Viz Media has been orbiting video games for a while now, publishing manga adaptations of hits like Pokémon — and it’s now going to publish indie games. It has teamed up with studio Rose City Games, which will also be developing the first title it’s releasing: The World Next Door, an action-adventure fantasy game that’s slated for PC release for an unannounced date.
Viz is best known for its licensing and distribution of Japanese anime and manga outside of Japan, including big names Dragon Ball and Naruto. It also publishes a number of manga based on video games, like Nintendo’s Splatoon and Pokémon, and its Viz Productions division coordinates licensing with American film companies for movies such as the upcoming Detective Pikachu.
Viz’s director of business development Eric Eberhardt says that when talking to its community of fans at events like Anime Expo, it noticed a lot of them are also interested in video games. Before partnering with Rose City on the publishing initiative, the two companies had been discussing an anime-themed game jam. In 2016, Rose City ran OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes game jam event for Cartoon Network, which piqued Viz’s interest.
“While licensed titles based on Naruto and other Shonen Jump series have already been very successful for us, we’ve also been really inspired by the passion of the indie game community, and we see a lot of similarities between the indie scene and the manga business,” said Eberhardt. “In both cases, creators often combine small budgets with huge ideas to create amazing characters and stories that grow and evolve based on feedback from the community.”
In October, Viz scooped up the publishing rights to Andrew Hussie’s popular web comic Homestuck and announced a partnership with What Pumpkin Games, developers of the Homestuck-based game Hiveswap. Future installments of Hiveswap will continue to be self-published by What Pumpkin, but Viz will boost the game releases at events.
Rose City had also worked with What Pumpkin, coordinating public relations and Hiveswap’s release. However, in its partnership with Viz, it will be developing projects. Along with The World Next Door, it’s signed on to develop two other games that Viz will publish. Rose City cofounder Corey Warning says the two companies will also be looking for other developers to bring onto the publishing label. Eberhardt says that Viz is open to publishing any genre of game.
“Narrative and characters are the primary focus, but we’re not limiting it to any particular genre,” said Eberhardt. “We’ve seen amazing fandoms develop around puzzle games, platformers, rhythm games, RPGs and anything else you can imagine, so we’re interested in looking at any game that treats narrative and characters in a unique and compelling way, even if it’s not a ‘narrative’ game per se.”
“I think some of that is going to depend on the success of the game, but we’re focused on building worlds that could spin-off into sequels or other forms of media like comics or animations,” said Warning in an email to GamesBeat.
Viz’s move from publishing manga and anime to games isn’t that big of a leap. The anime video streaming site Crunchyroll has recently made overtures to the gaming community by partnering with Twitch, broadcasting episodes on the livestreaming site. It also began selling anime on Steam, a platform primarily used for PC games.