Microsoft has announced that it has signed former Capcom boss Yoshiki Okamoto and Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi to create exclusive games for the next-generation Xbox console.
Although not a household name with most gamers, Okamoto has worked as producer on several important Capcom franchise including Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, The Legend of Zelda (produced for Nintendo on the Game Boy format), Mega Man, Time Pilot and 1942. Okamoto’s last role at Capcom was as chief technical officer, where he was one of the key directors of the PlayStation 3 project, before leaving in September 2003. Okamoto went on to found developer Game Republic, where he is currently president and CEO.
Although less prolific than Okamoto (in part due to his youth) Tetsuya Mizuguchi is arguably a bigger name draw, being responsible for such idiosyncratic Sega titles as Sega Rally Championship, Rez and Space Channel 5. He left Sega studio United Game Artists (UGA) in October 2003 to co-found Q Entertainment, which has so far produced puzzle games Lumines for the PSP and Meteos for the Nintendo DS.
There is no indication of what type of games either developer will be producing for the next generation Xbox, and the wording of Microsoft’s press release suggests that they are free to develop different titles for other formats, but this is nevertheless an important move for Microsoft.
Together with the signing of Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi last week, this appears to signify a genuine change in tactics for the company, in terms of attracting Japanese developers. This is important not just for Xbox sales in Japan, where the current console has a market user base of less than one percent, but also to broaden the general range of titles available for the future format.
An over-emphasis on Western developed shoot ‘em-ups and racing games has long been the major standing criticism of the Xbox as a format, and these latest announcements seem to suggest that Microsoft are well aware of the problem.
"My goal in creating these games is to make completely fresh and riveting experiences that gamers have never had before," says Okamoto. "With the next-generation Xbox platform, I can turn this vision into a reality."