You may have heard last week that Clover Studios (Okami, God Hand, Viewtiful Joe) was shut down by Capcom due to “financial issues“. I just got around to playing Okami, and this made me sad. But Capcom has sat down with NextGen.biz to explain themselves about this, and to talk about upcoming projects.Next-Gen: How’s the balance going to look like as far as the titles that you produce for the next generation of consoles? We know that Devil May Cry 4 is supposed to be coming out for PS3, Lost Planet for Xbox 360, but as far as overall support goes, how’s it going to spread out?Bellfield: Well we’re equally committed—not equally committed—we are committed to all…. As we go forward and discuss Xbox and PS2 content we’ll evaluate that, we’ll evaluate it on an ongoing basis. We’re certainly committed to bringing out content for PS2 such as the bundle we have for the fifth anniversary collection of Devil May Cry. I think there’s more of a value proposition for consumers to get those three games for $29.95, it’s a great value proposition for PS2. With regards to 360 and PS3 and Wii, I can say to you we’ve got some really exciting announcements coming up next spring and in terms of the content for those three platforms, we are absolutely committed to continuing the relationship with Microsoft as you’ve seen with Dead Rising and that you will see with Lost Planet.
Actually, it’s really interesting reading some of the comments that [Resident Evil 5 producer] Jun Takeuchi-san had told GameSpot about a month ago [answering] questions [about] the creativity and vision of Japanese developers in looking at a global market. He actually said that Capcom has made these mistakes [of serving too narrow of a market] in the past as well, and in essence we [now] look at the global market and work with all the platform companies.We are really excited about potential also in PS3. And certainly, with what gamers or consumers are seeing with Devil May Cry 4 in terms of what we can do with that system, it’s a really exciting opportunity for us as well so going to next year.
There’s been some pretty negative press about the PS3, and a lot of it has to do with the price of the system, the launch quantities and other production troubles. But it still wears the PlayStation brand, and there’s still tons of excitement about it among consumers. What does Capcom think about the negativity in the media surrounding the PS3? Does Capcom still have a lot of faith in the system?Well the one thing that we’ve got over you guys and consumers is we have the ability to pick up the phone and speak to senior executives at Sony, and we do. We meet them frequently, and I have a meeting with them again next week. We have that in-road straight to the core of the company. In many ways I know what the tension is, I know what the hardware can do, I can appreciate it every day when I look at DMC4. I know what its potential is.I must admit I would like more positive angles of PS3 to be portrayed within the media than what’s going on at the moment. It has a huge potential; firstly as the PlayStation brand and it’s got great technical capabilities. I see it every day through our content—and I would like that positive story about it to be out there. You know, I’m an ex-hardware guy [Bellfield was the PR chief at Sega during the Dreamcast launch], I mean you’re taking me down a path I really shouldn’t go down because I’m not with Sega—I’m a third party publisher now, and we like everybody! But, yeah, I would definitely like to see more of a positive story about PlayStation out there in the marketplace.You’re mean, because you know I’d love to go and comment on the hardware!
But at the same time, the 360 has been pretty good to you guys as well. Are we going to see some more cross-platform games?Well certainly you will see us support multiple platforms. Resident Evil 5, for example, that’s on 360 and PS3. And I think that’s a good example of the future direction of where the company is going because we’re further along with our time line now for DMC4.
So Devil May Cry is coming to Xbox 360?
No, I was just saying, I mean, [RE5 is] a good indicative example of where we’re going in the future because RE5 is [coming] after DMC4. And we have announced that.
On Clover Studio–“The king is dead. Long live the king.”So what exactly is the status of the three Capcom designers Mikami, Inaba, and Kamiya? What exactly is their status?Let me start with Mikami. Mikami-san remains and is retained as a contracted producer of Capcom. So he’s actually still part of the company. He’s a contracted producer which is a pretty standard crossover there. And he’s actually doing most of [the development in Japan].Inaba-san and Kam—Kamiya—they have both left the company. So they’re no longer affiliated with Capcom, and to be very honest with you I actually don’t know what they’re doing next, but they are no longer with Capcom.
There’s definitely a lot of speculation about if they’re starting their own company and whatnot.Yeah. And you know I wish them best of luck in the future. They’ve been, obviously, very integral to Capcom in the past, certainly with the critically acclaimed Viewtiful Joe as well as Okami. With those types of games, we absolutely give credit to those individuals, but I think it also gives credit to Capcom as a company that is willing to invest in that type of content as well. That doesn’t change. Capcom remains the same type of Capcom we’ve always been and that we always will be. We’ve prepared—we are prepared—to invest in our franchises, to invest in our development talent, and to invest in our content. And, you know, [two year ago] we would have been mad to invest in Xbox 360 exclusive titles out of Japan, with the likes of Dead Rising and Lost Planet, but look what [we invested in] and what we can deliver consumers. That doesn’t change.I think what a lot of the more hardcore consumers are concerned about is whether or not we’ll see these unique Clover-style games. Clover, in the short period of time that it was around, created some really unique games that a lot of people grew attached to—especially core gamers. So what’s Capcom going to do to keep those kinds of games coming? Are we still going to see more Okami-type games, and Viewtiful Joe, God Hand and interesting stuff like that?Well, you know, I take you back to some of the other people who are around, like Keiji Inafune-san who developed–who created–Mega Man, but has been responsible for all the development teams for many, many years. He’s been on our board; he’s certainly central to the wholedevelopment organization and still a contracted producer. Takeuchi-san who is not just a producer for Lost Planet but also wrote on Resident Evil 5.And you could say, “Fine, those are all our big franchises, but what about more meek stuff such as Viewtiful Joe, Okami or God Hand?” I think this is about content that is really authentic to core consumers the world over. And I think that is what Capcom’s about. That doesn’t change. It really does not change the mentality, the mindset, the focus of us to take risks in content. We’re absolutely still staying true to what Capcom is as a company.…It is sad to see any individual leave the company, and when you look at these two individuals with their track record and history, I have to agree with you. You know, it’s sad to see them go. And we wish them the best. Their content has been, you know, is great. But it doesn’t change who we are. There’s always a new breed of developers coming into the company as there is coming out of colleges that produce great talent, and as we look into embracing the future with different types of hardware out there with the next generation of hardware systems, [I see our] product roadmap, and I tell you that innovation is still very much part of Capcom’s culture.
