Tekken and Dead or Alive have both recently shared the experience of testing out the free-to-play market for the first time. In a recent interview with Famitsu, Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada sat down with Dead or Alive producer Yosuke Hayashi to discuss their thoughts on the free-to-play market.
Famitsu starts out by asking what gave them the idea to release their games games in the form of free-to-play titles.
“While there are various factors, one of them is because the genre of fighting games has been maturing, but it has been struggling to reach out to new players,” says Harada. “Maybe if fighting games were a little cheaper, more people would buy them, meaning it could possibly increase the competitive population and make it more lively? So, assuming that is the case, we decided to go all out and make it free.”
“Perhaps if we can further reach out fighting games, which have somewhat matured too much with a rather enthusiastic crowd, we can spread them to a wider audience, giving them another chance to try the out. This could be the connection for something better next time around,” he elaborates.
Harada also explains that Mobile Suit Gundam: Battle Operation’s success was also one of the reasons for making Tekken Revolution available for free.
“As for Dead or Alive, Ultimate came out after 5, which makes it harder to sell more than the latter,” Hayashi offers. “For this reason, there are less online opponents. Since we put a lot of effort into developing the online play, we’d like to have many people enjoy it. The idea is to throw in players of the free version as possible opponents.”
“Again,we collect data of those who’ve been playing Dead or Alive 5 online everyday, and they’re all very good,” he continues elaborates. “It has come to the point where it could become a game with only good players; however, fighting games are always more fun to play with others who are closer to your level. For this reason, we aim to use the basic free version as a way to have both good players and beginners enjoy it all at once.”
Harada then points out that they originally expected the average play time for the free version of Tekken to be roughly between 30 minutes to an hour, but was surprised to see it stand at three hours.
According to Harada, Tekken Revolution was a trial to see what it would be like to have a virtual arcade center, that is much cheaper than the 100 yen per-play, and his team was able to gather interesting data from the experiment.
Famitsu then asks about how their respective companies saw the idea of making some of their biggest IPs into F2P versions, and whether they were against it and had to be persuaded, or if it was the other way around.
“For us, the company didn’t really make us do anything at first,” Hayashi says about Tecmo Koei. “After making a presentation saying ‘I have this kind of dream, and I’d like to be able to do it,’ they understood. Of course I explained things such as ‘This is how much it is being played online’ and ‘This is how much the DLC is being downloaded,’ but for Tecmo Koei, it will be the first free-to-play game, so it will be something like a touchstone for the company.”
Meanwhile, Harada replies with a laugh, “For us… rather, Shin Unozawa (Namco Bandai vice-president) said ‘Whatever, but can we release it soon?’” He further explains that Unozawa asked if Tekken Revolution could be made in two months, and that Harada faced quite the pressure regarding the time it would take to complete.
Famitsu then asks the question many have been wondering: whether we’ll be seeing a Tekken and Dead or Alive collaboration anytime soon.
“If Tekken and Dead or Alive collaborate, well, we already have Dead or Alive and Virtua Fighter; and Tekken and Street Fighter are already collaborating, so everything would be stuck together. Nobody would know what’s going on anymore,” Harada replies jokingly.
The two are then asked to share some of their thoughts on their experience thus far, on having released F2P versions of their respective games.
Harada starts out by explaining that the idea of F2P can’t be bundled into one. While they both share the common goal of wanting to make more of a profit, it varies for each title. As he points out, the rival franchise Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate has the goal of getting more people to purchase the full game.
While agreeing, Hayashi also points out that Tekken Revolution is a way to increase the competition, by adding a new dimension that allows players to raise their own characters to test them out against veteran players of the series. He says that due to Dead or Alive 5 being the first main numbered game in a while, they would like to have as many new players possible, while further expanding the series.
“Tekken has been steadily releasing on arcades and home consoles, so it has its ground,” says Harada. “While there are many veteran and core players, the question is ‘What do we make them do?’ which I believe is the difference. However, Ono-chin [note: Capcom’s Yoshinori Ono] did say ‘Hayashi’s methods are better’ or something like that, but I thought, ‘That’s just your opinion’.”
“All he ever does is complain about, ‘So when is Tekken x Street Fighter coming out?’ and such,” Harada adds with a laugh.
“I met him during E3, and ‘Hayashi, I like your way of doing it best,’ was the first thing he told me,” says Hayashi with a laugh.
Harada responds, “Oh, come on, Ono! You’re the most [editorial restraint by Famitsu] How about that? [laughs]”