MonkeyPaw President John Greiner Discusses Acquiring The Rights To Re-Release Tomba! & Import Games

June 15, 2012Written by Nick Michetti

Last Tuesday at E3, I had the pleasure of meeting MonkeyPaw Games President John Greiner. MonkeyPaw is bringing over a beloved PS1 game to PSN as a PSOne Classic, a platformer known as Tomba! (or Tombi! in other territories). While we initially began our conversation about Tomba!, it spread to a subject that’s obviously a passion for John and MonkeyPaw: bringing import games to Western audiences.

Our conversation actually began with the rumor that the eponymous, pig-tossing, platforming hero may be making an appearance in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. John said he didn’t know much about it, but would be glad to introduce SuperBot Entertainment to Tokuro Fujiwara (director of the Tomba! series) or whoever at Whoopee Camp would be necessary to get him included in the game.

John then spoke about how the exact process of bringing Tomba! over had begun. First of all, MonkeyPaw has quite a number of contacts in Japan. Sony had partial rights to Tomba! and GungHo Online Entertainment — a Japan-based company — introduced MonkeyPaw to Fujiwara-san. The deal was tricky, as Sony had some localization rights, and rights holdings are among the toughest aspects of John’s job. If there are four or five license holders, a game just can’t come over — there are too many people to pay.

We discussed why Tomba! wasn’t being re-released as an HD remake — after all, HD remakes seem to be quite popular these days and E3 had a few of them on the show floor. As it turns out, the deal to bring over Tomba! had been going on for over a year and that a big part of the process for them is emulation, not upscaling. MonkeyPaw had actually gone to Sony and asked them to speed up the process of acquiring the rights for Tomba!‘s re-release.

John’s comment about Tomba!‘s emulation prompted me to ask about what kind of difficulties bringing over Tomba! 2: The Evil Swine Return would cause, as Tomba! 2 is a 2.5D game. He did note that there might be some problems with the emulation process itself, but overall didn’t foresee any problems in bringing over the game. What about bringing over Tomba! 2, then — would that be problematic rights-wise? If Tomba! sells well enough, Tomba! 2 could definitely arrive as a PSOne Classic. When I asked him what the sales target was for Tomba! as a PSOne Classic, he replied with a polite smile that making Fujiwara-san happy was the primary target.

John also spoke quite fondly about Sony during the interview. MonkeyPaw actually has a very positive relationship with Sony and they feel that Sony has done a lot to help make the PlayStation Network’s Import Store successful. MonkeyPaw has had conversations with Sony about bringing over other titles, such as Aquanaut’s Holiday, but the deal didn’t work out. The developer also pursues all kinds of games to bring over and even had mentioned pursuit of some PS3 games — their business is all about satisfying their audience, who’s looking for those unique Japanese games that can’t easily be found on Western shores.

Our interview spread to the subject of visual novels such as 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (a game released on Nintendo DS with a sequel set to arrive in the West for 3DS and Vita this year) and whether or not MonkeyPaw had been interested in them. MonkeyPaw was in discussions about Ever 17 and had previously discussed the possibility of bringing over some visual novellas with Microsoft. On the complete opposite side of that subject, I had asked John if MonkeyPaw had ever pursued pro wrestling games and he did indicate to me that MonkeyPaw tried to pursue Fire Pro games in the past. The course of our conversation also led us to discuss Mister Mosquito and the King of Colosseum games, both of which John wrote down in his notebook, hopefully as games that MonkeyPaw may be looking at bringing over in the future.

On behalf of PSLS and its readers, I’d like to thank John, as well as MonkeyPaw PR Manager Ray Almeda, very much for their time. Gamers can pick up MonkeyPaw’s PSOne Classic release of Tomba! for PSN on June 19th for $9.99.