Capcom are going to be off to a very strong start in 2012, with the release of several high-profile titles in succession during the first quarter of the year alone. Games like Resident Evil: Revelations (February), Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (March) and Street Fighter X Tekken (March) will represent new twists on established series, while others like Asura’s Wrath and Dragon’s Dogma will be new franchises entirely.
Siliconera got in touch with Christian Svensson, Capcom USA’s Senior Vice-President, to ask about some of these titles and how Capcom expect them to perform. Svensson discussed the two Resident Evil games, the possibility of seeing Ace Attorney Investigations 2 released outside Japan in the future, and his PC strategy.
Capcom is supporting 3DS with Resident Evil: Revelations and Monster Hunter, and PlayStation Vita with fighting games like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. As an early supporter of both handhelds, how do you think the two devices will differ in the kinds of opportunities they offer Capcom, over the next three years?
Capcom USA Senior Vice-President, Christian Svensson: It’s still early days so we’re a bit unsure as to where the differentiation between the platforms will happen once their libraries get fleshed out and capabilities are explored more post-launch. In the longer term, it wouldn’t surprise me if audience becomes a differentiating factor due to price points or feature set differences, but that remains to be seen.
Out of the gate, the exciting thing for us about 3DS is 3D. In particular our Resident Evil: Revelations team is making really good use of the 3D functions, but doing so in subtle ways. I think it’s one of the better uses of stereoscopic gaming on any platform, in large part because it doesn’t beat you over the head. It might be just me but I find a lot of 3D stereoscopic implementations somewhat ham-fisted, where the devs try to beat you over the head saying “LOOK IT’S 3D!!!!!!111!1!”.
On the Vita side, it’s been exciting to see how that platform just fits in with our development efforts on current gen systems. There are development synergies there that we haven’t typically been able to take advantage of in the portable space. It’ll also be really interesting to see how we can provide interaction between Vita games and PS3 games.
Alongside well known franchises like Street Fighter and Resident Evil, Capcom will launch two new IPs early next year. What is the climate like for new IPs now and what’s your strategy to support the launch of Dragon’s Dogma and Asura’s Wrath?
There’s never an easy time to launch new IP and getting them to stick is pretty much the most difficult (but essential) task in our business. That said, Capcom has an excellent track record for turning new IP into successful ongoing franchises. We own the vast majority of the properties we develop and I don’t think you’re going to see that change any time soon.
The market as a whole tends to have a lot of momentum for products that it already understands, which is why sequels or titles from established franchises are so bankable, especially toward the end of the hardware cycle.
For that reason, when promoting new IP, we put a lot of emphasis on our media relations and community development efforts. “The new” needs friends and advocates. So finding those folks with pulpits who are willing to go and discover and defend what’s new and noteworthy is essential to get traction within the market. It has to be grassroots.
Asura’s Wrath has certainly been the beneficiary of these activities having won many awards at tradeshows over the past year. Dragon’s Dogma has its share of coverage though the real ramp up in coverage is still yet to come and we have a couple tricks up our sleeve there too that you’ll hear about soon enough.
And while we take some heat for giving fans new versions of our established franchises, I’d like to remind folks we have done a lot of new IP this generation we’re not done by a long shot.
You’ve been trying to build the Monster Hunter brand in the West by releasing several of the games outside Japan. What do you think the key to expanding the series in the west will be, in the future?
First of all, let me start this by saying that I am an avid Monster Hunter player.
It’s such a rewarding series and our most recent Western outing, Monster Hunter Tri on Wii was a huge step forward for the franchise, in large part because it’s much more accessible. It had a more gradual difficulty ramp than the PSP predecessors and support for a second stick aided camera use greatly. While the PSP titles have immense amounts of content (more than Tri), they have been more difficult get into than Tri with a much steeper difficulty curve which I think artificially truncated the expansion of the brand here.
The other major thing that Tri brought to the table which the PSP titles have not, is a proper online multiplayer implementation.Monster Hunter at its heart is a cooperative multiplayer game and for our market, online play is essential. The adhoc-only approach for the US market is,more often than not, too large of a barrier to find mass acceptance.
I think that looking forward there are ways to greatly improve the accessibility and the online feature set. As an example of improved accessibility, the Japan-only Monster Hunter Tri G on 3DS adds an optional lock-on camera for new players. It doesn’t change the way veteran players will play, but it adds an easier option for new comers.
