An Interview With Jason Lepine of Enthusiast Gaming
By Jonathan Balofsky On 26 Apr, 2017 At 09:23 PM | Categorized As Featured, Interviews, ROG News | With 0 Comments

No GravatarI had the chance to speak with Jason Lepine of Enthusiast Gaming and Indie Corner, and we discussed a number of topics. Please enjoy our conversation about Enthusiast gaming, Nintendo and the indie scene, and Indie Corner.






JB:  How did you get involved with Nintendo Enthusiast?



JL: A few years ago I was looking to connect with other gaming enthusiasts. A friend of mine suggested I join a meet-up group called Nintendo Enthusiast in Toronto and that’s where I met the founder of the site.  He was looking at putting on a Nintendo themed convention together and I volunteered to help him out. One thing led to another and now 3 years later I’m fully employed by the company that now runs and operates Nintendo Enthusiast, Enthusiast Gaming.



JB:  What were some of your early responsibilities for Nintendo Enthusiast?



JL: My start at Nintendo Enthusiast was a little unconventional.  I first made a few episodes of Indie Corner as a pilot and tried to sell it to Nintendo Enthusiast, they turned down my offer stating they couldn’t afford it so instead I offered to run the series on their channel as long as I could keep all the ad revenue.  I thought I was making a smart move but those early episodes only made about $5-$10 so I guess they won that deal haha.


JB:  What led to the creation of Indie corner?



JL: The idea came from an article on Nintendo Enthusiast called “120+ Upcoming Wii U Indie Titles”. At the time the Wii U was in a major drought and indies weren’t really considered so the article made a big impact in showcasing just how much development was underway for Wii U games.  While the article was interesting, it was massive to get through. I didn’t want to read it and wished there was a video series that could go through all that info quickly, and so that’s where my inspiration came from to make the show.


JB:  What are some of your favourite indie games?



JL: My first indie game is still one of my favorites which is Electronic Super Joy.  I love the challenge, the platforming and of course its humor even though its a bit crassy.  Other than that, the metroidvania’s seem to leave a good impression on me such as Guacamelee, Xeodrifter, Axiom Verge.

JB: What are some indie games you feel are underrated or have fallen under the radar?



JL: I’m almost annoyed at myself for how much I tout this game but Has-Been Heroes.  It’s a very recent game but I’m just shocked at how poorly it was received by critics.  The game has an amazing amount of depth to it and has a very satisfying amount of challenge.  It’s a game you have to sit with and really take the time to dive into it, so that may be why it’s being looked over by so many. Another game which is a bit older now so may have fallen off the radar for some is Mark of the Ninja. It holds a 91 on metacritic and is just an amazing 2D stealth platformer with a solid story line.


JB:  What are some indie games that are coming up that you feel deserve attention?



JL: These days I don’t look too much to the future for indie games since so many projects will just vanish from existence before seeing the light of day. For example there were only about 1/3 of the titles on my original Indie Corner show that actually did come out.  That said I’m still very much looking forward to playing Cup Head, I hope we see that one come out sometime this year.


JB:  Nintendo Enthusiast expanded recently into Enthusiast Gaming. How did that come about?



JL:Nintendo Enthusiast started off as a simple blog for the founder, in fact it was called “The Nintendo Enthusiast” originally.  As the site grew as well as our ambitions to bring gamers together, it was obvious we’d need a proper company name and so Enthusiast Gaming was founded.  Within Enthusiast Gaming we now have many brands including publications such as Nintendo Enthusiast, Xbox Enthusiast, PlayStation Enthusiast, PC Gaming Enthusiast, our live event known as EGLX (Enthusiast Gaming Live Expo) and we’ve even started acquiring new properties this year such as To share the whole story of how all that happened would easily require a small novel.


JB:  Indie Corner also expanded into indie gaming enthusiast. How does it feel to see a project you started grow to that extent?



JL: It’s a little bittersweet.  I’ve always felt that Indie Corner and myself were one and the same and that you needed the host to go along with the brand.  I tried early on to branch out Indie Corner to other platforms with alternate hosts but that never got off the ground. When we started building communities on our new community site, it just felt like a natural fit to convert the Indie Corner socials into indie gaming enthusiast.  I felt it gave the brand more room for growth and let anyone contribute to covering the indie scene.  I still have the Indie Corner brand for myself which I play around with on the Hey Jay! and the Nintendo Enthusiast channel from time to time, so it’s not like it’s gone forever either.


JB:  What can indie games do to get more attention in your opinion?



JL: Support each other. The biggest challenges I see for an indie studio are their budgets and their size.  Saying “get more money!” is easier said than done but supporting each other to get more reach, more support, more opportunities, that’s within reach.  From what I’ve seen the indie community is already very supportive already so we just need more of that.  More people being vocal about the good indie games etc. I’m one guy who decided to put on a show which introduced maybe a few hundred viewers to some indie games, if each of those viewers share those games with 5 friends and so on eventually you can reach a large enough scale that moves enough units so a studio can hopefully make another game.


JB: Do you think the Switch will affect the perception of indie games and Nintendo systems?



JL: Absolutely.  I think we’ve crossed the point where mainstream gamers started taking indie games seriously a few years ago.  Major hits like Shovel Knight, Undertale, Ori and the Blind forest have shown the potential of what a small studio, or even a single individual can do.  I believe we have a lot more gamers now dabbling in the indie scene trying to uncover the next big hit before everyone else figures it out.  I find that really fun to do.


As for the Switch I like how it changes the conversation about modern games.  It’s no longer about having the next level of HD visuals or FPS, it’s about having good, fun games. When you stop being focused on a game’s visual power and start appreciating it for its gameplay, that’s when an indie game can thrive and can even go toe to toe with the high budget AAA experiences.  Of course that’s not the case for every indie game, just like anything you’ll find a wide range of games in terms of quality.  One thing I think the Wii U indie scene suffered from was that just about anyone could put out a game on the system and that really diluted the perceived quality of indie titles.  Nintendo seems to be getting a bit more strict in which indie games are allowed to publish on the Switch which I think will be great for both indie studios and gamers alike.


JB: What future do you see for Indie games and Nintendo?



JL: Nintendo and Indie studios share a lot in common.  For example they’re both obsessed with being innovative and creating fun games.  With so much in common, it only makes sense for them to have a strong future together.  We’re already seeing a very strong start to the Nintendo Switch’s software release with a first party Nintendo title nearly every month padded with high quality indie games in between.  Within 1 month of having the Switch I already have half a dozen games on my system all offering really fun gaming experiences.


JB:  Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers of Real Otaku Gamer?



JL: Just wanted to say thanks everyone for taking the time to read this interview and if there’s an indie game you’ve discovered that you really enjoy, be vocal about it. Share it on your social media and with your friends, it can really go a long way to helping those developers out.

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