The Japanese game market is shrinking, so publishers must look overseas. Capcom is one of the Japanese companies best known for making successful strides in globalization, and the company's Jun Takeuchi discussed how Capcom has met challenges in developing games for a worldwide market at the CESA Developer Conference in Yokohama.
Takeuchi is producer of Resident Evil 5 and the Lost Planet series, but before his days as a producer, "I was told by my boss that the strategy was to increase market share. It was a very simple strategy, but obviously it is not an easy task."
Takeuchi and two other production managers came up with a three-part strategy during a dinner conversation: "Cheap, fast and tasty. That probably sounds like a familiar catch phrase from a certain fast food restaurant (in Japan)."
"Cheap" refers to cost efficiency, he explained. "In the past, we would have different teams create their own game engine for similar types of games. There was Resident Evil and Onimusha, both of which were action games but the engines were different. Why not use the same game engine?"
The solution is the MT Framework, Capcom's latest game engine -- used in recent titles such as Dead Rising and the Lost Planet series.
"Fast" equates to organization structure, Takeuchi continued. "How fast we can go depends on organization, how an experienced staff can pass their knowledge to the younger staff, or how a group of staff work together in solving problems."
RE5 had a team of 250, so organization became vital in managing such a large team, he said. "Our company originally had seven separate development divisions, and we've basically combined this into one giant development team. This would make for a more efficient information and knowledge sharing as well cost reduction."
The third, "tasty" factor, however, is the one Takeuchi believes most distinguishes Capcom, he said. "'Tasty' basically means creating a game that is fun to play. I think there are only a few companies that start out a proposal with this in mind."
"The 'cheap' and 'fast' is for the company's benefit...tasty' is for the audience's benefit," he added. "If our audience does not like our games, we cannot continue to do business."
"I also believe in being anti-mainstream," he stated. "One thing I hate when developing games is when asked to create a clone of an existing game from another company. Capcom does not like the idea behind this, because as a developer, the motivation would be quite low."
Even within its own franchises, Capcom changes staff members for each installment, so that each team feels they're on a fresh, new project -- as opposed to the stress of repeating a prior success.
"Although being anti-mainstream and looking for new ideas and concept is important, knowing what kind of ideas and concepts make a game potentially succeed is also just as important," said Takeuchi.
"Let's take Lost Planet, for example. In our meeting, we were pretty much toasted. Robots, Japanese developer making a third person shooter, science fiction. Our market research staff told us that a game with these three elements of failure is just not going to happen! If this sells, it's crazy."
"With foreign companies like Ubisoft and EA looking at the Japanese market, I believe that with the expertise of various companies combining into overall ability, the day for us to compete with these giant companies may be near," he continued.
"Capcom is thinking of ways to be involved in this idea. We plan to change our organizational structure in the next fiscal year and if it goes as planned, we may find new ways to develop games, not just as a game developer, but as an organization in a company."