The lights are on
This year at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco we got a chance to sit down with Mega Man creator and founder of Comcept/Intercept, Keiji Inafune. While he wasn't quite as outspoken as he was during his presentation in which he lambasted the Japanese video game industry, we managed to cover ground not touched on in his GDC talk. We discussed the developer's new games, why he decided to start up two businesses, and how he feels about still being so strongly associated with Capcom.
The Island of Dr. Momo, your first game since leaving Capcom, has launched in Japan. How has the reception been?
It’s been good so far. And you’re right, it’s our first title, and because of that I wanted to get it out as fast as I could. I would have preferred to have launched it earlier, but we did have a successful launch so far. I learned from this first challenge, but overall we’ve accomplished what we wanted to do, and this month we will be launching our iOS version. That’s officially like the real launch, so we’re looking forward to that.
Can you tell us anything new on Keio: King of Pirates? I understand it was planned to be at TGS 2011, but that showing was later canceled.
Yes, it was the first showing that we were looking to do for King of Pirates, but we wanted good timing where we could surprise people. But of course there’s partnership and a publisher who owns the IP, so as much as we wanted to do it on our schedule we had to stay in line with what the publisher wanted to do with the timing. This year we want to do more surprising announcements, so stay tuned. It’s in progress, and that’s all I can say for now.
You’ve stated that you believe mobile gaming and traditional handheld gaming devices can coexist in parallel, that there doesn’t need to be a dominant platform. Can you extrapolate on this idea?
So there is definitely a difference with the two, and one of the biggest differences is the play duration. It’s impossible to play a mobile game for an hour or two straight, but handheld games are easier to play for two hours straight. The design and structure of the game is completely different, so the value is different for the two. That’s why I feel they can exist at the same time. The speed and production is definitely different between the two. The balance may change in the future. There may be more mobile games made than handheld games just due to the production time and how different they are.
Speaking of handhelds, have you spent much time with the PlayStation Vita? What do you think?
I’ve played around with the Vita and I’m personally a big fan of the hardware and what it can do. I’m very impressed. I’m looking forward to seeing what it can do.
Do you have any plans to develop for the Vita?
This has always been my motto: I’m always interested in the newest hardware. Of course I want to make games for new platforms all the time, so, yes, I am interested.
The Island of Dr. Momo
Can you explain why you went with the decision to launch two companies with Comcept and Intercept instead of starting one?
When you’re establishing a new entity you always need a strong vision to run a company, of course. Clearly, I wanted to start a company that focuses on different concepts, and that’s why I founded Comcept. This is a company that comes up with different concepts, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be just games. On the other hand, I knew people would expect me to develop video games, so I wanted to clearly answer these expectations, and that’s why I started Intercept, which focuses solely on console gaming production.
Capcom is releasing a plethora of Resident Evil games in a short period of time, and the company continues to launch fighting game after fighting game. What do you think about this business strategy?
It’s not right to only rely on the big franchises and do nothing else. That’s not the way to go. Of course there are former IPs and former games that the fans enjoy, and for big companies like Capcom, they are obliged to answer to these longtime fans, so it’s important to keep the franchise going. But they also have the responsibility to come up with new IPs along with the strong IPs from the past, and it’s important to keep that balance going. Unfortunately, I can’t be the one to make strategies for Capcom’s future, but I really have strong feelings for the company and hope for the best.
Is it ever frustrating to still be so strongly associated with Capcom in gamers’ eyes while trying to move in a new direction with your companies?
At first when I was really concentrated on rebuilding and starting anew, and to be honest I did have some feelings of frustration when everybody was coming up to me asking Capcom questions. Now I feel comfortable about Capcom and my past work, because it’s fact. I’m proud of what I’ve done in the past with Capcom. I’m also grateful. Maybe it’s similar to a divorce experience, because when you’re in the midst of the craziness you don’t want to talk about your former wife, but now it’s like I’m remarried and I can talk about my past and be proud about what made me who I am today. But I’ve never actually been divorced. (Laughs) Sometimes I even feel happy when people ask me about my experience at Capcom, because it’s proof of how much I’ve influenced the company.
As a big fan of video game music, I’m curious: do you have a favorite Capcom video game track?
All of the old Capcom songs were all the epitome of great video game music. I’m great fan of the old game soundtracks like Ghosts ‘n Goblins. When I started at Capcom the first thing I did was acquire the Ghosts ‘n Goblins soundtrack. There’s an arcade game called Trojan. It wasn’t a big game, but it was a platforming game with some of the best music.
You’ve been very vocal that you think the Japanese video game industry is in trouble. Is there one Japanese game company you think is doing it right?
It’s not a very famous, but it’s a company called Idea Factory. Aside from the fact that we’re working with them, I feel like they’re a very good developer that knows what it’s doing. Some people may say that they’re only creating otaku games, but they’re very focused on what they’re good at. They’re not going too far outside of what they can do, they just know what they’re doing and are enjoying success because of it. They’re a very good company.