Speaking at a leadership seminar at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, former Capcom executive Keiji Inafune gave in-depth stories relating to his development of two key Capcom titles, and how he had to break internal company policy to develop them in the first place. The story was reported on by Famitsu, and translated by Andriasang.
Inafune, who left Capcom at the end of October while he was their head of development, told a story to students about how Capcom had a policy near the end of his time there that called for 70-80% of new games to be sequels to existing properties, but in reality, any new game project was rejected out of hand by risk-averse managers. To get around the policy, Inafune presented the prototypes for Dead Rising and Lost Planet, knowing they would be rejected. In secret, he kept developing on the prototypes, intentionally going massively over budget – 400% over, in the case of Lost Planet – figuring, correctly, that Capcom management would then give him the OK so as not to sink so much cost.
Dead Rising and Lost Planet both went onto sell 2m copies worldwide. Mr. Inafune used the examples to prove to the students at the seminar that sometimes, it was important for rules to be broken. He stated that if the games didn’t sell, he was prepared to be fired for “war crimes”.
Mr. Inafune started two companies after he left Capcom: game development company Intercept, and Comcept, a cross-media company.
Analysis: This anecdote shows me two things: one, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt just how tone-deaf Capcom has been to their fans. Capcom USA recently had to send out their PR staff to clarify why they feel Mega Man – only their biggest property – isn’t “popular” in the West. The company had been hoping for a policy – any policy – that would help them be profitable, and they finally stumbled upon it in the past fiscal year by diversifying their games portfolio, after blindly fumbling around for years prior. This is what happens often with large companies that have a complex bureaucracy. I speculated back in October that Inafune was sick of Capcom’s corporate structure, and this lends more weight to that claim.
Secondly, this isn’t just an issue with Capcom. Just about any company of any appreciable size is sticking to major game sequels. Activision, Ubisoft, even Electronic Arts is making a big deal out of narrowing their focus and tying their big names across multiple play systems (think of how Dead Space 2 is playable via the packaged goods version, DLC, the iPhone game, and other marketing materials like the DVD and comic for the first game). The consumers are largely at fault for this phenomenon, however, because they keep sucking the sequels up. Give EA credit, because a company like Activision would have seen the sales figures for Mirror’s Edge and Dead Space and said “to hell with this, let’s make another Call of Duty game”. EA marketed the hell out of Dead Space, and Dead Space 2 is enjoying profitability across all platforms. However, EA is large enough to absorb the growing pains that come from two new IPs. Other companies won’t do this because a top-flight game in a new IP will almost always sell less than a bland sequel for a name that fans know. Simply put, the market moves on name recognition, and if consumers would stop buying games on day-of-release and would actually look outside their comfortable boxes, this type of corporate mindset would not exist.