Keiji Inafune is more than the creator of Mega-Man and the producer of upcoming zombie-fest Dead Rising 2. He is the head of global research and development at Capcom. That means he's a big cheese. One of the biggest, in fact. Well, we eat big cheeses for breakfast. At E310 last week, we sat down with Inafune to discuss the decline of the Japanese gaming industry, Capcom's poor Western-developed titles and the mysterious case of Devil May Cry 5.
Q: What is your impression of E310, the press conferences and the new technologies that the platform holders have unveiled?
Keiji Inafune: Every year that I come to E3, year in and year out, the one thing I've noticed is that it seems like the Japanese game developer share seems to be getting smaller and smaller. If you look at the major titles, they're now primarily Western. If you look at all the different signs and all the billboards, most of those are Western titles. A lot of the key announcements are also Western titles. I think to myself sometimes, if we keep on this course, the Japanese gaming market will disappear totally. That is one of the valid concerns that I have, which is why as a Japanese publisher, as Capcom, we really want to fight the good fight, and try and make our games work within this more primarily Western market.
Q: How do you do that? How are you doing that?
KI: So, of course, we can't just rely on our own skill, our own Japanese developer skill and know-how, to steer us through this dark time. It's going to have to come through collaborative efforts and co-operation. It's our US staff, our European staff, working closely with them. Of course we are working with a lot of different Western developers as well. It's being able to share their knowledge and information, to collaborate with them on a very in-depth level, that's going to allow us to grow as a company and to be able to understand how the market is changing in the West, and allow us to be competitive in those markets. That's going to be essential for us.
Q: Some of Capcom's recent Western-developed games haven't been as good as people had hoped. What will you do to ensure future Western-developed titles won't turn out the same?
KI: Ultimately in the past, when we worked with Western developers, we really hadn't hit our stride. It's not an easy thing to do to find the perfect mix, the perfect match, of how we're going to be able to work with companies and developers that are in totally different countries. In one area we were saying create the game that you wanted to create, and I don't think we had given them enough advice. But then on the flipside there were some areas where we were probably asserting too much - the game had to be like this - and forcing those developers into a style that they weren't comfortable with. We had to feel around to get to a point where we really understood the proper way - the best mix that we should go after for the most proper collaboration, to get the best of both worlds, rather than getting some of the worst sides of both.
With Dead Rising 2, right now, we have finally reached it. We have learned what areas work, what areas don't work, and that has helped us to create Dead Rising 2, which looks very much like the first one, feels like it's got that Capcom essence to it, yet there are a lot of ideas and concepts in that game that a Japanese development staff would not have come up with. So it does take the best of the West and the best of Japanese game aesthetic design. Now that we have that knowledge, we can use that in future Western titles going forward. It's not an easy process. It took some growing pains, but we finally got there.
The other thing that's changed is that come this last April, I became the global head of all R&D throughout the world for Capcom. Now I'm able to give them sound advice to all the development teams, as well as synch them up so that we all are collaborating and we're not separate companies just because we're on different sides of the globe. I think that's helping a lot, too.