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Capcom’s general manager illuminates the company’s “ratings” based development

Capcom isn’t what it used to be. The company rose to prominence as one of the best game developers in the world with idiosyncratic, innovative, games with lush visuals. In its push for greater global success, though, it’s lost much of its identity. New statements from one of its key managers demonstrate just how hard Capcom is chasing an audience rather than trying to innovate.

“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,” said Capcom general manager of consumer game development Kazunori Sugiura, “In many ways, the development of online 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 a place a high value on daily data, which is just like TV viewer ratings.”

The take away is that Capcom is now in the business of letting user metrics drive its game development rather than trying to invent and invest in new projects that might create new audiences. It’s a philosophy that, on a long enough time line, will kill both the business and the creativity that fuel a great developer.

It’s also precisely what went wrong with Resident Evil 6: Capcom tried to make a game that appealed to every audience there is. The game was built by a team of 600, with no coherent focus, no singular creative vision to bring it together. It’s an opulent production, with a ton of content and incredible visuals, but it is also vapid, empty of soul. “We’re making games and we need to have mass market appeal in order to survive,” Resident Evil 6 producer Yoshiaki Hirabayahi said in an interview with 1UP, “How far do we go into horror before we lose the support of the average player? How far are we going to lessen the horror elements at the risk of losing core fans, including Resident Evil fans? The challenge is trying to push as close as possible to the edge either way, so that we can satisfy both groups of people.”

Is this business philosophy working? Resident Evil 6 shipped 4.5 million copies this month, but there’s no evidence to suggest those copies were all sold. We do know this: Capcom sales fell 16 percent last year. It’s time for Capcom to stop chasing audiences and just build the best games it can.

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