We recently got in touch with Christian Svensson, Senior Vice President at Capcom USA, to discuss some of the company’s major upcoming games in 2012. Naturally, we also asked about the Monster Hunter series. The last game in the series released in the West was Monster Hunter Tri on the Wii, published in 2009. Since then, Japan has seen two major Monster Hunter titles: Monster Hunter Portable 3rd on the PSP and PlayStation 3, and Monster Hunter 3G on the 3DS, which is slated for release in Japan this week.
“First of all, let me start this by saying that I am an avid Monster Hunter player,” Svensson replied, when Siliconera asked about the key to Monster Hunter’s future growth outside Japan.
“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.”
In addition to its accessibility, Capcom recognize that Monster Hunter Tri’s online system was an important factor in its success as well. “The other major thing that Tri brought to the table which the PSP titles have not, is a proper online multiplayer implementation,” Svensson continues. “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.”
By “adhoc,” Svensson is referring to Monster Hunter’s local wireless multiplayer feature in Japan, which bolstered the series’ popularity. Monster Hunter has always been a multiplayer game at heart. While the original Monster Hunter on PlayStation 2 allowed players to play together online, it required a PS2 Ethernet adapter. Since the PSP is capable of communicating with other PSPs in the vicinity wirelessly, the PSP games allow players to gather around and play together as a group anywhere. Through this, Monster Hunter meetups became common in Japan, which is one of the reasons for the series’ immense success in the region.
Monster Hunter Tri brought online play back to the series and the Wii’s built in Wi-Fi adapter made it more accessible for players to meet fellow hunters on the Internet. While an online subscription fee similar to MMOs was charged in Japan, this wasn’t the case in North America and Europe. Additionally, the overseas versions of the game were also upgraded to support Nintendo’s Wii Speak peripheral, which allowed for voice chat between players.
“I think that looking forward there are ways to greatly improve the accessibility and the online feature set,” Svensson shares. “As an example of improved accessibility, the Japan-only Monster Hunter Tri G [Ed note: we call it 3G] 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.”
So, what about Monster Hunter’s future outside Japan? The blockades preventing an overseas release of Portable 3rd have been well-documented. Capcom have not yet confirmed Monster Hunter 3G for an overseas release, but Svensson has assured several times on Capcom’s forums that we can expect to see more Monster Hunter games localized in the future.
“All of that said, the Monster Hunter brand will grow,” Svensson believes. “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.”