[At Capcom's Gamasutra-attended Captivate 2010 event, head of R&D Keiji Inafune discussed collaboration with Western studios, saying that together with Japanese leadership, all the company's releases can truly be a "Capcom game."]
Last week I had the chance to attend Captivate, Capcom's pre-E3 roundup of its best and brightest titles for the new year - and the overwhelming takeaway was Western expansion. Of course, that's the credo of all console-oriented Japanese game companies nowadays -- but Capcom seems to be trying hard to get it right.
The event surrounded some new game announcements detailed elsewhere on Gamasutra
, most notably Bionic Commando Rearmed 2
(now with jumping!), and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
, and the reveal that several titles, from Ghost Trick
, were coming to North America.
Keiji Inafune, head of R&D and online business at Capcom, began the event with a speech about the present and future of the company. The overall message was that in order to be truly global, every game the company releases must be a Capcom game.
More specifically, he said that "In the past there have been Capcom games from Osaka, and Capcom games by external developers. We want to strive toward all of these simply being 'Capcom games.'"
To this end, Inafune will be overseeing all Capcom projects to some degree, to ensure that they meet quality standards. But since he lives in Japan and can only make so many trips overseas, much of this quality overseeing will be done by his right hand man and mouthpiece Shinji Futami, a man with 20 years experience in the industry.
By way of example, Inafune discussed Dead Rising 2
in a later session. The game is being developed by Canadian studio Blue Castle Games, and while Inafune admitted there were some "cultural walls" they had to overcome, he's ultimately very pleased with how it went, saying the experience was very smooth.
Working with Western developers isn't just something Capcom is testing out - Inafune added that "We have only so many developers in Osaka," and that the demand from players for more Capcom games is "So great that we cannot supply it."
So for the company, expanding to the West is the only solution. The key takeaway I got from his monologue was that unlike the "try it and see" or micromanaging-style Japanese approaches to Western development, Capcom is truly attempting partnerships, to use mutual understanding to create proper Capcom games.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and all that talk is just talk until we start seeing more Bionic Comando: Rearmed
levels quality and fewer Bionic Commando
(next-gen) levels of quality. And indeed, with the Street Fighter
brand owned by Capcom's U.S. division, the Western ties run deeper than ever, now that the brand has had such a resurgence.
How Marvel, Capcom Hooked Up Again
Another great collaboration mentioned was, of course, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
. Producer Ryota Niitsuma said that the collaboration was smooth...no problems at all. But the American side was a little more straightforward.
To begin with, Marvel licensor Chris Baker admitted that the situation is "different" than it was when the first two games were released. "We're definitely bigger now than ever," he said, "which I think means it's the perfect time to come out with the best fighting game with our characters that has ever been made."
Baker also mentioned that he'd "...been working with Marvel's games and licensing division for the last two years ago, and basically the whole time people have been asking about this."
Capcom VP of Strategic Planning & Business Development Christian Svensson was a bit more candid. "Suffice to say this happened because both Marvel and we really wanted this to happen," he said. "To say there was a lot of complexity in the deal would be an understatement. It took us a long time to get done, but we got it done."
Internally, Capcom has been hard at work on its MT Framework engine. Version 2.0 powers Lost Planet 2
and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3
, and on the back of these titles, the company has begun putting the engine's logo into trailers. This led me to ask if the company intends to license it.
Lost Planet 2
producer Jun Takeuchi assured me that "We have absolutely no plans to license out the engine. It was made completely to serve Capcom internal teams. The only reason you see the new logo is because we reached this 2.0 version and felt like maybe we could brag about it a little bit."
The focus of the event was really on the consumer press, with playable demos for the excellent adventure game Ghost Trick
from the Phoenix Wright
creator, to the Zelda
-like adventure Okamiden
, to Super Street Fighter IV
's tournament mode, to Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes
(the first to come to the West under that title, with a previous iteration receiving significant changes and being redubbed Devil Kings
But the overall feeling I got from the event was that Capcom wants to expand. They want to work with more Western companies, and they want to do it right. Whether they manage to do so is another matter, but it does seem very much that their hearts (and possibly money) are in the right place for 2010 and 2011.
The company is coming off some of the better years in its history in terms of critical acclaim, and if it can indeed repeat the Western success its Osaka teams have had, but with Western developers, the company could forge a new path for itself as a worldwide organization -- something Japanese creators have had significant trouble doing.
[DISCLOSURE: Capcom provided travel and lodging costs for Gamasutra to attend the Captivate event.]