Since the announcement of its formation from the ashes of Okami creator Clover Studio and Capcom itself in 2006, Osaka-based independent game studio PlatinumGames has created significant buzz in the west - thanks to its impeccable pedigree of creators from some of Capcom's leading game franchises.
Here, Gamasutra presents a series of three interviews that give a rounded view of where PlatinumGames - newly signed with Sega for a four-game deal - is now, and where it might soon go. First, Tatsuya Minami and Atsushi Inaba speak about the formation of the company and its ethos - to create games that can compete on the world stage, with real creativity as their basis.
Both creators were involved for some of the most beloved and creative games in Capcom's stable - from hits like Resident Evil 4 (Minami) and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney (Inaba) to innovative critical darlings like Okami (Inaba) and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter (Minami).
In addition, Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe creator Hideki Kamiya discusses his upcoming PlatinumGames title Bayonetta, and Shigenori Nishikawa comments on his new PlatinumGames project - the black-and-white, hyper-violent and darkly comedic Mad World, for the Nintendo Wii.
What made you really decide, "Okay, now is the time that we need to start our own company?"
Tatsuya Minami: Inaba left Clover Studio, and I and my group left Capcom. However, we'd always had a similar vision for the kind of games we wanted to create and the kind of work that we wanted to do. So PlatinumGames was formed in October. We'd done our own thing separately for a little while, and we finally got together and realized that we wanted to accomplish the same thing, so we joined together.
I see. So how large is the entire studio right now?
TM: Right now, with official employees, we have just over 80. However, including temp staff and contractors and whatnot, the total team size is a little over 120. So Infinite Line is actually being handled by Nude Maker, Kouno-san's company. Outside of Nude Maker, there are over 120 employees at PlatinumGames.
When I spoke to you last, I said to you that I thought that Capcom was finally releasing really, really good games, and that it was like someone had switched on the creativity switch and finally the good stuff was really coming. And you said, "I don't know if you can say that in five years." Do you feel like this is happening? Has the degeneration of the studio started, and is that why you wanted to leave?
Atsushi Inaba: Games of course take a very long time to create. So when a game finally comes out, it's actually a reflection of the company of the last couple of years, not a reflection of what the company is now, at the present.
AI: Of course, this isn't a question of good or bad. It's just personal taste. But the Capcom that I grew up with and that I spent time at is very different from the Capcom that I left. They're doing their own thing, but it was no longer what I wanted to do.
I think it's a very good move to create your own studio, so that you can really realize the vision that you want to make. It's been happening over the last three or four years that finally Japanese creators are actually leaving and starting their own thing. Before, there was so much of the company mentality, where it's like you stay at this company for the rest of your life. It's good to see that people actually are realizing, "You know, if I need to do what I want to do, I have to leave."
AI: First, for creators who have a strong vision, I feel it's a good thing. What it really boils down to is that it's very difficult for people with strong vision to accomplish those visions within the large corporate structure.
AI: It's my personal opinion that having that sort of corporate culture isn't good for the future of the game industry - not being able to create games with a vision within these large corporations.
This isn't a problem that's native to Japan, though it's definitely happening in Japan: publishers are merging left and right, and all you're left with is just giant companies. In order to meet the payroll, they have to put out games that are guaranteed successes and make those big numbers. What that does is that it stifles creativity to a point. You can still make creative games, but the courage to create really unique, fun games is dying out.
They're afraid of risk.
AI: Sega had the courage to allow this sort of unique venture. We really want Sega not to lose that creative and unique spirit that Sega is known for.