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Level-5 CEO on how Professor Layton came to be, how the company got involved with self-publishing

Posted on March 7, 2021 by (@gamrah) in DS, General Nintendo, News

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

In a recent interview with Yahoo Japan, Level-5 CEO Akihiko Hino spoke at length about the company’s beginnings, reminiscing about memorable moments in his career and sharing insight into the origin of some of the company’s most famous works. Once Hino announced his intent to get into self publishing back in the day, the pressure he faced fueled him to make the Level-5’s first self published title a hit, leading to the birth of Professor Layton.

We’ve translated Hino’s comments about self publishing, as well as the inspirations he borrowed from to create Professor Layton after the jump.

Did you always envisage you would end up in publishing?

Hino: Not really. I announced my intention at our annual all-hands meeting and a few staff members put their hand up to join the Layton development team. At the time, it really felt like we were making Layton with a small number of people. There was a lot of risk involved with the project, but I wanted to keep staff morale high, so I repeatedly assured them that ultimately the project was just an experiment.

Solving puzzles akin to the 1970s hit book series ‘Atama no Taisou’ in a mystery setting – was that the origin of Layton?

Hino: I always enjoyed the ‘Atama no Taisou’ and because those sorts of brain training exercises were popular at the time, I decided to make something that would incorporate similar puzzles. The series would be a trilogy called Layton that followed a story with characters like Sherlock Holmes and his buddy Watson. Those things were in my mind from early on.

That’s quite the vision.

Hino: It was, but it was a risk going into publishing and failure was not an option. It was important for the company we made a solid profit. I enlisted the help of Professor Akira Tago, author of the ‘Head Gymnastics’ series, as well as Yo Oizumi to voice Layton and Maki Horikita to voice Luke. The thing I ultimately came away with though, was it was less about how we created Professor Layton and more about how we advertised it.

What do you mean by that?

Hino: It was standard to spend about 300 million yen on advertising at the time, but initially our budget for Layton was around 150 million yen. It was almost nothing by comparison. The game took off despite that thanks to our longer-term advertising investments. It cost us around 700 million yen in the end, but the thing I took away from it all was that the game would not sell unless it was known to the public. It was naïve of me to think that everyone would buy it solely because we made an interesting game.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village was first released on February 15, 2007 for the DS in Japan. Nintendo later helped bring the game to North America and Europe the following year.

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