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Developer Interview

Yoshinori Ono / Online Game Development Department / General Manager

Striving to build a new business model within a market different from home video games

- "Monster Hunter Frontier Online" ("MHF") was launched in July 2007. What motivated you to create an online version of "Monster Hunter"?
"Ono"
Since around 2004 and 2005 it has become difficult to produce million-selling titles here in Japan, and the main focus of the game market has begun to shift to countries overseas. So, in addition to conventional home console games, we began thinking about entering the market for online PC games, as well as the need to create new titles for the game market overseas. This endeavor was something entirely new for us.
- Which regions did you consider as new markets when you first started?
"Ono"
One of Capcom's chief strengths is producing home video game software, so in this area we've mainly targeted the Western market. We ran into some trouble running our business in Asia because of all the problems caused by pirated copies of games. However, in PC online games things such as user authentication help to eliminate pirated editions, so we decided to focus on Asia in developing this area of business. We knew we'd face a lot of competition from other Asian companies that specialize in online games, but we decided to go ahead and launch our new online service. We were confident that the brands of our contents and the technical expertise of our creators would give us an edge. In the end, I think we timed our entry into the market perfectly.
- What was the first thing you did when you launched the new business?
"Ono"
The first we did was to rigorously examine the market for online games. Past experience left us thinking that we should go ahead and use the same approach applied for promoting home video games. But different people have different tastes, and the first thing we need to do is to understand what people like. Looking at some of the successful online games at the time, we analyzed the reasons why games succeed or fail, what things do well in the online game market, and what things fail to make an impact. After examining all these different factors we concluded that launching "Monster Hunter" in the online market would work best for Capcom. At that time "Monster Hunter" had yet to become a smash hit and was not as widely recognized as it is now, but from the beginning we've been looking to take it online. We felt that fully utilizing the game's contents would enable us to run the service better than the competition.
- I see. The most important part of any online game is the billing system. How are players billed in "MHF"?
"Ono"
We employ a so-called "hybrid billing" model. Essentially each player can enjoy all the different facets of the game for a monthly fee of 1,400 yen. In addition, for those who just want to pick up the game when they have time, we offer special equipment and items they can pay for separately. This lets them get equipment and items that are the same level as those obtained by players who have put a lot of hours into the game. Doing this helps to even the playing field, ensuring that players who don't have a chance to play regularly can be at the same level as those who play all the time.
- Are there players who are unhappy about the charges for items?
"Ono"
Yeah, there are some people that avoid them. This is particularly true for those who are familiar with the one-time billing model for packaged software, for they are a bit reluctant to pay any more than the basic fee. Naturally, paying a one-time price for a home video game seems to be a better value than paying a monthly fee. The demands of those paying for the service are pretty intense, for no one wants to pay for a game that isn't fun. That's why we have to produce games that are nothing short of excellent. We think the fact there is a large number of players enjoying "MHF" reflects the current high level of customer satisfaction. Our goal is to continue providing "fun" that delivers a value that far exceeds the actual fee.
- So what you're saying is that people are free to play the game in a way that best suits their own gaming environment.
"Ono"
That's right. This offers players a number of different ways to enjoy "MHF," such as playing the game without paying extra for items, or purchasing items separately to power up quickly. Though there are variations in our profit levels, our average annual profits are relatively stable.
Back to Developer Interview 2010 Top Page
  1. 05.Takeshi Tezuka
  2. 06.Yoichi Egawa
  3. 03.Yoshinori Ono
  4. 04.Ryozo Tsujimoto
  5. 01.Jun Takeuchi
  6. 02.Motohide Eshiro

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