Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Other Side of the Looking Glass - Part Two

Is it too much to ask for a little faith? Apparently, yes, at least in Capcom's case.

Yesterday I talked at length about how Capcom really didn't seem to care that one of its own developers, Yoshinori Ono, ended up spending a week in the hospital probably due to being overworked. The interview that Ono gave hardly ends with that though. I wish I could honestly say that there was some better news to related, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

If anything comes through in the interview other then the seeming indifference that Capcom had towards Ono's hospitalization, it's the unwillingness they showed towards his efforts to revive the Street Fighter franchise. Honestly, considering that I believe that perhaps only the Mega Man franchise is more synonymous with the company, but when you consider the tendency for companies to revive familiar franchises Ono's statements are quite perplexing to read: "I was working on Onimusha 4 and during that time I repeatedly submitted my proposal for a new Street Fighter," he says. "The company kept telling me: 'It's a dead franchise. It doesn't make any money. We have series that make money like Resident Evil and Onimusha. Why bother with a dead franchise?'"

I'm not sure if there's exaggeration on Ono's part, we might never know if it's truly the case, but assuming that even the basis of the statements are true then it would seem that Capcom was more than willing to let Street Fighter continue to sit and collect dust among the dead franchises of past years. Certainly there might be remakes and rereleases of old games, where the overhead and cost to do so was minimal, but to think that there was such reluctance towards beginning a new endeavour into the series.

There is certainly an argument to be made that Capcom was unwilling to risk any effort to revitalize the series in the fact of the lacklustre "ending" it had, but studios have taken larger risks than with franchises more obscure than Street Fighter to great success: the revival of the Fallout franchise springs to mind as the most triumphant example I can think of, with another being the Metroid Prime series. There are the more notable failures, such as Duke Nukem' Forever, but being perfectly honest I think the scenario behind that is somewhat different then a revival.

In the end Ono would attribute the chance he got at the revival not solely to his own efforts, but rather to those of the players and press members that he asked to make noise in the community about bringing Street Fighter back. Even though he had risen fairly high in the company, it seems that Ono wouldn't have had a chance at this revival without external pressure. Ono basically says as much when he states: "This was a strategic plot on my part. I had been asking all the journalists to make noise about the series when out and about. I would always tell them that it was their responsibility to tell Capcom, not me as I don't have the power. Journalists and fans have the power to move Capcom - not producers."

I couldn't help but feel that statement was somewhat bittersweet. It's comforting on some level to learn that we -- the gamers -- really do exert some measure of influence upon what might or might not get made. Despite that, it seems that unless you're one of the rockstars of the development world that companies don't want you putting your fingers in anything that has even a slight modicum of risk. I find it hard to wrap my head around a scenario where literally only one person in Capcom thinks that reviving one of the franchises that made them a household name would be a good idea, but then I read this:

"Until the day of release, Street Fighter 4 was an unwanted child," Ono says, his tone at once sad and defiant. "Everyone in the company kept telling me: 'Ono-san, seriously why are you persisting with this? You are using so much money, budget and resources. Why don't we use it on something else, something that will make money?' No-one had the intention of selling it, so I had virtually no help from other departments - they were all reluctant, right up to the day of release."

He doesn't state whether or not the team he assembled to work on the game felt like him, or where perhaps lamenting the fact that they were assigned to a project that was apparently a waste of time and money, nothing more. Street Fighter 4 and its other iterations have at this point sold more than six million copies worldwide, hardly a small accomplishment. To think though that it could have just as easily never have happened, and that there were people -- the apparent vast majority in fact -- that said that it should never happen.

These thoughts left me quite disquieted; if this could happen to a series with a legitimate pedigree, then what about completely untested games? I knew that pitching an idea to a company would be incredibly difficult, even for someone who has a lot of years working with the place under their belts, but this makes it seem like a Herculian task, and just barely short of a Sisyphean one.

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