Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Holiday Profile: Capcom @ Next Gen

Microsoft has clearly been won over by Capcom’s game – all copies of Gears of War include a flyer for Lost Planet. Mark Beaumont says, “It’s a really good example of Microsoft being a good partner. It’s also testament to how much they believe in the product. It’s all about driving hardware which is ultimately Microsoft’s objective. They believe that Lost Planet will help them do that.”

Lost Planet is being released in January, thus avoiding the glut of new product released over the holidays. “We’ve found that by getting out of the maelstrom that you have in the Christmas season, you can get a little more focus around your title. You miss out on the holiday push, but with a real AAA product you can get away with it. But this way we avoid going up against Gears of Wars, Call of Duty 3 and a lot of other major Xbox 360 titles.”

A demo for Lost Planet is being released on Xbox Live on November 23rd, and Capcom is hoping this will pull in purchasers in much the same way as the Dead Rising demo. “Dead Rising had a very easy message to communicate but what people wanted to know was, does it have the depth? The demo answered that question for them. We’ve had over 700,000 Dead Rising downloads. Peter Moore’s been quoting the correlation between demos downloaded and sales it provides.”

But Xbox Live is a much busier place than it was six months ago, with more demos competing for attention. “Yes there will be a lot of demos but if it’s high enough quality, people will play, even if there are a hundred demos. Trial is one of the most important promotional tools, if you’ve got the right product. Of course, demos can hurt your product as much as they can help it. If you put up something that’s bad, then you’re probably going to do yourself more damage then good.”

Demo downloads are fast becoming a good way for publishers to estimate sales of games, although pre-orders are still the primary metric. “Pre-orders tend to accelerate as you get closer to the launch of your product, so you can tell where you’re going, but there’s always a little bit of an intangible.”

Broadening portfolio

Lost Planet is an action sci-fi shooter; something of a departure for the company. “We have got the survival-horror-zombie-killing genre down cold between Resident Evil, Dead Rising, and even Devil May Cry. We own that category. It’s done exceptionally well for us. But part of my charter is to get us into other categories and other genres. It’s an indication of where the company’s trying to go, of broadening our genre base, of broadening our portfolio, ultimately creating product in North America and Europe for the western territories.”

He adds, “We’re actually in the process right now of determining which genres are the best for us to pursue. We’ll probably focus most in the action area. That’s where we’re going to be putting most of our eggs but there may be some diversions.”

Of course, Capcom has plenty of IP to draw on, and Beaumont says we can expect to see all the obvious properties coming to next-gen. “Devil May Cry 4 will be coming out next year and is going to breathe new life into the franchise the way that RE4 breathes new life into the Resident Evil franchise. Resident Evil 5 is in development, and we’re doing some revising of the Mega Man franchise. We’re going to hone it down to fewer releases and focus a little bit more on what the core audience is looking for. There’ll be an action version, and there’ll be an RPG version. You will also see other franchises, some going fairly far back into Capcom’s history, that will be revisited and brought up for next generation consoles.”

Most of these games will be developed in Japan, while new IP will come out of Europe and North America. “We need more western-centric products in order to grow our business and achieve our target of doubling our revenues in five years. We’re identifying the concepts and we’re identifying developers.

“We’re not limiting where we develop to any particular region, we’ll go where's the best talent. You’ll start seeing those projects in 2008. We’re going to continue to have the Resident Evils and Devil May Crys, the Lost Planets, the Dead Risings. It’s a pretty good foundation to build from but for us to grow, we really need to create our own product to help supplement that line-up, and we need to do a much more effective job of marketing.”

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