Now, in your own words, why did Clover close? Did it close because it didn’t generate enough revenue or because key designers left?Well, you know it’s an interesting question when you think, “What was Clover?” Now, Clover was a Capcom studio that was physically located in the R&D building in Osaka, Japan, and it was absolutely a Capcom-owned studio. Totally. But in many ways, all that has happened is that two individuals have left the company. The IP of Clover is part of Capcom and always was. … Some of the individuals who definitely were key individuals there at Clover will remain part of Capcom as well. [The dissolution of Clover is] more in terms of just bringing in the key IP [from] the key individuals at Capcom into the bigger R&D team in Osaka, rather than just having a separate team called Clover. And I do think that the Clover brand was very much associated with these individuals, specifically Mikami-san, Inaba-san, and Kamiya-san and I think that was very much the energy and the vehicle that they had. But it was all part of the Capcom R&D teams.You know, I gave you a long answer but a simple, a quick answer would simply be in essence, the name is gone, two individuals have left, but nothing else changes.
So it wasn’t necessarily because the games at Clover didn’t generate enough revenue? It was because of an overall centralization thing?You know, not [the Western idea of] centralization either. … Here at Capcom, we are still very much a creative-central company and all that has occurred is that two individuals have left the company and that’s basically it. And the brand Clover Studios is no longer going to be there, but the Capcom brand is going to be there. But physically, nothing else has changed. The individuals who were part of the game creative sort of team will still remain in the same building, and the same floor and the rest of it.…If you look at [our office building] and you go to Clover Studios and go one floor down to one of the sixteen floors of Capcom studios, there’s no difference. It’s physically part of the same team. It’s in the same building, and the key individuals there at Clover that we want to keep are the same part at Capcom.So why was Clover even created, since it was basically part of Capcom. Why not just call it all “Capcom” and share that same creative vision across the whole company?I can’t comment because I wasn’t there at the company at the time [Clover was founded], but Clover was created in order to focus a team on innovative titles, such as Viewtiful Joe and Okami. I think definitely it was [founded] to add a focused team in that [creative] field, but I definitely think if you look at the other Capcom teams, whether it’s the Dead Rising team or the Lost Planet team or the Mega Man team, you know that innovation is now evident and prevalent across the rest of our teams as well. So I think the culture at Capcom is what’s important. The same culture that we had at Clover has now sort of infiltrated in many ways across the company.
Clover launched with 64 people, but there are now only 15 people there as of October. How long has it been down to 15 people, or does that number even mean anything?You know in terms of the actual schedule of when people have been leaving, I honestly don’t have that on my hands, but I was in Japan two weeks ago and I met with all the key individuals at Clover, with regards to both Okami and God Hand. That is including Inaba-san and Kamiya-san as well, so I think that certainly, obviously, those projects got completed, went to localization, and then tests. Obviously in the last few months there’s been a scaling down on the team of those who chose to leave as their projects got completed. There are the teams that are bringing the PAL versions of Okami and God Hand to Europe and then they’re very much still there and those will be released on schedule. But I think that over the last few months there has been a scaling down of those who wanted to leave, have left, and those who we wanted to keep part of the Capcom development teams. They’ve all now been transitioned at Clover, and had been transitioning from Clover over to the Capcom teams.So I think that when you say the “64-down-to-15″ number, does that mean that all have actually left the company? The answer quite clearly is no. A large number of those have been transitioning over to Capcom development teams over the last few months as well as leaving.Going back to Mikami, who’s working on a contracted basis, is it on a game-by-game basis? Is that how it works?I know what he’s working on but I can’t tell you that one because we haven’t said anything yet. But it’s a contracted basis. There are two ways to do a contract and I actually don’t know which one it is, to be perfectly honest, but there are two ways. A contracted basis is either for a period of time and renewable, so maybe a two-year contract, a five-year contract, it might be a one-year contract, I don’t know. Or it might be for a title contract, as if we … were contracting with an external developer in many ways. But in this case he is contracted as an internal producer within Capcom. But as you know he’s contracted as an employee, per se, and not as part of an external development studio.Okay, well, in a nutshell it kind of seems like the way that you put it, basically just two designers—as you said “key designers”—that you respect left the company. But in the big scheme of things you imply that their departure isn’t going to have that much of an effect. Is that a fair statement? What does this mean for Capcom?You know, I think in many ways I think both Inaba-san and Kamiya-san are both very influential producers and directors. But with regard to the Capcom strategy it doesn’t change a thing. Go back through history of Anything else you’d like to comment on?
We listen to the voice of everybody out there in the marketplace who wants to have a voice and who wants to be heard. That certainly [applies] to everything that’s been posted in regards to the Clover Studio so-called closure, and we’ve certainly taken that on board, but it doesn’t change us. And I come back to my comment that I said earlier: “The king is dead, long live the King.” It doesn’t change Capcom. We’re still true to who we are as a company. We’re all about delivering unique, great content to consumers.KLind