American publisher Nicalis has been around for longer than you might think, and has recently gained recognition for its efforts to publish physical versions of Switch games with extra treats for fans. Such goodies often include delightful trinkets such as soundtrack CDs or retro inspired instruction manuals; Nicalis is collaborating with developers both young and old to keep physical games sought after, and that's something worth celebrating.
Another thing that's worth celebrating is the fact that Nicalis has published the legendary Ikaruga on Switch recently. Treasure's seminal shooter originally launched on the Sega Dreamcast before being ported to the GameCube, and is considered to be one of the best examples of the genre thanks to its tight gameplay, unique colour-based mechanics and dark, brooding visuals.
We were lucky enough to have a quick chat with Nicalis founder and president, Tyrone Rodriguez recently, and probed him on a wide range of topics - including the prospect of more Treasure titles on Switch. Enjoy.
Nintendo Life: When and how did Nicalis start?
Tyrone Rodriguez: Nicalis officially began in 2007 and unofficially began in 2006 with consulting work in console and mobile game development. Over the last 10 or so years, we’ve gradually increased the size of our game projects and have developed or published games on every Nintendo console since the Wii, with games like Cave Story+, 1001 Spikes and The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+.
You've gained a solid reputation when it comes to releasing physical games on Switch. How have these been received?
We've been incredibly happy with the reception from our fans and players with our physical Switch releases. The entire purpose of existence for our retail line and games was to bring back that feeling of being a kid, of opening up a game for the first time and getting that magical feeling when you find whatever pack-ins were included - particularly in the 16-bit era. That experience has been missing for a very long time and it seemed like the perfect time to try to rekindle that spirit. The response from fans has really motivated us to do the best job we possibly can on these.
Outside of your boxed games, the welcome release of Ikaruga has put Nicalis in the headlines. How did the collaboration with Treasure come about?
Collectively, there are a lot of fans of [Treasure founder and CEO] Mr Maegawa and Treasure's work at the office, including myself. Ikaruga stands as one of my personal top games of all time. It's timeless and it seemed like the appropriate time to bring the game back to a Nintendo console. We contacted Mr Maegawa about teaming up and he was very receptive and positive about working with fans of his work.
How do these collaborations happen generally?
Most of our collaborations have been with developers we know or have worked with previously, or just met through introductions. Occasionally, we'll contact a developer or publisher we really respect and want to work with and, through our collaboration, we determine if there is a match and if the timing is right for both sides.
Are there any more classic collaborations in the works or any favourites you'd like to bring back? Radiant Silvergun on Switch would be amazing...
Within our team, there are probably hundreds of classic and timeless games we'd like to collaborate on, but we're always listening to fan requests, too. I’m sure everyone reading this can recall one of their favourite games and how excited they would be if they could play it on their current platform of choice.
When you say Ikaruga, it's natural to also think of Radiant Silvergun. Have you discussed bringing that title to Switch with Treasure?
I love all Treasure games and Radiant Silvergun is among them. The conversation with Treasure about it has come up in passing, but they said they’d prefer to see how Ikaruga sells before making any decisions.
Do you think you'll work with Treasure on other titles, and what are the chances of them coming to Switch?
It'd be a huge honor to work with Treasure again, but whether or not we do, I'd be happy just seeing more new and old games from Treasure again. As far as the chances, it depends on each game because a lot of their previous games are owned by the publishers who funded those projects.
What's your take on the rise in digital media in the face of the seemingly timeless demand for physical releases?
Our office is full of people who make games for a living, but they also live and breathe games. We are the same group of players that we read about and interact with online. Like us, many players prefer to buy games as something tangible that they can touch and feel and have forever, well beyond the lifespan of their current favourite game console. It's that paradigm shift into digital that is also keeping physical releases alive and well, even if it’s in a different way.
What's the selection process regarding your boxed titles and extra materials you choose to include?
We look at a variety of factors before determining if a specific game makes sense for us and for the developer. First off, so far, our games have been priced at $40 or less, so that’s a consideration, especially when at retail. We also look at packaging options and if there is something unique we can do for a physical version or if it will be a digital-only offering. And lastly, it has to be something we’d personally want to play. As mentioned previously, we have a lot of fans in the office and a lot of fans online that we interact with. If something strikes the right chord internally and we hear about similar excitement online, there’s a good chance that it will with others, too.
What's in the pipeline for Nicalis?
We’re always looking for great new games to bring to our fans, and we’re constantly developing our own original game prototypes internally. That said, there isn’t anything new to announce right now, even if I really want to! Just wait though - maybe one of your old (or new) favourite games is coming up next.
We would like to thank Tyrone for his time.