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Capcom's Keiji Inafune Speaks On Xbox 360, Profit Vs. Creativity, Promotions, And More!

r_pad
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Posted March 3, 2009 - By r_pad

Keiji Inafune Capcom Mega Man R&D

Capcom has granted itself an exclusive interview with the company's head of research & development, Keiji Inafune. Among the topics he discussed are the importance of the Xbox 360 to the company's strategy, balancing creativity and profit. Inafune also spoke about moving away from being a designer, the future of online distribution, and how the gaming business measures up to the movie industry. Here are some choice quotes from this excellent interview.

"I think I can only get away with saying this now, but I really thought that the using the Xbox was only way to break into overseas markets, and I took that hypothesis all the way. In the end, I am very happy that I did so. Also, I think the hit success of Dead Rising and Lost Planet helped to bring our sometimes difficult creator organization together."

This is the quote that has been getting the most play. Capcom has done very well with the Xbox 360 and has successfully used the system to hit the mainstream Western audience. Personally, I'm not convinced that it was the console itself, but rather the games' respective styles. Lost Planet and Dead Rising are arguably two of the most "Western" games Capcom has ever published. Also, some of you might recall Brian's write up of Jun Takeuchi's DICE 2009 panel revealing that the company's previous strategy to garner a larger Western following consisted of sticking a White guy in Onimusha 3. Supporting the Xbox 360 instead of Jean Reno is generally a better overall strategy.

Jean Reno Onimusha 3

"Online games are truly an important force in the industry. The future where we’ll no longer need to buy games in a package is on its way. Korea and China have already been successful using the download business model, so it is definitely something to consider."

I'm not familiar with the Chinese Internet market, but South Korea's is godly. In the near future, Koreans will have access to gigabit Internet access. Even high-end offering in North America, such as Verizon FioS, look like a joke in comparison. Furthermore, plenty of Internet service providers are getting happy with bandwidth caps. While I agree with Inafune that digital distribution is the future, I don't think it's going to happen as soon as most people would like...at least not in North America.

"I enjoyed that very much. But only doing design gets a little claustrophobic. So I branched out into planning and story-writing. Deep inside I’ve always liked doing creative things. I didn’t just want to do design, so I started thinking that I wanted to work with games on a broader level. That finally brought me to looking at titles from the standpoint of a producer. My work now lets me see producing from a general development and general company viewpoint. In a way, it’s kind of like I’m producing my own life at the same time."

This little tidbit has to do with Inafune being one of the initial designers of Mega Man and how his career at Capcom has progressed. To me, this is one of the more interesting quotes in the interview. Inafune has embraced his larger and more expansive role, despite this taking him further and further away from game design. Contrast that to high-profile talent like Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and former Sega designer Yuji Naka (previously head of Sonic Team). As those two have moved up the ranks, they seemed far less happy than when they were in the trenches, creating games. Naka went so far as to bail from SEGA to form a new studio.

Mega Man 1 sprite

"You can’t be overly concerned with trying to meet profit goals and sales quotas. Breaking under such pressure will, in the end, not produce a hit title. Only those who can use appeal of the game itself to overcome obstacles can survive and ultimately produce a hit title. Neither Resident Evil, Onimusha, Street Fighter, nor Mega Man just materialized out of thin air. We had to withstand outside pressures like 'The budget’s too expensive,' and 'The development period is too long.' Imagine a weed bursting up through concrete. That is the kind of power that you need to do this work. That is how hits are born. Capcom has a huge staff with a tenacious will to make hit titles a reality."

Like every other publisher in the world, Capcom isn't immune to budget cuts and truncated development cycles. Yet, it has consistently pumped out hits for decades. Some of you might not be aware of this, but many Japanese developers live for their creations. I've visited numerous studios in Japan -- almost all of them had sleeping areas for employees, showers, laundry machines, etc. A large number of Japanese developers work, eat, and sleep at the office. It's nuts. I'm sure there are a large number of people like that at Capcom, as well. Ultimately, however, iit's cool to see that creativity is an important part of the company's culture.

"In the movie industry, investment decision-making is extremely severe. It involves production committees and numerous investors. But with the game industry, that hadn’t been the case. I noticed these differences like these, observing what was happening with movies and anime. The same is true of other industries too. The more people I talk to, the more I find things that ought to be 'givens', that we in the game industry didn’t even see."

Hopefully, that won't be the case for a while. The business has definitely changed and "grown up" over the years, but it still has so many of the creative advantages that a young medium can exploit. This is a wonderful thing. I dread the day when important design decisions are killed or altered by investors.

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Capcom's Keiji Inafune Speaks On Xbox 360, Profit Vs. Creativity, Promotions, And More!
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