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Street Fighting Man

Capcom's Christian Svensson on handhelds, DLC and the future of free-to-play

Capcom has weathered the storm of recent years with a deep catalogue of well-respected core IP, kept in just regular enough rotation to please fans without exhausting them, but is that something which can continue?

Christian Svensson, Capcom's US vice president certainly thinks it can, and hints at some interesting new developments in this interview from GDC last week.

GamesIndustry.bizI wanted to start by talking a little about the success of Case Zero, the prelude DLC for Dead Rising 2. Has that set a precedent for similar outings on other Capcom IP?
Christian Svensson

Inevitably. It's something that we're evaluating for all of our titles. It's kinda funny - it could just of easily gone the other way, it worked out to be a massively successful effort for us.

For a while we were a little worried, because as with any sort of play experience a negative experience instantly becomes - 'oh, hell I'm not buying the full game.' A bad trial experience or a bad brand experience can do more harm than a really good brand experience. So you've really got to get everything lined up well.

We did a whole bunch of mock reviews first, just trying to say - well, what have we got here? Getting some outside opinions on what we had.

It's not something I know whether...actually I do know. It's not something we're going to be doing on every title, but it's something we're looking at on a title by title basis. Can we provide a compelling, self-contained pre-amble with persistence that links to a full product that helps people to upsell? That's really being thought out on a case-by-case basis.

The learnings that come from this are that it's something you have to plan from the beginning. It's not something you can do mid-development. It was hard enough even when we planned it from the beginning, just time-wise, the co-ordination of the Vancouver studio finalling practically three pieces of content at once - that's hard. That's really hard to do, logistically.

GamesIndustry.bizIs it something you'd consider doing as standalone product, on a smaller instalment-based model, rather than attaching to a console release?
Christian Svensson

It's something we noodle about. We have no plans exactly for digital only introductions, there have been conversations about trying certain brands out on a digital only approach to see, to test the market out a little bit for risk and grow from there. But there's nothing that we're pursuing right now in the current pipeline.

GamesIndustry.bizWe're seeing the current trend for restructuring being shadowed by a winnowing of IP by many publishers. As a company with a broad catalogue of IP lines, is that something Capcom has looked at?
Christian Svensson

We have loads of things which we're still noodling which we haven't touched in years and years and years. We really still think there's value in trying some stuff with them. Obviously we're heavily reliant right now on a narrower range of core brands. We're looking at ways to not over-saturate the market with them.

I think that care has to be taken to avoid brand fatigue. Not to name names, I think some people are better or worse at that. We have some concerns internally about, are we doing too much of something?

You may see some other stuff, which we we've been quite prolific with, take a little rest for a while whilst we update some stuff that hasn't been looked at for a while.

GamesIndustry.bizHow has the operational balance shifted between the US and Japanese offices shifted recently?
Christian Svensson

It's largely the same as it's been for the last 18-24 months. After Inafune-san's departure there are some process challenges which I think we're still trying to figure out internally - and I'm speaking mostly from a product development standpoint - but what form that takes is still a bit unknown.

We're still largely doing what we call work-for-hire work. As far as our general publishing operations go I work very closely with Ichi-san, who is our global head of everything, effectively, both product development and publishing.

GamesIndustry.bizDo you think you'll ever get back to the point where you're producing new IP again in the US?
Christian SvenssonI think we're a ways away from that. The remit at the moment is still to leverage existing classic Capcom brands - I think you see that in bigger ways than perhaps you've seen from us before. New IP for the near term? No go.
GamesIndustry.bizHow heavily influenced is that by the coming to the end of the console cycle?
Christian Svensson Well, to clarify a bit - when I say no more new IP, I mean no new IP in the West. I think you will see us actually taking some major new IP risks.
GamesIndustry.bizCapcom is big player in the handheld market, particularly in Japan. There are obviously some very exciting new prospects in that arena at the minute. How exciting is it to have that new hardware to work on?
Christian Svensson

Absolutely thrilling. We have a lot of projects that are in the works for handheld platforms. Stationary consoles, if you will, have migrated down to the portables. There's some really exciting content that we're talking about. I think if you look at 3DS as an example of what can be done, it's extremely robust.

I don't know if you've had any time with it, but it's the console experience in you hand, plus, plus, plus more.

I think that if you look at RE: Mercenaries, and a bit later at RE: Revolutions, people are going to be just blown away. Nothing I can talk about right now though.

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