HAL Laboratory’s President Interview Recap
A recap of the HAL Laboratory president Shigefumi Kawase’s interview from Weekly Famitsu magazine including talking about the company’s past, including memories of former president Satoru Iwata and his philosophy of making “interesting games”, and about the company’s future, including the role of the mobile HAL Egg division. Read the Kirby development team interview recap at this post.
-Talking about the Past-
Kawase: “HAL Laboratory is a company where everyone becomes a creator that continues to make contents. While game development staff are obviously considered as one, I even think that the behind-the-scenes staff who don’t directly make contents are also creators as well. If the creators enjoy their own work and make interesting things, they will first become happy themselves. And then, they can also make customers feel happy by delivering those interesting things. That means HAL Laboratory is a company that really likes to make someone happy by creating something new or interesting; it’s in the corporate culture. This also goes through with our company philosophy of ‘making both customers and employees happy through creating things’.”
Kawase would like to thank the fans for always supporting HAL Laboratory for the last 40 years – which means that their children and even grandchildren have been born since the first establishment. The 40th anniversary illustration was drawn by both veteran and young members in the staff. They had a lot of discussions about titles they just learned of while drawing it. The people enthusiastically gathered to make this project; it’s part of their corporate culture that they have a lot of staff members wanting to take initiatives in doing interesting and creative things.
Kawase also reminisced about the ‘raging waves’ that HAL had to face in 1992 – even before Kawase himself joined in 1996 – when the company was in the verge of collapse. It was HAL’s first turning point when then-president Satoru Iwata brought up the current company philosophy and raised the company to keep creating interesting games. The company has had that strong desire to produce something interesting, but it was Iwata who made it clearer as a philosophy.
Even after Kawase was promoted as the company president in 2018, he does not make any big changes in company policies. He had worked in game development for a long time and he still considers himself as a creator as well. He wants to make the company better from various sides with his viewpoint, such as managing the company organisation and development room environment in such a way so that they can produce interesting things and creators can do their jobs easier.
-Talking about the Future-
Kawase: “I think we can feel both joy and hecticness at the same time when creating things. The deep emotions when we actually delivered interesting things to customers and made them happy cannot be measured. I want to always continue running a company that creates interesting things and where creators who want to have such an experience are gathering. I’m thinking that the game industry is currently in a transition phase. Although we cannot predict how the industry’s direction will change, it may come to a future where AI are developed to replace humans in creating games. But in the end, the ones who creates contents are the creators. From long ago, HAL Laboratory has a thought where things that machines are good at should be left to machines, while humans should do things that can only be done by humans. That’s why even if such a future does come, I think HAL Laboratory will become a company that makes good use of AI while the creators unleash creativity that surpasses that of the AI, and I hope it will always be a company that can appeal with HAL Laboratory’s very own creativity.
Kawase added that while he considers the above stance to be important, the time and money needed to finish game software keep going up as time goes on. So other than creating major titles, they must also work hard on creating interesting games with limited knowledge. That cannot be done in just one day, so they need to properly plant the seeds and raise the sprouts from now.
HAL Egg is an example of the aforementioned initiative; the new brand was established to expand in a different form than usual, including self-publishing contents that feel different from HAL Laboratory’s existing contents. Its logo design is even based on a sprout coming out from an egg. With Part-Time UFO and The Highest Step Count Wins! Kame Sanpo as their first titles, they hope to properly raise the sprout even further.
HAL had also enacted projects like Kirby Café and concerts in recent years, but they hadn’t done these so often, so they were worried on whether these projects would succeed or fail. But when they actually did them, both of them were completely filled so they could really feel how Kirby is being loved so much.
Kawase also recalled how he met a daughter of his acquaintance who told him that HAL Laboratory is “a company that makes my favourite works”. He’s really glad of this quote because their games would’ve been normally considered as products. He hopes HAL Laboratory will continue to be a company that does things the same way they’re doing it right now. Although it’s a company made for creators, they can continue creating things as long as there’s support from fans. They will continue to create games and other things that will remain in everyone’s minds, with the philosophy of “making both customers and employees happy”.
© Translated for Japanese Nintendo by BlackKite.