The partnership is a doubling down on Serenity Forge's expansion into the realm of physical game publishing. Founder and CEO Zhenghua Yang talks to GameDaily about the initiative.
Last week, Serenity Forge announced a partnership that will see it bring a selection of publisher Chorus Worldwide’s titles to physical retail in North America. Known for Coffee Talk and Yuoni, Chorus was founded in 2014, and has made its name on quirky indie titles.
The partnership represents the continuation of Serenity Forge’s foray into physical media, which already includes Doki Doki Literature Club Plus, Death’s Gambit: Afterlife, and Absolute Drift: Zen Edition. For Zhenghua Yang, founder and CEO of Serenity Forge, the initiative is all about bringing impactful games to as many people as possible.
“One of the core values at Serenity Forge is that we create games that are meaningful and emotionally impactful for everyone, and inclusivity is one of our top priorities,” Yang told GameDaily. “When focusing on inclusivity, we need to think about the markets out there that aren’t being served.”
As an example, Yang brought up a grandmother shopping for gifts in a big box retail store like Walmart. These shops tend to feature a dwindling amount of physical, boxed games, but sending gift cards via Steam or eShop can be complicated for those of us who are less experienced with using computers. Yang wants to make sure that this type of shopper is accounted for, and present them with as many choices as possible.
“I want to make sure that when these gifts are being bought, the really meaningful and valuable games are also on the same shelf for her to pick up,” Yang explained. “And who knows, maybe one of our games on the shelf will be able to really change someone’s life for the better.”
According to Yang, Serenity Forge sold more than 200,000 units in 2021. The team has taken this as a sign that the audience for physical titles has been underserved, and hopes that the partnership with Chorus can increase this number.
Yang said the partnership between Serenity Forge and Chorus Worldwide began as an email thread with Shintaro Kanaoya, founder and CEO of Chorus.
“I emailed Shin a couple years ago for something completely unrelated, purely because I’m a huge physical games fan myself and I noticed Chorus doing amazing work,” Yang explained. “Shin and I clicked instantly and we mutually realized how similar-minded we are.”
Over the last several years, the market for physical games has shrunk as digital downloads has grown in popularity. Today, digital is the dominant method of game delivery, relegating physical media to something of a niche category. There exists a dedicated consumer base here, however, and a handful of specialty boutiques--think Limited Run Games, iam8bit, Fangamer--are doing good business by serving this segment. Yang recognizes the work of these companies, but insists that Serenity Forge can stand apart.
“There are a few fundamental differences between our goals and the boutique,” Yang explained. “To start off, Serenity Forge is a brand with a foundation in inclusivity and lowering the barrier of entry for our fans. Our games will never be limited in nature as long as we can help it. We wish to bring as many physical copies to the world as much as we can so anyone who’s interested is able to own a copy and enjoy the game.”
Further, Serenity Forge aims to make its games as affordable and available as possible through its global distribution network, and wants to ensure each release is special and deserving of attention. In most cases, games will come with more than just a physical disc.
“Our games will always come packed with goodies, each one custom designed for the specific game, the specific demographic, the specific needs of the IP. You will never open a Serenity Forge game to just a disc and an empty box. We want to make sure that each time our fan opens a Serenity Forge [game], they whisper ‘wow’ under their breaths as they become shocked with just how much cool and unique stuff we’re able to put into the package.”
The selection process for a Serenity Forge release, Yang said, boils down to what the company believes will deliver an emotional and impactful game experience. It may sound subjective, but it’s hard to decry Serenity Forge’s goal of having a marked effect on the world.
“When we review a project, we always ask ourselves ‘if this game became the most popular game in the world overnight, what kind of positive impact will it have on society? Am I proud of that impact?’” Yang explained.
It’s also about the stories behind any given game purchase, especially in the digital age. With the ability to download and play a game from home, it’s important to think about the motivations for each physical sale. Whether it’s a collector who wants to own more of an IP, someone living with unstable--or zero--internet access, a person who values physical media, or the aforementioned grandmother, Yang wants to ensure everybody’s unique needs are met. It’s even better If Serenity Forge can do some good along the way.
“If the game is meaningful, perhaps also [we can] do a small part in making the world a better place,” Yang said.
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