Studio Ghibli Jumps into Video Game Market
BY TYLER SIPE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
TOKYO – Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animation studio that wowed American filmgoers with “My Neighbor Totoro” and the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away,” plans to bring its quirky sensibility and style to video games.
Ghibli’s “Ninokuni,” a joint project with the game developer Level-5 of Professor Layton fame, will have its debut on the Nintendo DS handheld console in December and on Sony’s PlayStation 3 machine next year.
Industry insiders predict it will be a hit in Japan, where Ghibli’s “Spirited Away” still reigns as the country’s biggest grossing film of all time. The film won an American Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002.
But the game franchise will need a strong distributor to be viable in the United States, said Ryan Winterhalter, a writer for 1up.com, a gamer site. Once dominant, Japan’s game-making industry has slumped in recent years, losing market share to American rivals like Electronic Arts, which makes the Madden Football game.
Level-5 hopes to change that with the help of some classic Ghibli storytelling. Ninokuni stars a child character named Oliver, illustrated in the dreamy, quasi-historical style of Ghibli animation films.
The game comes with a 352-page book of magic spells that players use to help Oliver cast against enemies on a mission to bring his dead mother back to life.
Level-5’s president, Akihiro Hino, said Ninokuni was designed to appeal to a wide age range, a feature of many Ghibli anime films.
The game, including the magic book, will sell for about $75 in Japan. READ THE STORY HERE.