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Christian Svensson - Part Two

Capcom's VP of strategic planning on the challenges of new IP and the growing importance of digital

In the first part of this interview with Capcom's VP of strategic planning and business development, Christian Svensson, he talked about the challenges of the business environment for one-team developers and the publisher's own ongoing Westward-facing development strategy.

Here he talks a bit about the Japanese market, how business models translate to the West, the challenge of launching new IP and why Capcom will be among the best-placed companies to take advantage of an increasing digitally-distributed world. What are your views on the Japanese market? You mentioned previously that it's static.
Christan Svensson

I have opinions on the matter. I'm a little reluctant to get into detail on them, because of what some of my compatriots in Japan might think of those statements. But it's a challenging market to say the least. I can't really point to any one specific thing that's contributing to it. I think it's a market whose tastes are increasingly diverging from Western tastes; its tastes are increasingly more esoteric.

The exceptions to the rule are some of the really big budget stuff - the Resident Evil 5s, the Street Fighter 4s, the Metal Gears - that do actually have global appeal. Arguably the Final Fantasies fit that rule.

Monster Hunter is an interesting one for us. It's a phenomenon in Japan that we're certainly trying to recreate in the West. We are strategically investing in the brand in the West, because we know that as a company we're going to continue to be creating Monster Hunter content, so it behooves us to do what it takes to make it stick here. There was talk of charging for online play for Monster Hunter in the West?
Christan Svensson

Let's just say that discussions about business models in the West are ongoing. We have not selected one direction or another. When we get a little closer to release we will definitely be sharing what the model will be. In the same report, it was mentioned that Lost Planet 2, Dark Void, Super Street Fighter IV, and Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles were estimated to be Capcom’s biggest selling titles of 2010, and there is going to be an increased concentration on digital distribution. Aside from Dark Void, there is no mention of new IP. Is Capcom exercising caution, or are there things in the pipeline yet to be announced?
Christan Svensson

Yes, in both cases. I think that we are being a little bit more cautious, particularly in our Western organisation, we were very IP heavy, and that's partially my fault. We've taken some risks, we've tried a few things. At the same time, we've also got some things based on Capcom IP, we've tried some licensed projects.

Jun Takeuchi gave a presentation at DICE last year and one of his bullet points was "Try to keep new IP development to about 20 per cent of your portfolio". I think that edges up a little bit towards the beginning of a hardware cycle, maybe down a little bit towards the middle and end of a hardware cycle. I would say right now we're in the middle, so we're probably right on target.

About 20 per cent of our stock will likely continue to be about new IP. We do need to be creating new brands for the future: that's how we grow the company. How hard is it to get new IP off the ground?
Christan Svensson

There is nothing more difficult in this business than launching new IP. Capcom is fortunate, and I think has a better track record than most - we do very few licensed properties. Look across our history, and our portfolio of products, and they are all things that we own and control. Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Devil May Cry, Lost Planet, Dead Rising, Okami, Megaman: these are all iconic brands.

And I would look at Okami, Dead Rising and Lost Planet as three of this generation's(ish) successful new launches. We brought back Street Fighter to be relevant again, after a nine or ten-year hiatus of re-releases and rehashes. These are really hard things to do.

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