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Developer Interview 2012

03. General Manager, Consumer Games Development Tokyo R&D Department/ Kazunori Sugiura / Joined Capcom in 2006 after working at an online game management company. Served as managing producer of "Monster Hunter Frontier Online", leading it to become the biggest title in Japanese online gaming. At present, responsible for all online and social games as head of the Tokyo Product Development.

Capcom moves into the field of social games, building upon its experience in the field of PC online games.- Capcom's expertise in developing and managing games aimed at "casual" gamers.

-  First of all, could you tell us the story behind the development section for social games that was established last year?
"Sugiura"
In 2011, social games for SNS platforms were making rapid growth in the market, but Capcom was a little slow to respond to the accelerated pace of change. I decided to raise this issue with my superiors Ichii and Ono, and after discussing things over with them, the decision was made to establish a section which specialized in social games, thereby enabling us to concentrate our resources on this field. At this point, the Tokyo R&D Department had already achieved a certain level of success with "Monster Hunter Frontier Online". That being said, there are definitely some clear differences between social games and online games. Thus, when it came to starting up a new social game business completely from scratch, we decided that it was better to establish an official section which specialized in social games, rather than to trying to run the business on the side.
-  What similarities and differences do you find between social games and online games?
"Sugiura"
I think the similarity lies in the great importance placed on managing new games after they are released. In both online games and social games, continuous analysis of users' game-playing habits enables us to perform updates that improve the game experience, as well as take the things which make those games popular and apply them to other contents. The thing that sets these two apart is the completely different gamer base for each type of game. People that play online games are often called "hard-core gamers", and many of these gamers have always been fans of Capcom games. On the other hand, social games generally attract people known as "casual gamers", and they usually only want to play a game for five minutes to kill some time or take a break and have some fun. While this difference requires us to adjust and further differentiate the way we manage each type of game, there are still many elements that can be shared.
-  Do you use your own tools to analyze the trends and habits of the people that play your games?
"Sugiura"
Yes we do, but I'm afraid we don't give these tools really cool names (laughs). That kind of analysis is all performed by using the tools we develop in-house.
-  What makes the development of online games and social games different from that of home video games?
"Sugiura"
In many ways, the development of online and social games is a lot like producing a TV program, while developing games for home consoles is more like making a movie. We always keep a close watch and place a high value on daily data, which is just like TV viewer ratings. When we arrive at work in the morning, the first thing we do is to check the previous day's data. If there has been a drop in the figures, we discuss various ways to bring them back up, such as running events or when to put out added content. We often remind our staff that "figures are living and breathing organisms". When determining the priority level of ideas for the development of added content, there are times we go against the wishes of our staff and prioritize past data results. Saying that makes it sound like we don't really listen to what our developers say, but that's not the case. The bottom line is that we think game data is a genuine reflection of gamer habits and attitudes, and thus needs to be given top priority and examined directly.
-  You guys work in a demanding environment, in which circumstances change practically every day.
"Sugiura"
It sure is. As a creator, it can be really satisfying to see the fruits of your labor perfectly reflected in the actual data results, but the work environment is definitely intense. For example, let's imagine creator A produces a quest that is played by 10,000 people, while creator B makes one that attracts merely 50. In this case, creator B can wallow in despair and give up, or the creator can strive to find out what went wrong and make a better quest the next time around. It all boils down to the individual's aptitude and disposition.
-  I see. You are in a position to obtain realistic feedback. Does this mean you experience a great sense of satisfaction when you receive a tremendous response from users?
"Sugiura"
All of our staff think so. Our workplace provides a challenging yet rewarding opportunity for individuals capable of creating a cycle that generates user response and delivers results in real time.
-  How many people do you have working at the Tokyo R&D Department?
"Sugiura"
Around 270 people. Although most of them are involved in the development of computer online games and social games, there are some who develop home video games. The employees divided into two teams: the management team and the development team. The management team is responsible for the daily running and analysis of all the titles that are currently out. Some social game titles are managed in cooperation with outside game development companies.
-  What do you aim to achieve through the joint-management of social games with outside developers?
"Sugiura"
Capcom is still a newcomer to the social game industry, so we are eager to acquire expertise from game developers that have experience in the industry. We are happy to have established a cooperative working relationship with a number of developers who recognize the benefits to be obtained through this synergy.
-  There is a variety of online platforms, including mobile phones, PCs, and home consoles. What do you think are the specific characteristics of each platform?
"Sugiura"
Each platform possesses its own distinct user base, set of specifications, and paid transaction system. There is no single platform that stands above the rest. That is why we need to exercise a certain degree of flexibility and select the platform that best fits the content of each game. The experience Capcom has accumulated over the last several years has helped us develop the ability to make the right decision, giving us a distinct advantage over the competition.
-  Specifically, how do you select which platforms to go with?
"Sugiura"
For games like "Monster Hunter Frontier Online", PCs are our first choice because of their high degree of compatibility, both in the relative freedom of development and the sophisticated communication environment. In contrast, for mobile content we put out browser-based games that employ an asynchronous communication system and can be played for a short period of time.
-  What plans does Capcom have for the future release of social games?
"Sugiura"
We're planning to globally release "Dead Rising The Survival" for GREE, Inc. Another title we have lined up is "Minna to Capcom All Stars", which is slated to be released in Japan. In addition, we are also developing some heartwarming farming games for female users. "Onimusha Soul", a browser-based game designed for computers and smartphones, is set to be launched on October 19. For this particular game we set up a common server that lets people playing the PC version link up with people playing through their smartphone. Along with the titles I just mentioned, we have a lot of other games in the works that will be released in the first half of next year.
-   Wow! You guys seem poised to take the industry by storm. But given the rapid increase in the number of social games throughout the industry, how do you set your products apart and get people to play Capcom games?
"Sugiura"
The first thing we utilize is our late entry into the market. Capcom entered the market a little later than our competitors, so we need to use this point to our advantage and properly analyze past successes and failures. The second way in which we try to set ourselves apart is in how we manage games. In the management of our online games, we place a special emphasis on customer service, lending an attentive ear to user feedback. By fully utilizing this expertise within our social games, we are confident we can deliver services that are completely unique. Finally, we fully believe that Capcom's strength lies in the brand power of its games. When users select one of the many games out on the market, the brand power of widely-known games, such as the "Resident Evil" and "Dead Rising" series, is certain to be a deciding factor in the game they select.
Back to Developer Interview 2012 Top Page
  1. 06. Director and Executive Corporate Officer in charge of Consumer Games Business
 / Katsuhiko Ichii
  2. 05. Managing Corporate Officer, Head of P&S Business Division / Yoichi Egawa
  3. 04.CEO  Beeline Interactive, Inc./ Midori Yuasa
  4. 03.General Manager, Consumer Games Development Tokyo R&D Department/ Kazunori Sugiura
  5. 02. Producer, Development Strategy and Support, Consumer Games Development /  Motohide Eshiro
  6. 01. Producer, Development Strategy and Support, Consumer Games Development / Yoshiaki Hirabayashi

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