Five Questions with UDON Chief Erik Ko

UDON has been operating in some form for 15 years now, while many other studios and publishers have come and gone. Why do you think UDON has stuck around so long?

I really have to shout out a big THANK YOU to all of our loyal fans that have supported us for all these years!  Whether they started following us as an art studio or as a publisher, we have always been surrounded by a lot of fans who cheered for us!  UDON is in a very unique position that we are an artist group at heart, so we are taking what inspires us as artists and publishing it for our fans that are inspired by us.  It is like passing on the torch of great art to the next generation, from our work-for-hire jobs to our publishing program.  I guess this closer relationship with our readers makes us very connected with our fans, and they know that everything coming from UDON is worth checking out!  It is more personal, less commercial.

UDON began as a small group of friends. How has the UDON Crew changed since that time?

We were young and green when we started 15 years ago.  Now the founding members are all more mature, and most of us are married and have kids.  So literally, we now feel like a big family instead.  Now there are also many newer members that came in later who have become part of this big UDON family.  It is a great feeling to be working with people every day when you can pretty much trust your lives with them.

Like most UDON Crew members you wear a lot of hats. What is your favorite part of your job?

That’s an interesting question.  On a daily basis, I have to negotiate contracts for licenses, deal with clients on artwork jobs, do accounting, oversee designs and production, edit artwork, and sometimes chase artists for deadlines (haha).  I guess the most satisfying part of my job is when we get the actual product in hand, be it an original UDON publication or a client work-for-hire item.

It is a great gratification when it is real and solid in my hands, and then looking back at the hard work we put in together as a team. Hitting the deadlines, going through the edits, etc… that this thing is now real!  That is the most enjoyable part of every project.

Which UDON project are you most proud of?

I am quite proud of everything we have done for the past 15 years! But the Tribute books have always have a special place in my heart. We have done 5 Tribute books so far, and each time there are more submissions from all over the world celebrating these games that we all love. It really shows where UDON stands in terms of our studio connecting with artists everywhere!

Which upcoming UDON project are you most excited about?

There are a lot of cool things coming up from UDON, but none more exciting than the upcoming release of the Persona 4 manga!  This has been by far the longest contract negotiation I have ever done — well over four years, to be honest.  That we can finally start releasing this much-demanded series during the peak of the Persona franchise’s popularity makes me very happy!