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Developer Interview

vol08.Keiji Inafune / Managing Corporate Officer / Head of R&D Management Group and Contents Management Division

Towards the creation of new contents - Effectively using outside resources is essential

- Capcom is currently enjoying steady growth. What do you think are the reasons behind this?
The first thing I would like to say is that the healthy state of affairs now has nothing to do with our current efforts. In the pay raise scheme, the effort you put forth this year determines your salary base for the next year. In the same way, there is a time lag between the work we do and the eventual outcome. When it comes to game development, this lag is between two to three years. Essentially, the results of our efforts from three years ago represent today's performance figures. Continued success is only possible if each one of us takes this principle to heart. Though we've had a lot of big sellers, our business performance tends to become unstable in the two years immediately following a year in which a number of big hits were released. This is because we have the mistaken idea that we've done a good job. Instead, it's important to understand that the seeds sown three years ago provide us with the fruit we can enjoy today. The reason I think Capcom has successfully maintained its solid business performance in recent years is because this fact is firmly rooted in our minds. Capcom can be even stronger if we exhibit a little more courage as we move into the future.
- What kind of "courage" are you referring to?
When business is doing really well, the pressure of success tends to make us paranoid of failure, causing us to forget that it's important to have the resolve to take on new challenges. This creates a vicious cycle in which we fail to show our true abilities. In the past, it would be great if we had one major hit every year. We didn't enjoy the incredible success of "Street Fighter" at the same time "Resident Evil" or "Monster Hunter" was doing well. Yet, on the other hand we had a number of hit titles last year. What worries me is when strong performance gives rise to an "insanely good cycle". This means that people tend to shy away from taking risks when the company has made a series of consecutive hits. It is in these situations where we must have the courage to try new things.
- Are there any specific measures you take?
Well, I feel that I must be the first to set an example. Those in charge need to take the lead in doing things no one wants to try.
- What challenges do you take on yourself?
I'm working to establish partnerships with outside developers. It's obvious that "in-house development" is Capcom's most reliable "bat" for making a hit, but we only have 800 development employees working for CS/Online. Because each major title requires nearly 100 employees, it's difficult to increase the number of titles that are developed simultaneously. Considering our limited resources, we have no choice but to work with outside developers if we want to create multiple games at the same time.
- But isnt managing outside resources difficult?
It's definitely not easy, but in the end we have no choice. We have to do our best to supervise them. If we fail to succeed here, there's really no way we can expand our business. It would be great if the sales for "Monster Hunter" continued to go up, but you never know what the industry has in store. Taking every possibility into account, we need to secure a number of different options for the future.
When outsourcing development, there are always certain quality and schedule risks. I strive to set an example and make sure that no one ducks out of the batter's box and runs away from risks. For example, even though "Street Fighter IV", which was released in February 2009, was developed in cooperation with outside developing firms, it has been a huge hit and sold 2.5 million copies.
In fact, initially people objected to my idea of outsourcing of "Street Fighter IV". Looking back on it now, it was a decision that involved a high degree of risk. I'm convinced that the success of this project was founded in our resolve to take on a new challenge. It's sometimes necessary to put our backs up against the wall when managing game development. Never say "I can't, it's impossible". Just do it. We may not get a hit each time, but we can learn from our strikeouts.
- What's your secret for successfully managing outside firms?
In the end what matters most is trust. One of the most satisfying feelings is hearing an outside developer say "it was a pleasure working with you". Though a partnership always begins by making a business contact, I feel really good when people tell me "it was great getting to know you" at the end of a project. Regardless of the country or region, we can always relate with other people.
- So this relationship founded on trust is what led to the success of "Street Fighter IV".
That's right. We don't "outsource" work to subcontractors for the sake of cutting costs; rather it is a means for us to increase the number of game titles we put out. This approach is already widely used by game makers overseas. Unfortunately Japanese game companies lack the ability to do what foreign companies do on a regular basis. Although in-house development is effective for ensuring quality, limited development resources makes it extremely difficult to create games that can compete on a global level. As I see it, when it comes to surviving in the global market, merely "selling games globally" doesn't give a company the right to identify itself as a global corporation. Each facet of the company, including the development process, business administration, and pay structure, need to be globalized. Capcom is still just a domestic Japanese company, but I believe we have a sufficiently solid foundation ready for globalization, represented by the progressive fundamental research on things such as the MT framework.
- Your philosophy seems to have established itself throughout the company. Getting all the in-house staff to be on the same page is another important step towards globalization.
It would be great if that was the case. As I said, I always remind our staff members that what we enjoy now are merely the blooming flowers from the seeds we sowed in the past, so we must seriously consider what kind of seeds we want to sow next. Likewise, we must not only plant seeds but also nurture the flowers. If we become obsessed with growing flowers and forget to plant the seeds, or if we focus all of our attention on growing the seeds and let the flowers wither, we'll never be able to achieve stable growth. To achieve stable growth, we have to plant the seeds and nurture the flowers.
Back to Developer Interview 2009 Top Page
  1. 07.Takeshi Tezuka
  2. 08.Keiji Inafune
  3. 05.Yoichi Egawa
  4. 06.Manabu Seko
  5. 03.Jun Takeuchi
  6. 04.Shutaro Kobayashi
  7. 01.Ryozo Tsujimoto
  8. 02.Hiroyuki Kobayashi
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