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Interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson, part 2

Posted by Jon 'Catalyst' Grey • October 1, 2010 at 2:29 a.m. PDT • Comments: 29
Interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson, part 2 The second and final part of EventHubs' exclusive interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson has been posted.

This time Capcom's vice president of strategic planning and business developmen discusses some of the issues facing the PC version of Super Street Fighter 4, how fan feedback factors into their games and a number of other topics.

If you missed part 1 yesterday, make sure you check it out. Hit the jump to read today's article.

EventHubs: Many people may not know that Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix and the Marvel vs Capcom 2's re-release were green-lighted by Capcom USA's offices, and that you specifically championed those projects back then. What made you feel that those games would be so successful and what elements would cause you to get behind future re-releases and try to push them through?

Svensson: Let’s just say that those aforementioned titles were the “obvious” wins or the lowest hanging fruit. I also drove the SF3 Online Edition project having written the feature set of the project (with a lot of input from many folks internally at Capcom as well as long standing comments and requests from SRK and the Capcom-Unity boards) and ultimately pushed product development to do it. I think that’s another obvious opportunity.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was pure and simple a “give the people what they want” play. I think it would have been difficult to fail too spectacularly there unless the online play was broken, the port was somehow flawed. We’d had enough experience with Puzzle Fighter and SSF2T HD Remix to have a pretty good understanding of what we could do there. The risk was an engineering risk and was fairly low based on what we knew.

HD Remix was more of a gamble because there was a lot more that could “go wrong” (and did go wrong over the course of development). I won’t get into the details but let’s just say doing new art and changing balance on what many felt were, “perfect games as they were” is a risky proposition no matter how you slice it. Both elements turned out well in the end but it wasn’t without a lot of pain on the way to get there.

I think as we’ve moved onward it’s been a little more difficult to identify low hanging fruit and we’ve got to be much more creative in our approach.

EventHubs: Is downloadable content (DLC) a strong part of your plans for future fighting games?

Svensson: I would say “yes” and that’s not just true of our fighting games but all games moving forward.

EventHubs: The Mad Catz line of Street Fighter joysticks and pads were extremely well received. Do you have any more plans for controllers geared specifically to fighting game fans?

Svensson: It’s funny, at the outset of the stick project I had to fight to get Mad Catz the deal internally as there was some resistance. I’m friends with their CEO and their vice president of business development and they’d promised me they’d do right. That said, as with consumers, Mad Catz had an image issue for us to overcome internally to get them the deal.

My thinking (and to be fair, the thinking of our licensing team who really did the deal), Mad Catz have, by miles, the best marketing and distribution in the West of any peripheral company (they still do). They promised they would build “second to none” quality products that we could help in the design process on (and they/we have). In the end, it’s worked out extremely well for both of us. It’s about as perfect a win-win partnership I’ve seen us do.

I think it’s fair to say that we’ll continue to work on projects with the guys at Mad Catz for the foreseeable future. They’ve been fantastic to work with and they’ve reached out to our fans in organic ways that make them a great partner.

EventHubs: How did the Legend of Chun-Li movie do financially?

Svensson: Candidly, I’m out of the loop on that part of the business so I just don’t know how it’s impacted us positively or negatively.

EventHubs: A while back, you mentioned there were 'a host of issues' relating to the PC release of Street Fighter 4. Can you offer more details as to what these problems were? Also, can you explain how big of a negative impact piracy had on the PC version?

Svensson: The biggest issue that I couldn’t speak to (but can now) was that the team was already working on the arcade version of SSF4 and Street Fighter X Tekken. There were no resources on that team available to do the port and unfortunately there still aren’t. I will continue to make the request to Ono-san for a PC version in the event resources do become available, though.

With regard to piracy on any platform, not just PC, my take is that you can never eliminate it, but you can reduce its impact on sales if you take the right steps and design approach. With SF4, I don’t think we protected the content very well. As a result, within six months of launch the game had been illegally downloaded more than 2 million times (and that’s just the torrents figure, not including filesharing sites or other P2P networks), a figure many times higher than we legitimately sold. That would have made it the 5th most pirated game on PC the year it was released. On a positive note, that figure would indicate that there a lot of interest in Street Fighter which, if properly harnessed, could be a very good thing for the company. So I think that’s Capcom’s challenge for the future.

EventHubs: Do you think Capcom will stop producing arcade versions of their games in the next couple of years, or do you think there's still a small niche market for some titles?

Svensson: It’s hard for me to speak on that topic given that it’s a different business unit and I’m not fully conversant with all of the details. I will say that based upon our public filings, the arcade business appears to be an increasingly challenging one.

EventHubs: How often do you guys factor in fan feedback into your projects? Can you give some examples of features or titles that were created directly from user feedback?

Svensson: Let’s just say, there’s almost never a conversation with a producer in Japan from our marketing or community teams that doesn’t cite requests from the Suggestion Box, forum threads, blog comments or other fan feedback from Capcom-Unity as reasons for our requests/approaches. I frequently cite these things in my meetings with our executive management team and the board of directors. Naturally, not every decision uses these as the criteria by which things are judged, but they are frequently considered in the process.

Again, listening to fans has brought us such projects as SSF2T HD Remix, Okami Wii, Marvel vs. Capcom 2 on XBLA/PSN and ultimately, Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Without those vocal fans, these projects would not have been greenlit. And there are more coming in the future.

In the case of HD Remix, I can’t think of another more fan directed product in our industry. You have art redone by fans, music from fans, rebalanced by fans and a net code approach requested by fans. Again, we even threw away thousands of frames of animation to start all over again, largely because of fan feedback.

Part 1: Interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson

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