Do you foresee a lot more Western development coming from U.S. initiatives?
CS: I would say... Look, the process has changed in terms of how things get initiated and where things come from. We certainly bring a lot of things to the table, still, in terms of opportunities. There's just a whole bunch of extra people to convince about whether to move forward or not, and whether it fits within our strategy.
It's interesting to see how products are coming out of Capcom because some of them seem really innovative, and sometimes I wonder where that comes from.
CS: Can you give me an example? Because they come from different places. It depends entirely on the product.
Sometimes I'm surprised because it seems like there's still a very traditional Japanese workflow mentality that wouldn't necessarily support something really creative, but then Lost Planet is a weird, interesting idea.
I know Street Fighter IV originated on the U.S. side, but the way that it was put together was quite good. That combined with the very, very top-down management style of the games surprises me.
CS: It's funny. [On] Lost Planet, we have some really talented creators. [Kenji] Oguro-san was the director on Lost Planet, and the vision for that world was driven a lot by him. The feature set for the game was driven a lot by [producer Jun] Takeuchi-san in terms of what he wanted to focus on and in terms of where does multiplayer fit versus the story.
[With] Street Fighter IV, [it was director Yoshinori] Ono-san in terms of the ultimate direction that it took in terms of 2.5D. I can tell you quite candidly there was lots and lots and lots of discussion as to whether that was the appropriate direction to take for the next Street Fighter.
It could've been fully 3D. It could've been 2D. 2.5D is sort of where we netted out in the end. Much debate went on about that particular thing, but at the end, it was Ono-san and Inafune-san specifically that said, "Let's do this," and the U.S. said, "We think we can sell this," so away we go.
Monster Hunter Tri
What is the main cultural stopping block -- I assume it's cultural, that's my own words -- that's making Monster Hunter not as big here as it is in Japan?
CS: [sighs expressively] You know, we're taking another run at it with Tri in May, and Tri will have a number of things that we've been asking for a long time in the series. Online, true real online support has been one of the biggest things that we've been harping on, for literally years. This is the first time since the original PS2 introduction we've had an online mechanism for people to play couch-to-couch.
The first PS2 [version] was properly online. None of the PSP versions were full infrastructure. Ad-hoc only. Ad-hoc seems to work fine in Japan. People play on lunch breaks, play in the office, after hours, play on buses, play in the schoolyard. It's just part of the culture. I believe Westerners actually much prefer to sit on their couch and play online with another friend.
I mean, we're a very big country. Traveling to see friends just to play a game head-to-head, where both people have to have their own hardware, is not something I think that has lent itself to broad appeal. The fact that Tri will have both split-screen and online play, I think will allow for some interesting dynamics in terms of community generation that we previously haven't been.
The other part of this is a massive marketing push, the likes of which I'm not sure anyone has seen on a Wii title from a third party, that we'll be seeing across the West when it ships. So, big marketing push. Online play.
The other part of this is Monster Hunter, as a series, is a hard series to learn. It is unforgiving and very, very complex to learn. Very complex systems. Tri is a little bit easier to get into. There's a much gentler learning curve in Tri than there's ever been in any of the other Monster Hunters. That's not to say it's dumbed down, but it's much more accessible.
It still seems like it still might be a tough sell to the Wii market at large.
CS: It's not something that's limiting in any way. It's a game form that should be perfectly approachable and perfectly acceptable by Western audiences, and by Wii owners specifically. It is a core game, and core games on Wii have had some challenges, but we also know we have a built-in Monster Hunter fan base that is small-ish, but they're going to push several hundred thousand units before we even touch anybody outside that.
So, we've got high hopes for this. We really want to capture a more active Wii demographic. And the Wii is still -- in homes that own multiple consoles, the Wii is always there. There's no reason why these people shouldn't and couldn't be picking up Monster Hunter Tri to play.