It's been less than a year since Mark Beaumont was appointed the boss of Capcom's European arm, as part of plans to increase the company's reach in the West.
GamesIndustry.biz sat down with Beaumont at E3 to find out how that strategy is working out so far and why he believes Capcom could come out of this console cycle a much stronger contender.
Q: GamesIndustry.biz: There's been a lot of talk about how important this holiday is, suggestions that it will determine the market leader. As a publisher, when do you start deciding which platforms to offer stronger support for?
Mark Beaumont: 24 to 36 months in advance [laughs]. We have to make those calls well before we know how things are going to progress, and quite honestly that's why you're seeing Capcom move to a more multi-platform strategy.
Not only is there some question as to who's going to be most successful, but there's some question as to who's going to be most successful in each market. It's entirely possible that the ranking of the three systems in North America will be different from the ranking of the three systems in Europe.
I'm actually expecting that will be the probably be the case, and it will be different again in Japan. So by going multi-platorm we hedge our bets; it gives us an opportunity to move with the marketplace.
We're far enough into the cycle at this point that particularly if any one platform starts to lag behind, I think they've got some issues. If it's still a three horse race coming out of Christmas, then I think there's still time for somebody to pull away.
Q: PS3 seems to be lagging in the sales stakes. Do you think a USD 100 price cut is enough to ramp it up?
A lot of mixed opinions on that. I think it will help, and Jack [Tretton, speaking at Sony's E3 conference] mentioned that the sell-through has jumped up significantly just in the first week they've done that.
They are still the cheapest Blu-ray player in the marketplace, so that's going to additionally help them to put more units out there. You may very well look at that and wonder if people are just watching movies or if they're actually playing games as well; that's something that has to improve over time.
Also it's tied to the offerings they've had so far. As they get a more robust line-up, the tie ratio will probably grow. Sony will tell you that the tie ration on the PS2 was fairly low when it launched, so they're seeing parallels between the two.
I don't think there's any way you can not say the PS3 is lagging. Just by looking at the figures, it's not performing to the levels the other platforms have. Each has territories where they do a little bit better or worse as the case may be - 360's had some issues outside of the UK and Europe.
I'd say PS3 is probably in third place at this point; it remains to be seen whether they'll stay there or not.
Q: How big a factor is price in that respect?
To this point in the marketplace, it's not the biggest factor. We're beyond early adopter, we're certainly getting into the broader market, but we're not fully there yet. That will become a definite factor as you get into next year, when we need to be mass market.
But for now, I would say Sony's product portfolio has had more to do with holding them back than the price point of the hardware itself. That said everybody else in the marketplace had better have great software, and without that - yes, it is a disadvantage in that respect.
Q: What message is Capcom trying to communicate at E3?
We came out of a very strong year last year with Lost Planet and Dead Rising. Continuing that momentum is certainly part of what we plan to achieve, so you'll see new IP on the stand here that is innovative and has a real chance for success.
You'll see the franchises that we've had in the past, like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, being exploited in new fashions and new hardware, and that will be an ongoing message for the company.
Diversity is clearly what we're trying to get across. You're seeing the beginning of our PC development with Lost Planet. It's about breadth of range; we're trying to take our strategy and extend it to all viable media.
Q: Both Sony and Microsoft showed the Resident Evil 5 trailers at their conferences. Will it be on the Wii too?
As of now, we've announced PS3 and Xbox 360 SKUs. To go to the Wii, you're really talking about a new piece of development, because we're developing pretty high-end on that title.
With the graphical quality and gameplay approach, we're trying to revolutionise where we're going with it. To do something on the Wii, you're really looking at doing something significantly different - you can follow the story and do things of that nature, but technologically it's a different product at that point.
Q: Resident Evil 4 was a success both critically and commercially. To what extent will you stick with that winning formula for the sequel, and to what extent will you introduce new innovations?
I can't say too much, quite honestly. The dev team did the teaser trailer to keep people interested in what's going on with the product. I can tell you we will absolutely doing some innovative things with the game and the gameplay.
There's a reason why we picked the setting for the game, which is Africa, and it has to do technologically with light and shadow and things of that nature. Basically we will really push the envelope, so you should expect to see some new things in the game.
Q: What's your perception of Capcom's standing as a third-party publisher? Where are you aiming to take the company?
I've made a very strong point of saying this: I really don't compare Capcom to any of the other publishers. We're not trying to be the next Electronic Arts, we're not trying to be the next Activision, we're certainly not THQ. We're trying to be the best Capcom we can be.
That sounds a little trite, to be honest, but we do certain things very well. Our development teams tend to push the envelope with some of the things they do; sometimes that works, sometimes that doesn't work as well, but on average we tend to do better than some of our competitors in that respect.
But we have not done as good a job in the West as we necessarily needed to do. To address the West it's a combination of better sales and marketing than we've been doing, but also diversification of the portfolio through development that is occurring in the West.
Our US group is doing a couple of major releases each year for next-gen and a series of other products, including PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade products, some PlayStation 2, some PSP... We're really looking to broaden the portfolio so that we're a more well-rounded Western publisher.
I do think the company's positioned to be one that grows significantly during this transition, but I wouldn't compare us to anybody else doing what we do. We're unique.
Mark Beaumont is executive vice president of Capcom Europe. Interview by Ellie Gibson.