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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.