. To date, we haven’t done this as much since oftentimes we’re not the end publisher. But as Crunchyroll games moves further into the full publisher direction, integrating in-game benefits with our premium membership is very much a high-priority exploration for us.

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