Vaunted Capcom producer Keiji Inafune is a multi-talented guy. For instance, did you know he did impressions? Here’s his impersonation of Dead Rising fans during the run-up to Dead Rising 2: “Where’s Frank? Why didn’t you bring Frank back?”
OK, so his material might be a little thin for the Borscht Belt, but Inafune got some laughs in Tokyo last night as he emceed a night of Capcom announcements on the eve of the Tokyo Game Show. And the punchline was that Frank is back, by way of Dead Rising 2: Case West, an Xbox 360-exclusive DLC that will serve as an epilogue to Dead Rising 2.
The teaser trailer shows Dead Rising 2 protagonist Chuck Greene standing on a bluff that overlooks a mysterious facility. “They killed thousands…and framed me for it,” Greene says. “I’m a dead man if I don’t find evidence that clears my name. If I’m gonna bring them down, I’m gonna need help.” Then the camera pulls back to reveal a shadowy figure kneeling next to Greene. Of course, this must be Frank West—if it’s not, Inafune has one cruel sense of humor.
Beyond the admission that Frank would return, Inafune played things close to the vest: “I can’t give you too many details, but I can tell you that it will involve Frank and Chuck working together.” Hmm, “working together”—could that be code for co-op play? Inafune wasn’t telling.
Capcom’s head of global R&D (read: the brains of the operation) found other ways to shoot his mouth off, though. “As you might remember, last year, I made a rather controversial comment that the Japanese game industry is dead. … I haven’t seen what’s on offer at TGS yet, but I’m not expecting too much,” he said, earning hoots and gasps from the audience. “At the core of what I’m talking about: There seem to be a death of [Japanese] developers who keep the West in their sights when they develop their games.”
That’s the other subtext to the Case West subtitle. Inafune insisted throughout the night that for Capcom to be successful, it has to broaden its artistic perspective beyond Japanese shores, into the West. What better way to do that than by buying the West? And thus Inafune announced that Capcom was purchasing Blue Castle Games, the Canadian developer with which Inafune collaborated on Dead Rising 2. Blue Castle will be rechristened with the catchy moniker of Capcom Game Studio Vancouver.
There are solid business reasons for the move. The Dead Rising 2: Case Zero DLC set a record by selling almost 500,000 copies in its first two weeks, and Capcom has to love that mojo. Plus, the strong yen means that Japanese corporations are more inclined to treat themselves to a delicious overseas acquisition target.
Inafune wasn’t talking from a dollars-and-yen point of view, though—he was frustrated with the aesthetic stagnation he sees among some of his Japanese peers. His own “Case West” seems to be a personal challenge: to create games that people everywhere will want to play—Japan, North America, Europe, and otherwise. It sounds banal, and indeed, Inafune probably hit the “global Capcom” point two or three or seven too many times in his rambling speech.
But remember, this is the same outfit that, when faced with a backlash over its clumsy portrayal of native Africans in Resident Evil 5, essentially put its fingers in its ears and proclaimed, “Can’t hear you.” Whether you agreed with the RE5 detractors or not—I won’t rehash the debate here—Capcom Japan’s response to the criticism didn’t exactly wow the world with its thoughtful sensitivity. Capcom never looked less cross-culturally aware than it did at that moment.
Now, a little more than a year later, the face of the company is getting up on a stage and proclaiming his love for a global perspective until the crowd can take no more. It’s a striking change. Case West is an epilogue to Dead Rising 2, but it might also be the prologue to a markedly different Capcom—one that refuses to be satisfied with pleasing the home crowd.