In the first of a series of Q&As with Japanese-headquartered game publishers making the plunge into the U.S. mobile game biz, we had a chance to talk to Midori Yuasa, General Manager and Senior Vice President for Capcom Entertainment's mobile division, about the company's history and plans.
Yuasa illuminated on Capcom's general mobile strategy, the recent acquisition
of Canadian cellphone developer Cosmic Infinity, her thoughts on Microsoft Live Anywhere, and why we'll be seeing U.S.-developed cellphone versions of Super Puzzle Fighter 2: Network Battle, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
and Lost Planet
debuting later this year.
Gamasutra: Can you tell me a bit about your company’s history in mobile, and why you decided to enter the mobile arena?
Capcom has been publishing mobile games in Japan for more than 5 years. Last year the company made the decision to leverage this capability in the U.S. market, so in November we launched the Mobile & Interactive Media division. We felt that the U.S. market had matured and handsets had advanced to the point where we could bring realistic translations of popular Capcom brands to market, without having to have quality suffer.
GS: How does the U.S. market differ from Japan and other Asian markets? What are some of the difficulties in entering the market?
There are several differences between the two markets -- the most significant being that in Japan there is a more unified platform for development. In the States we need to port a game for almost every possible handset and carrier combination. This adds another layer of complexity and cost to the development process.
Another major difference is that in the States distribution is handled almost exclusively through the carriers, while in most of the rest of the world there are additional off portal distribution methods available. It therefore becomes critical in the States to leverage strong brands to assist in garnering mindshare and good positioning with the carriers.
GS: Where do you see the mobile gaming industry in five years?
Clearly, advances in technology will play a major role. As handsets become more advanced, we’ll see better looking games and more networked head-to-head and MMO titles appearing in the space. Also, as Capcom’s roots are in the console industry, we anticipate more gameplay integration and marketing synergies between console and mobile platforms.
GS: What do you feel are your strongest mobile titles for ’06? What do you feel are your most powerful franchises?
Capcom is a company that is known for its franchises and it’s difficult to identify which would be our most powerful – how can one choose between Mega Man, Ghost ‘n Goblins, Street Fighter
and Resident Evil
, to name but a few?
As for our strongest titles for ’06 we’ve already launched Mega Man, Ghost ‘n Goblins,
and Resident Evil: The Missions
to critical and commercial success. We also anticipate great things for Super Puzzle Fighter 2: Network Battle, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney,
and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire
for the latter half of the year.
GS: Are you planning on any new IP for the Western audience specifically or are you relying on your existing franchises or pick up more Western licenses?
While they’re based on existing IP, Super Puzzle Fighter 2: Network Battle, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
and Lost Planet
for mobile are all being developed by our U.S. development team for this market. Also, with our acquisition of Cosmic Infinity, we have several games based off of original IP and well-known entertainment IP in the pipeline.
GS: What are your thoughts on Microsoft Live Anywhere?
We’re very excited about this technology and are looking forward to its implementation. As mentioned above, we already see many possible synergies between our console and mobile operations. Microsoft’s Live Anywhere appears to be an ideal platform to help us better realize some of those design considerations.
GS: What are your thoughts on recent mobile mergers and acquisitions?
Speaking for Capcom, our recent acquisition of Cosmic Infinity puts us into a very unique position in the market place as it affords us a leadership position in both casual games through Cosmic Infinity, as well as more traditional arcade and hardcore games via Capcom’s existing franchises. We will also be able to take advantage of Cosmic’s production expertise to ensure an efficient development cycle.
GS: Is there a viable hardcore market for mobile?
We feel that mobile gaming can appeal to both hardcore and casual players and have divided our portfolio accordingly. Mobile may not be someone’s primary medium for playing games, but we see it as a viable more-convenient alternative to handheld gaming systems – particularly as handset technology improves.
GS: As a percentage, how much of your overall production is geared towards mobile development?
As we are a publicly-traded company, I’m not at liberty to discuss a specific percentage, however I can clearly state that Capcom is dedicated to the mobile space as evidenced by our recent acquisition of Cosmic Infinity.
GS: What are you looking forward to in mobile gaming within the next year?
This is a very exciting time for our company, and we are looking to expand our business in the coming year and capture and maintain a slot as one of the top five U.S. mobile game publishers.