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Profile: IDOLiSH7’s Producer Negishi Ayaka

So, I was digging around for some background research on another thing when I stumbled upon the Bandai Namco Online staff introduction page for IDOLiSH7’s producer––whose name I really hope I’m reading right––Negishi Ayaka. Her little introduction story (while definitely a bit of PR for Bandai––so you probably want to take some of the glowing praise for the company with a grain of salt) was actually pretty interesting (and rather sweet) so I thought I’d share it. This profile’s from like early 2016? I believe. The page isn’t dated but she mentions ~6 months since the game’s launch. Also I left off the schedule thing at the bottom because, well the details aren’t that interesting aside from some tough days ending at nearly midnight (ouch!) Anyway, enjoy:

Sometimes you have to be strict with the projects you’ve brought to life because you love them, just like a parent might.

It was a project I’d pitched back when I was an intern.

When you hear the word “producer”, you probably imagine something pretty strict and formal, right? And you might even think that the job––with all the project management, proposal drafting, and organizational tasks––sounds pretty difficult. But I’ll let you in on a little secret about being a producer: you age and job history have very little to do with any of it. Just a few years ago, I was only an intern (lol). I joined the company as an intern in 2013 and only became a full employee in 2015, and I, of all people, am in charge of the property IDOLiSH7. Well, here’s funny thing about that project: I pitched it back when I was just an intern.

Now I’m learning the job with my senior colleagues and the other people I work with supporting me. So, really, despite the image the job has, a producer isn’t so much the top person in charge as just another role in the process. The job covers a pretty broad range of tasks, but my first step toward my current position was presenting my own project proposal at one of our bi-yearly project pitch meetings while I was still training as an assistant under one of my senior colleagues. At the meeting where it all started, they grilled me about not only what made the game concept interesting, but also who the players would be, how much return on investment we could expect, and how production would actually be executed. But the most critical thing they wanted to know was whether I had the passion and dedication to the project to be up to the task. I was assigned to manage the project when it was picked up, and my next step was getting a team together to make it a reality. Naturally, not every project gets picked up, but anyone has a chance to make their idea happen as long as it’s interesting. Our company plays fair like that. I actually applied to become an intern outside of the recruiting period too… But I was so enthusiastic about working here they accepted me anyway. Basically, it’s what’s inside that counts––your ideas, your passion, all that. Whether you’re talking about people or project pitches, that’s what’s really important.

I love the franchise and its fans more than anyone.

So, I pitched IDOLiSH7 in 2014. At the time, there weren’t a lot of apps in that particular market aimed at women, but the market was showing signs of expanding in that direction, so I thought it was a strong opportunity to pursue. While I was working on research, I noticed that even though women would play music games targeted at men, they were often too self-conscious about the location to actually go to an arcade.

And that’s when I thought about the idea of crossing a smartphone music game with idols targeted at women. I had all sorts of ideas for the story and characters too––like a story with an almost shonen-manga-esque quality to it about helping these boys who all are working hard to achieve their dreams as they grow closer as a group, and how each of the idols would have unique backgrounds, along with some tear-jerker moments for good measure. Unique characters are key for a rich story, but just making all the characters multi-dimensional doesn’t make for an interesting story. I can still remember all the days I spent worrying about striking the right balance like it was yesterday. But the other thing, of course, is that as a producer you can’t just think about what you would want in a product, but figure out what the market wants. Like whether to include romantic elements or not, and the possibility of some small detail of a character’s background or the story could put fans off. With IDOLiSH7 the theme we focused on was the idea of rooting for an underdog. The idols’ earnest pursuit of their dreams was more important than romance.

Now I’m at the stage where I need to anticipate trends and manage the product with that in mind. This is one of the harder aspects of being a producer. No matter how much you love your own project, you always have to take care not to let yourself turn into a fan. I want the fans to enjoy the game more than anyone else in the world. I guess I must’ve had the right idea because we’ve received such warm messages from fans in the six months or so since the game launched. And to our surprise even other elements of the company have come to care for our project. That really made me happy. I hope to continue developing the game to reach even more people with it.

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