'Survival horror' market too small for Resident Evil, says Capcom producer
Some long-time Resident Evil fans might long for the "good old days" of the franchise, when early games in the series were deliberately-paced, nerve-wracking explorations into a "world of survival horror." Today, the series' emphasis is on action that rarely lets up.
But while there are those who'd love to see a return to classic Resident Evil gameplay, the market for that style -- "survival horror" -- just isn't viable enough to warrant the biggest investments, Capcom's Resident Evil: Revelations producer Masachika Kawata told Gamasutra in an interview.
"Especially for the North American market, I think the series needs to head in that [action-oriented] direction," Kawata said. "[Resident Evil's primary games] need to be an extension of the changes made in Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5.
"RE4 started in that direction, and RE5 kept going in that direction," he said. "And I think that especially for the North American market, we need to keep going in that direction, and take that a step further. And that's exactly one of the reasons that Revelations is the way it is," he said.
While Revelations -- released on Nintendo 3DS earlier this year -- does have more of a tilt towards the action-oriented gameplay seen in Resident Evil 4 and 5, it manages to mix in the slower, creepy pace of earlier installments for a nice hybrid of gameplay styles.
But if the rising action trend of Resident Evil 4 and 5 continues, don't expect this year's big budget console (and eventually PC) game Resident Evil 6 to follow suit.
Acknowledging that he does not work on the upcoming numbered sequel, Kawata compares survival horror game sales to the best-selling video game franchise Call of Duty, a military FPS whose last installment sold 6.5 million units in its first day.
"Looking at the marketing data [for survival horror games] ... the market is small, compared to the number of units Call of Duty and all those action games sell," he said. "A 'survival horror' Resident Evil doesn't seem like it'd be able to sell those kind of numbers."
But, Kawata said, "I can't really speak for Resident Evil 6, but I don't think that it necessarily has to go all the way in that [action-heavy] direction, the Call of Duty direction. It doesn't have to be a straight up shooter. But my impression is that Resident Evil 4 and 5 aren't shooters, per se."
There are still opportunities though, for Capcom to explore the purer "survival horror" gameplay outside of the series proper, Kawata added. "So we have our numbered series, and we can say we have a more adventure-oriented version, like a Revelations-style game. And we also have Operation: Raccoon City, which is a third-person shooter.
"So I think that by extending the market in this sense, we can still have the numbered titles keep their identity about what Resident Evil is supposed to be, but still expand and hit other markets as well."
Despite the determinations brought about by Capcom's market data, Kawata said, "If you're going to be selling a game based on its good gameplay, then you don't have to worry about the market in which it will be sold." Instead, he said, it's the marketing surrounding a game that has to be tailored for different audiences, in order to appeal to players of specific territories.
"If we're going to make games that sell based on quality content, they should be able to appeal around the world," said Kawata. "That might be obvious, but that's why Grand Theft Auto IV, Skyrim and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare also sell in Japan, because their gameplay is interesting."