Capcom has been significantly busy in expanding its Western presence of late, revealing much of its 2007 line-up at an April press event, including new Phoenix Wright and Mega Man titles for DS, a return of Super Puzzle Fighter II for Xbox Live, and a Harvey Birdman title for PS2 and PSP.
Notable among the announcements was a new concentration on digital downloads, increased attention to Western-developed titles, and additional care being given to the PC gaming market. Thus, in relation to these new announcements and others, Gamasutra sat down with Christian Svensson, Sr. Director of Strategic Planning & Research for Capcom.
We discussed, among other things, the company's revitalized Western business, including Resident Evil 4's Wii debut, the logistics of a simultaneous PC/PSN/XBLA debut for Puzzle Fighter, and new hints on downloadable Wii games.
Resident Evil And The Wii
Resident Evil seems very Wii-focused right now.
CS: It is in the near term. Resident Evil 4 has been very well received and has gotten good feedback from retail, in response to our pricing strategy [of $29.99 in North America].
Some people said that it was under-served by being on the GameCube, in terms of the market that it could reach. Do you think that that's going to finally be realized now?
CS: I think that anytime you can sell another copy to another new user, it expands the brand. A lot of people knock the decision to put it on GameCube, but at the same time, Resident Evil 4 was the number-one selling title for the GameCube in 2005, which is hard for a third-party. So it's hard to say that that was really a bad decision. It's gone on to sell very, very well on PS2.
On PC, when it gets released by Ubisoft a little later this month, I'm sure it will do well. It's already out in Europe and Asia, and a new patch fixes a lot of the criticisms that people had. I'm glad that it's coming at a time when it's a bit more polished than it was initially for some of the other territory releases. And I think the Wii version is going to be the best version of the four.
On Multi-SKU Digital Downloads
So are you guys the first who have been able to get multi-SKU console downloads [on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, with titles such as Puzzle Fighter and Rocketmen: Axis of Evil]? I know they're not out yet, but they're coming.
Christian Svensson: I don't know if we're the first, but it's certainly been a part of the strategy. If we happen to be first, great. The goal wasn't necessarily to be first.
It seems like it's been difficult so far for people to release one title on PSN and Live Arcade.
CS: It requires considerable coordination, but we've been working closely with Sony and Microsoft, and they both agree with our strategy. Neither of them have any problems, providing we price them appropriately on both platforms and they feature parity, which is the goal across the board.
Do you think part of it is because you're Capcom?
CS: I don't think Capcom is special in any way, in the sense that they're going to give us preferential treatment. First parties have policies that they set in place, and by and large, there are very few people who would be able to override any preexisting policy. Maybe we're the first ones to ask, I don't know.
Do you see yourselves being able to make future downloadable content consistent across the Xbox 360 and PS3?
CS: It's something we haven't tried yet. We've been giving that some thought, and it's highly possible. It just comes down to platform strategy in general. If you're going to spend money to make content, it only makes sense to try and put it in front of as many people as possible. Are there exclusive content deals that could be struck?
Possibly, but I think that fundamentally, as a company, we're moving toward a much more cross-platform future, such that it will be more of the rule than the exception.
Will you be able to match pricing across both of them?
CS: We're offering the same value as far as the type of content, so it only stands to reason. If the timing's the same, and if the content is the same, pricing should probably be the same.
On Downloadable Wii Games
Do you know anything yet about downloadable original content on the Wii?
CS: We know a lot about that. There are some file size limitations that don't dovetail well with what we've currently got on PS3 and Xbox 360. I would love to put the content that we have on the Wii, and I think it's a great audience for the type of content, especially for Street Fighter and Puzzle Fighter. We're still thinking about ways that we can get that content to them, perhaps not downloaded, but perhaps with a consolidated retail SKU. We're still just tossing around ideas in our head.
But downloadable original content is possible? It's been hinted that it's possible, but it's still not coming yet.
CS: It's possible. I think you'll have to talk more to Nintendo about that. It's not a technical limitation thing, though. We're certainly going to be able to deliver. It's really more of them getting their process in place for approvals and their pipeline in place.
I know they have loads of people who want to make content, but I think it's a matter of some people turning on the spigot. We've been asked about bringing our stuff over. It's going to happen. Once that spigot is opened and the floodgates are unleashed, I'm sure you'll see loads of it.
Supporting Games For Windows Live?
Are you releasing PC SKUs of Puzzle Fighter?
CS: Yes, there is a PC SKU of Puzzle Fighter.
Are you going to be able to use Windows Live Anywhere?
CS: Games For Windows support is not decided yet. We're still in discussion with Microsoft. They're still finalizing some of the policies that they have surrounding Games For Windows Live. We haven't decided to go that route yet. In the nearer term, in the case of Puzzle Fighter, we will be going a different route that hasn't been announced yet. There may be multiple ways that we deliver that content, and multiple types of services that we deliver it across. We're still exploring how that works.
Puzzle Fighter is a summer release, and that's the first one that's a triple cross-platform release for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360. Would we do a PC game for Street Fighter? PC typically hasn't been a hotbed of activity for fighting games. Puzzle Fighter makes sense because you can play it with four arrow keys and a spacebar.
We're still wrestling with this to see if it makes sense. It's not cost-prohibitive to do it; it's just a matter of whether it's the right audience and whether they're going to have the right experience with a gamepad being required.
When Capcom usually releases a major 2D fighting game, there is a tendency to release a controller that has six buttons on the face. Do you have any ideas about that?
CS: We haven't had any discussions with third-party peripheral makers. I'm sure our licensing group will go out and talk to some people, and see if there's some interest among peripheral manufacturers. Truthfully, there's no movement on that at this time. We have time, because that title is a fall release.
Capcom And The PC Space
Why has Capcom had such a revived interest in the PC space?
CS: That's one of the things that we have been pushing very heavily from the U.S. Not just because of the U.S. PC market, but we're pushing it from the U.S. side with a much more global view of the world market. As much as I love Microsoft and Sony, if you look at a lot of the developing markets like China, South Korea, and India, the gaming platform of choice is the PC.
When you try and position yourself for the future, we think that there's a lot of opportunity on the PC, even outside of the developed and existing markets. E-distribution in particular on some of the things we're doing is one step towards that, on the smaller scale of things. You'll also hear us announcing some other initiatives on some larger products for PC, both out of Japan and out of the U.S. You'll see that taking another step further.
Monster Hunter obviously makes a lot of sense for the PC.
CS: Monster Hunter: Frontier in Japan has been in closed beta for awhile, and just this past week was the final phase of the closed beta. Launch is still scheduled for the summer, and is going to be a monster in Japan.
As far as how and if Western audiences will get access to that content is something we're still discussing internally. We're deciding a) if there is a market, and b) how do we bring it over, how does the administration work, and who's running this thing and from where?
It seems great as a casual MMO. You can play specific missions that are self-contained.
CS: It is. It's a great introductory MMO in a lot of ways. As a standalone product, it has so much content it's ridiculous. Frontier has the additional benefit of new content being introduced on an ongoing basis, more than you typically see in most MMOs. It's got a life unto itself.
Again, we're still wrestling with what our policy should be in bringing it across, if we bring it across at all. We hope to have some answers to that in the next couple of months.