Interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson, part 1

Posted by Jonathan 'Catalyst' Grey • September 30, 2010 at 3:22 a.m. PDT
Interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson, part 1 EventHubs caught up with Capcom's vice president of strategic planning and business development, Christian Svensson — also known more simply as "Sven" — to talk about the past and future of fighting games at the company.

While Svensson is very active in the community, you may not be aware how direct of a hand he's had in getting some of the titles you know and love out to the fans.

Part 1 of this interview touches on Christian's role at Capcom and spreads out into the games themselves. Hit the jump to view the story and check back tomorrow for part 2.

EventHubs: What parts of development for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 are being handled by Capcom USA?

Christian Svensson: Very little aside from the fact that I initiated the project with Marvel and negotiated the contract. I remain one of the primary business relationship holders with them. Niitsuma-san and his team has done the vast majority of the heavy lifting on the actual development, though Marvel has contributed a ton of feedback and collaborative direction.

EventHubs: You post frequently on the Capcom-Unity boards. You're one of the few vice presidents in the console game realm that do this, why is being so hands on with the community important to you?

Svensson: Since coming to Capcom, I’ve viewed our fans as one of the assets that sets this company apart from most of its competitors. And I’ve looked at how that community was interacted with in the past… which is to say, it wasn’t. And in spite of not being directly engaged by Capcom, the fans still loved our products, brands and characters.

So one of the huge opportunities I saw for the company is if it were to more directly engage and listen to its fans and so I set about trying to instill that within the US office’s culture. That’s why building Capcom-Unity and the community team in general, was important. That’s why I’ve pushed for Comic-Con to be a bigger show for us than E3. That’s why I recruited some really smart folks like Chris Kramer (now departed unfortunately) and Seth Killian (still steadfastly dedicated) to help expand and push that vision as their day-to-day jobs. And they in turn have helped that community vision spread through our marketing department and into product development and ultimately to our producers in Japan. We’re not done yet getting to where we need to be but over the last four to five years, we’ve come a very long way.

On a related note, having been in the industry for a very long time, I’ve seen a lot of executives sitting in ivory towers that are making decisions that are completely out of touch with what their customers actually want. While our decision making process isn’t always perfect (and to be fair to us, consumers don’t always understand or have knowledge of all of the factors why certain policies or decisions are enacted) I feel that if you aren’t engaged with your fans you’re going to make more mistakes than you otherwise would.

EventHubs: Do you think Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will outperform vanilla Street Fighter 4 from a sales stand point?

Svensson: That is my expectation, yes. MvC3 has a more broadly appealing/recognizable brand with the inclusion of Marvel, a more accessible but still deep fighting system that’s fun for casual players and EVO attendees. It’s only helped by the fact that it has been by far, our most requested sequel title in my tenure here at Capcom. And we’ll be supporting it with marketing at least as aggressive if not more so than we did with Street Fighter 4 to ensure everyone knows that it’s coming. All of these factors lead me to believe that it will be at least as successful as SF4 from a sales perspective.

EventHubs: Do you foresee console games heading into a digital only space and dropping retail altogether at some point?

Svensson: As big a proponent of digital as I am, that will never happen. Retail will always have a place because it will always be important to facilitate impulse purchases, cash based transactions, giftable (in the physical sense) objects even if that object is nothing more than a token in a box, etc. Secondly, I do believe that some retailers like Gamestop do offer value to less educated consumers (think your mom) when it comes to directing them to products they or someone they’re buying for might enjoy. Sure there are ways that user reviews and the like could provide similar guidance, but for your average non-gaming consumer, they aren’t going to do the research online. They’re just going to walk into a store and ask a clerk for a recommendation.

The difference in the future is that retail won’t be the predominant channel and thus the power exchange will flip from retailers to consumers, which ultimately is better for the entire ecosystem.

EventHubs: How did Marvel vs. Capcom 2's re-release perform in comparison to vanilla Street Fighter 4?

Svensson: You ask that as if MvC2 is done selling. :)

Street Fighter 4 outsold it, but MvC2 is currently our best selling digital title. It continues to sell extremely well and will do so probably until the term on our contract with Marvel ends (at which point we’ll have to discontinue selling it). You never know, over time it might catch SF4 as more consumers get comfortable buying online.

EventHubs: Do you think Capcom will do more HD Remixed titles in the future, or are we much more likely to see titles in the same vein as Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Final Fight's re-releases?

Svensson: Yes to both.

EventHubs: Can you explain why Capcom went through such a long drought between fighting games after Street Fighter 3 Third Strike was released in 1999?

Svensson: I’d really have to defer to Inafune on a question like this. I wasn’t around that whole time.

EventHubs: If all licensing and financial hurdles were cleared out of the way, who would you most like to do a crossover Vs. fighting game with?

Svensson: There are other hurdles beyond licensing and financial in these sorts of things but I’d probably pick Mortal Kombat. Having been a VP at Midway as well, the franchise still holds a special place in my heart.

Part 2: Interview with Capcom's Christian Svensson

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