He allegedly had just 20,000 yen (US$188.87) left in savings when the game was released.

The independent role-playing game 7 years from now, or Nana-nen ato de matteru in the original Japanese, is considered by many who have played to be one of the most heart-rending, beautiful narrative games available on a mobile platform. What’s more, the game is free to play to the end thanks to in-game advertising — the only thing that requires money is the post-credits content.

The game was confirmed to be coming to the Nintendo Switch platform earlier this year, much to the excitement of long-term fans as well as the developer himself. Mafumi Yoshida, or hiraya-space as he is known in the industry, wrote up an emotional blog post about his game developer’s journey leading up to his eventual success.

Yoshida began making games in 2016, though he was not actually very optimistic about the future of mobile gaming and did not play many mobile games himself. Still, his desire to create a game persisted, and since his recent venture in running an online web service was a colossal commercial failure he decided to pool all his efforts into creating games.

Yoshida and his friend managed to cobble together a finished game, but since it was a trial effort, it certainly wasn’t a commercial success…although it did earn 1,000 yen (US$9.45) in revenue, a whole 994 yen more than his failed Internet service startup.

Each developer worked on their own game, leading to Yoshida creating a diagnostic game called Counting on You to Pick the Best Name. In this game, you name a baby, grant it some starting stats, and the game generates a short story about its trials and tribulations.

So how did 7 years from now get made? Well, Yoshida realized he only had the resources to fund development for one more game, so he decided to make a scenario-based game as he had always wanted to. Around halfway through the development process, his teammate left and got another job, leaving Yoshida alone at the studio.

Yoshida resolved to get a new job upon completing 7 years from now, and finished developing the game six months after his friend left the company. It was a longer development period than he had expected, so when the game was released he only had around 20,000 yen (US$188.87) remaining in his bank account — he managed to squeeze his rent, food, and utilities out of that meager amount for an extra two months.

“I knew that once I got another job I would only be able to work half as well on a game,” Yoshida wrote in his blog, “so I effectively retired from game development at this point.”

When the game finally came out he could barely bring himself to check the reviews. Many online game sites had chosen not to use the press kit he wrote up, and so only about 100 people in total played his game…but when he finally looked, he saw that they were overwhelmingly positive.

Yoshida then concerned himself with finding a job but was surprised to see that 7 years from now was climbing the charts on Google, presumably due to its constant positive review score. It peaked at 2nd place in the app store and then hovered around 10th place for much longer, leading to higher download counts, greater advertising revenue, and newfound financial security for Yoshida.

Then a Chinese company e-mailed him hoping to localize his game into Chinese. Research told Yoshida that this group was a formerly illegal fan-localizing group that had received a bad reputation for not working with creators’ permission, and were having a hard time working legitimately. He agreed to work with them, and it was the right choice… 7 years from now became a viral hit in China.

“Unfortunately, though,” Yoshida wrote, “there was a malfunction with the in-game advertisements so I received no ad revenue from the Chinese sales.”

▼ The game won an award in China for its high number of individual downloads.

But perhaps the most surprising twist in Yoshida’s blog post was that he was approached not once, but three times to turn the game into a live-action visual property. The initial offer came from a company in China to turn the game’s story into a TV drama; the second was allegedly from a Hollywood Studio willing to purchase movie rights. Yoshida signed a contract with the former and received promising communications from the latter, but both petered out into disappointment with no results.

Then another offer came… This time from a huge production company in China, offering a tremendously high-scale budget to produce an animated movie adaptation. Yoshida intended to go to Beijing to negotiate the contract, but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the talks were shelved.

Now that 7 years from now is available for purchase on the Nintendo Switch e-Shop, Yoshida is opening up to the idea of developing games once again. Though the story of his biggest game is full of setbacks and disappointments, his pride over his work is clear — and his blog post actually signs off with him asking for people to spread the word about the game and play it if you haven’t already.

For other independent Japanese games you may enjoy, check out this game’s interesting interpretations of shadow and light; eerie horror classic Yume Nikki or the Shibuya Station dungeon crawler.

Related: Nintendo Switch/7 years from now (Japanese), Google Play/7 years from now (Global)
Source: Hiraya Blog via Hachima Kikou
Top image: YouTube/room6 LLC.
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