Developing social games is like producing a TV program, whereas developing console games is like creating a movie, says Capcom’s Kazunori Sugiura, who is the General Manager of Consumer Games Development at the company’s Tokyo R&D Department.
This is because social games require the developer to constantly be watching for data and user trends, ready to adapt to changing trends at a moment’s notice.
“When we arrive at work in the morning, the first thing we do is to check the previous day’s data,” says Sugiura. “If there has been a drop in the figures, we discuss various ways to bring them back up, such as running events or when to put out added content. We often remind our staff that ‘figures are living and breathing organisms’.”
Sugiura feels that data is a genuine reflection of gamer habits and attitudes, and that, while it can be stressful to constantly have to monitor and adapt to changing data, it’s important to keep a positive outlook so you can keep going. In a sense, that’s similar to online multiplayer games.
“I think the similarity lies in the great importance placed on managing new games after they are released,” Sugiura shares. “In both online games and social games, continuous analysis of users’ game-playing habits enables us to perform updates that improve the game experience, as well as take the things which make those games popular and apply them to other contents.”
What sets social games apart from online games, though, is that the two have different kinds of userbases. Online gamers are generally classified as “hardcore gamers” that are fans of games, while those that play social games tend to be considered “casual gamers” and only play games on occasion to kill a few minutes.
However, Sugiura feels, as technology evolves and smartphones become more like PCs in every respect, eventually the barriers that separate social games from online games will all but disappear. Capcom are preparing for this day by having their staff set up in a single department that will manage both businesses, which they feel will prove advantageous.
(This sounds similar in intent to Capcom’s restructuring of their main headquarters, with regard to traditional console games.)
At present, Capcom have “around 270 people” working on social and online games at their Tokyo R&D Department, although some of them also work on home console games. These employees are divided into the development team and the management team. The latter is responsible for the daily analysis and running of of all titles.