Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada, like many video game producers, is quite active on Twitter and often responds directly to fans. When Siliconera caught up with him, we talked about how social media changed his role as a producer and how early morning Tekken Tag Tournament 2 players led to creating Tekken Unlimited.
Harada-san, you spoke about DLC before and how you don’t want to make any Tekken characters paid content. Is limiting the amount of paid DLC difficult to do? Because we’re still getting costumes for Soulcalibur V.
Katsuhiro Harada: This is not just in our company, but various other companies too. We are seeing an increasing number of titles that are gaining some of their profits from paid downloadable content. Internally people are saying, “What’s your plan for DLC? What you can do for it?” But that’s not just because of our company. That’s because the kind of business model we’re used to. So, it is true that, I’m not being told directly to charge for DLC, but “what are our DLC plans” is something that I am asked quite often by the executives.
I’m explaining this to the executives that there are some parts that even if they are DLC that we shouldn’t charge for. For example, characters, techniques, stages are parts of the game and are essential. We don’t want to charge players for those because we always include those essential elements in the game to start with. So, even if we take them and put them in the DLC, we feel that we shouldn’t charge for those.
There are some things, and I’ve said this before that we might charge for. For example, the movies from past Tekkens, or soundtrack from past Tekkens. These aren’t elements that are necessary to play the game, but it’s still something that a lot of fans have asked for. Since we do have to pay royalties for music licenses as well, those are some things that we might charge for at some point. When I’m asked by his executives about our downloadable content plans, I say the same thing. We don’t want to charge for elements that are essential to the game, but there are other elements that fans ask for that we can charge for.
Tekken fans will be happy to hear that. I think that you’ve been trying to give as much content to the fans as possible, but at the same time, fans keep asking for more and more on Twitter and message boards. Do you think it’s more difficult to be a producer nowadays? Do you ever feel that people will ever be satiated?
Rather than it being more difficult to be a producer, I just feel the risks involved have increased. What I mean by that is before social media was a major part of interacting with people, the fans would only be interacting with our company. Whether that would be PR people or someone else, you wouldn’t have direct access to producers or development staff. Now you do.
I only started going to press events, greeting fans, and being on Twitter in the past five or six years. So now, there’s more risk involved. Because if you do it well everyone follows you. They will support your product, as a result of your communication with them and what your stance is on decisions. If you don’t do that well on some issues, or just in general, 80%-90% of people can’t follow you, not Twitter-wise, but your stance on things and you as a developer. That is something kind of hard to recover from. Not just as a producer, but being in charge of your product, your product also suffers greatly. It’s hard to say black or white whether is more difficult or not, but I do feel a great change in risk involved because of social media.
On the other hand, there is a lot of merit that come out from social media and interacting with fans. Before we would go to the arcades to get feedback there and see how people are playing our game, but it’s much harder to see regarding the console versions – how people are playing it, what they like, what they don’t like. That stuff is much easier to listen to now since we have direct interaction through social media. Not just gaining feedback on your product, but also just hearing voices from around the world, “We really love your game!” “We hope that you will try your hardest and we will support you.” That message really helps motivate you when you are creating a new game.
When Namco Bandai re-released Tekken Tag Tournament 2 as Tekken Unlimited in arcades you added a 1 vs. 1 mode, which is just like regular Tekken. Why did you decide to add this in?
It’s been quite a while since the original [Tekken] Tag [Tournament]. We wanted to provide people with 1 vs. 1, which wasn’t in the current Tag, so that people who haven’t learned a single character yet could approach it and get into the game. We also wanted to have the Tag system that we did this time around plus all of the new features in Tag 2 that weren’t in the original. Not only that, we wanted to take people who are familiar with the typical 1 vs. 1 gameplay and have them be able to play on 2 on 1. We have all the people who didn’t play the original Tag and were maybe into Tekken 5 or 6. Then you have the people who have played the original Tag or are currently very excited about the new Tag. We wanted them to be able to play against each other, so we’ve included everyone in this current product, so everyone can enjoy the game with each other.
Usually, those kinds of updates would be in a home version, like the Tekken Tag Tournament 2 coming out for PS3 and Xbox 360. I’m curious why these featured made their debut in the arcade with Tekken Unlimited.
One thing we noticed that was kind of interesting is when there was only 2 vs. 2 for Tag 2, we noticed that there were people who play very early in the morning and some people play very late at night. Because they hadn’t played the original Tag and they only knew one character. So they were trying to practice with a new one to find a partner before fighting against other people. We also heard a lot of them say maybe they would wait for the console version so that they can learn a new character and create a tag team. Seeing this kind of made think about how we want to address that. Adding the 1 on 1 and then 2 on 1 into Tag helped alleviate those problems.
That’s interesting and quite astute to notice the early bird players. Tekken Tag Tournament 2 has Fight Lab where you train Combot to fight. This seems designed to teach players how to play Tekken in the same way other mini-games taught different skills, but what happened to the wild modes that had the same goal like Tekken Bowl?
Tekken Bowl was something we originally implemented to teach players how to do combos and aerial juggles. Tekken Bowl is difficult because that was made during a time when there wasn’t online play. Now, if we created a new Tekken bowling game we’d have to have online play and that would split the player base. Some would play online versus, some would be playing online bowling, some of them would be playing offline bowling. We didn’t want to split the player base. There are some modes in Fight Lab that are even more interesting like some of the mini-games and other things we have implemented in that mode. And if people want to play bowling they can download it for free on iOS.
Back at Nintendo’s press conference we saw the Mega Mushroom as an item that made Heihachi gigantic in Tekken Tag Tournament 2 for Wii U. That was pretty interesting! What else can you tell us about the Wii U version?
Well, it is kind difficult to mention much because we are focusing on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 versions as the PR focus. But we can say this – because we are collaborating with Nintendo we really wanted to create features like [the Mega Mushroom] that are only possible because we are collaborating with Nintendo. That’s just one example and we hope that everyone will be looking forward to the other things we have to show.
For Tekken X Street Fighter, will it be more like Tekken Tag Tournament 2? Last year, we talked about the limb system and you confirmed the game will have fireballs too. Can you tell us anything new about that title?
It’s really hard to say anything at this point because we are right near the master for Tag 2. We took half of the staff who are supposed to work on Tekken X Street Fighter, and we assigned them to help Tag 2 to help finish up the game. So, there’s really not much to say about Tekken X Street Fighter at this point. I’m sorry.