All of that said, the Monster Hunter brand will grow. Every subsequent outing of the title has found a larger audience than its predecessors in North America. We know the games are incredibly engaging and generate a passionate audience that while smaller the West, that audience is more vocal and passionate than just about any other brand we have (including Street Fighter or Resident Evil). I have no doubt that someday, its prominence in the West will rival our other brands.
It’s interesting to see a canon game in the Resident Evil series coming to the 3DS, a handheld while consoles are getting a different kind of game, Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, around the same time. Why did Capcom decide this strategy and how do budgets as well as sales expectations compare for the two very different Resident Evil games?
Well, the producer on both titles is actually Kawata-san and from the outset, he really had two different objectives. On the one hand, certain fans have been requesting a return to more traditional survival horror (more suspenseful, deliberately paced, puzzley) since the “somewhat more action-oriented” Resident Evil 4 was released. It was felt that the 3DS hardware and a touch screen could provide some new ideas for game designs around that particular remit.
On the other hand, we feel that the Resident Evil brand is broad enough in its appeal that something at the other end of the spectrum, a squad based third person shooter, could reach a potentially different audience. And so we sought out Slant Six, who with its experience on the SOCOM franchise, could inject some fresh ideas into Resident Evil but still with guidance from the Capcom Japan staff embedded within their studio.
As far as budgets and expectations, I think it’s fair to say that they’re both lofty. Resident Evil: Revelations is pushing the 3DS hardware harder than any other game on the system (in my biased opinion). The game itself is huge in scope and scale, as big as a full console title, which manifests itself by being the first title on the platform to make use of the 4GB memory card configuration.
In the case of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City, one can’t just stroll casually into the multiplayer shooter category and expect success. Based upon the feedback we’ve been getting at various shows, we believe it will do well.
Several of your titles are being released on PC, such as Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City and Street Fighter X Tekken. Which Capcom games have traditionally performed well on PC, and do you feel Asura’s Wrath and Dragon’s Dogma would do well on PC?
PC is still a relatively small part of our business as compared to consoles, however it is growing and it’s especially important in emerging markets like Russia and Brazil. We know that we have to grow an audience on PC over time for it to become a more meaningful part of our portfolio. To that end, there’s been a concerted effort to make sure our Street Fighter titles make it to PC so that we can use fighting game fans as a beachhead for further efforts. SSFIV: Arcade Edition PC is on a faster sales pace than Street Fighter IV was. I’m hoping Street Fighter X Tekken will raise that bar even further being an entirely new game with a second huge brand attached to it.
Outside of the fighting game space, I’ve been encouraged that we’re getting an increasing number of fans requesting PC SKUs of titles at our community site, Capcom-Unity.com, and that’s been causing us to reconsider our product plans across the board. As for Asura’s Wrath and Dragon’s Dogma finding a home on PC? I can’t say definitively right now but if fans request these things (and DD is getting a fair number of requests) we will explore the opportunity with the dev teams and our sales groups around the world.
Capcom USA was a pioneer in the digital space with titles like Rocketmen, Dark Void Zero, and Bionic Commando Rearmed. While we’ve seen more iPhone games like Street Fighter Volt, we haven’t seen as many games specifically made for digital distribution for console or handhelds. What are your digital download plans and do you think this could be a space where niche titles like Ace Attorney Investigations 2 could sell?
We’ve continued to be rather prolific with our digital releases across nearly all platforms. I think there are still opportunities on various platforms for digital-only releases. In particular, where we’ve been repeatedly been successful is in meeting the needs of a specific target group or fans of a particular brand that may not necessarily be large enough to sustain a retail release, exciting them and having them evangelize the product to a wider group.
The advantage of digital distribution for these sorts of products is the “always on the shelf” phenomenon that has continually hamstrung less than mainstream products in a retail environment. It’s completely understandable that in a shelf space constrained marketplace that there is a need to clear the old stock to make room for new titles. Unfortunately, for some titles, that means that their actual sales lives are cut short.
Part of the reason why there has been a number of Ace Attorney titles released digitally on Wii and iOS is exactly a reason for that. As for AA Investigations 2, that potential exists but I can’t say definitively that it will happen. Conversations are ongoing internally about how to address the audience that’s clamoring for more AA goodness.