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Kou Shibusawa Award Portrait

Portrait to commemorate Kou Shibusawa winning the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry Award in the 2021 Japan Game Awards.

Kou Shibusawa (シブサワ・コウ, Shibusawa Kō, born October 26, 1950 in Ashikaga City, Tochigi) is a Japanese game creator and producer for many of Koei's titles. His real name is Yoichi Erikawa (襟川 陽一, Erikawa Yōichi), and his younger sister is actress Kuro Erikawa. He married his wife in 1975 and founded Koei with her in 1978. They have two daughters, Mei and Ai. Mei works at the company as an executive director for Ruby Party games while Ai is named a corporate director for the company. His mother Fusayo Erikawa (August 25, 1925 - 2018/19) was a corporate auditor for the company.

He's largely credited to being one of the most prolific workers at Koei and is currently the company's CEO. He is often credited as general producer —which roughly means the producer who conceptualizes and oversees a game's overall identity and design— for many of his latest projects. He is acting as chief director for FOST (Foundation for the Fusion of Science and Technology) and created a division to celebrate sections of the entertainment department. He hopes to celebrate interesting video games and simulations that serve a useful global impact. He also revived his high school jazz band during his free time.

His alias' namesake is an emphasized version of the company's first syllable, Kou, and Shibusawa Eiichi. He's also taken credit as Eiji Fukuzawa, first part a derivative of Koei's "ei" and the second name being a homage to Fukuzawa Yukichi. As for why he has one, he stated his wife should get one to make him sound fitting for the producer image. He has been known as Kou Shibusawa since the first Nobunaga's Ambition title in 1981. He still uses the pseudonym for his producer's credit, but he lately presents himself under his real name during his appearances in media events.

As of April 1, 2016, Kou Shibusawa doubles as the brand name for Koei-Tecmo's simulation IPs and certain collaboration titles.

His first authored book is a quasi-self-help book memoir titled Shibusawa Kou Zero kara Ichi wo Souzousuru Chikara; it provides advice for remembering how to find self-meaning and enjoyment in business while recounting his own experiences with balancing a healthy family life and a struggling company. It was made available for purchase on March 23, 2017.

Creative Focuses[]

Back when he first made Kawanakajima no Tatakai, Shibusawa only wanted to make games as a hobby and to make good use of his birthday present, a Sharp MZ-80C. He was elated and surprised when the game was well received by the people who bought it. He was ready to give up video games to focus on the family dying business, but his father encouraged him to keep his love for video games. Shibusawa admits that he has never regretted his choice.

He continued to be the main programmer for many of Koei's early games until the company grew during the PlayStation's years of popularity. During Shibusawa's active programming years, he would rarely leave the office and spent many all nighters absorbed in his coding. There were many times when he would suddenly jolt from his bed and restart another model entirely from scratch in his pajamas. His wife would stay with him and feed him breakfast as early as 3 AM. Shibusawa remarks that he often forgets things when he sleeps, so he made every effort to stay awake and record his thoughts. He looks back on his coding days with fondness.

Shibusawa states that he first became interested in Romance of the Three Kingdoms from various comics based on it. He then read the novel, which eventually lead to his hobby of exploring global history. To replicate the same experience in others, he aims to make all his projects "entertain and educate" players. His goal for creating video games was also the company's motto when they began.

Since he grew up studying and playing jazz music, Shibusawa often dedicates a hefty chunk of a video game's funds towards creating its soundtrack. He is a stern believer in the power of a musical score and wishes for a game's music to enhance its experience, be it for pre-rendered cutscenes or active gameplay. He favors using orchestral music for dramatic or historical works in ode to the various historical fiction he grew to admire. Shibusawa oversees the sound editing and musical arrangement processes for a game whenever he feels he is able to provide active criticism.

His professional debut to the film industry as the supervisor in charge of the Japanese dubbed version of The Last Airbender (known as Airbender in Japan). Though it is his first time dealing with Japanese voice overs, Shibusawa remarks that he has confidence since he can use his experience with cinema in video games to help him. He hoped to create an emotional and action filled impact with his interpretation of the movie script. When asked about which Koei product he would like to adapt to film, Shibusawa expressed a possible interest in making a live-film adaptation of the Dynasty Warriors series.

Shibusawa's latest contribution to the film industry is being the supervisor and technical advisor for the 2016 Taiga drama, Sanadamaru. In recognition to his contributions, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in the 22nd Association of Media in Digital Awards.

Lately, Shibusawa has expressed a fondness for social gaming and would like to spread the company's social games globally whenever possible. He believes that these games have the potential to appeal to a broader, global spectrum with nostalgic IPs, easy to play applications, and universal appeal for smartphone users outside Japan. During the March 14th my Gamecity press event and his joint interview with Diamond, Shibusawa affirmed his belief in them as one of his primary focuses for the company's future. He continues to challenge the development team and himself to conceptualize mobile versions of their franchises. He commented that the Nobunaga's Ambition and Winning Post adaptations were widely successful.

Shibusawa replies that the company's efforts to expand their social gaming globally in 2012 was an overall failure with its ups and downs. However, he believes their sales and success can improve with better localization efforts and by listening to fan feedback. Presently, Shibusawa expresses an optimistic approach to learn from their shortcomings within the smartphone market by experimenting with various titles in both China and the west to see what sticks. Through this step-by-step process, Shibusawa believes that Koei can then truly deliver globally on the social gaming front.

In response to the financial failures being reported by triple A publishers despite selling millions of copies, Shibusawa replied that it's not the costs for production which are critical for success: it's cherishing the demands of fans. He believes that the millions of yen spent just for the sake of high quality production is not a very practical business practice for any company –niche or major– in this age if it continues to alienate a company's core fanbase. Shibusawa replies that the development teams within Koei work under considerable financial restraint to avoid falling into this business pitfall while simultaneously providing a creative challenge for developers.

Aside from the Pokémon and AKB48 crossovers, Shibusawa has little involvement with the company's collaboration titles. He was surprised by the initial success of their first collaboration title. Their commercial success with consumers has surpassed his expectations, especially the recent One Piece game.

His goal for 2012 and onwards is to introduce new IPs for the company. He claims to personally have several projects planned for production. In his eyes, the company has yet to exert their fullest potential, wanting to see how far they can go with their ideas.

During his free time, he likes to play a variety of video games. He plays Nobunaga no Yabou 201X on the go. When he comes home, Shibusawa plays something that requires a lot of time to finish. He played Pokémon extensively, finished every character route in Persona 4 Golden, and 100% completed The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Shibusawa has been into Bloodborne since its debut and is still enthralled by its difficulty.

A common feature of his work is that he seeks to avoid the demon king-image of Nobunaga Oda that is common in works featuring him.


See also: Kou Shibusawa/Special Column

Shibusawa also authored/supervised several comics and written company publications during the eighties and nineties.


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