While the Xbox 360 may be off to a slow start in Japan, publishers in the country aren't about to abandon the console. The latest issue of Famitsu Xbox 360 magazine interviews developers at top companies, and they've revealed what's in store for the console for 2006--and beyond.
One of the first Japanese publishers that announced Xbox 360 support was Capcom. Producer Keiji Inafune, best known as the creator of Mega Man, is currently working on Dead Rising for the Xbox 360. He revealed to Famitsu Xbox 360 that the project's development has entered its final stages and that his staff is currently fine-tuning the game. Inafune also commented that the basic components have been completed for Capcom's second Xbox 360 title, Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. Both games are scheduled for release during 2006 in Japan, and Dead Rising is set to hit the US in May.
When asked about Resident Evil 5, Inafune revealed that development on the game still hasn't begun in earnest. He explained that his developers are working on the game's graphics and going through a lot of trial and error to come up with ideas to make it play as an all-new game. Inafune hinted that RE5 wouldn't be coming out anytime soon, commenting that Capcom has no plans to release it until it's satisfied.
When asked about other Xbox 360 projects at Capcom, Inafune commented that the company is waiting to see how the Xbox 360 fares at retail before it makes its next move. He commented that making a next-generation game costs a lot, especially in terms of human resources. Inafune explained that Capcom currently has four next-generation games in development, and each requires a team of at least 50 staffers, or 200 total employees--nearly half the company's designers. Inafune thinks that the game industry may be entering into a new stage where it has to turn to outside investors to fund ballooning next-gen budgets, much like the film industry does.
Konami also feels the need to prepare for the changing game market, and it's starting to reorganize. Konami game software company president Michihiro Ishizuka told Famitsu Xbox 360 that Konami will be establishing development studios in four regions of the world in an effort to shift from a primarily Japanese company to a global enterprise. Up until now, Konami created all its games in Japan, but Ishizuka told the magazine that times have changed, and the markets in various regions have different demands and business practices.
Ishizuka admitted that 360 sales in Japan have been slow, but he hopes to release games that will help the console penetrate the traditionally Xbox-resistant market. However, he also commented that strong demand for the next-gen machine in North America and Europe means that Konami's Xbox 360 games will be fundamentally catered toward consumers in those two regions.
In terms of global expansion, Square Enix has been the first Japanese publisher to offer a massively multiplayer online role-playing game for the Xbox 360. The publisher has begun a beta of Final Fantasy XI in Japan, America, and Europe. In particular, Europe has been a major target for Square Enix since FFXI hasn't been previously released in the region. FFXI producer Hiromichi Tanaka revealed to Famitsu Xbox 360 that official services for FFXI will be announced soon, and gamers can expect it to launch within the next few months.
Tanaka also talked a bit about Square Enix's next MMORPG project, which is about to go into full-scale development. While Tanaka didn't reveal details, he confirmed that it will take advantage of the technologies shown in Square Enix's demo trailer during Microsoft's Pre-E3 conference last year. When asked about its release period, Tanaka hinted that it might take at least another year and a half.
There's no doubt that many Japanese publishers will be announcing new Xbox 360 games at this year's E3, and one company that's already confirmed it is Sega. Sega consumer division sub-chief Hiroyuki Miyazaki commented to Famitsu Xbox 360 that his company will be announcing a number of new titles at E3 2006 targeted toward the European and North American market. Miyazaki also said that development on Chromehounds is going well, and it should come out before Mistwalker's Blue Dragon.
When asked whether Virtua Fighter 5 and House of the Dead 4 would come out for the Xbox 360, Miyazaki commented that both are currently under consideration, given their popularity in arcades worldwide.
Famitsu Xbox 360 also spoke with Naohiko Hoshino, vice president of AQ Interactive. AQ Interactive has been getting a lot of attention as an Xbox 360 game publisher, ever since it announced its three big titles at the end of 2005. The company is currently working with Mistwalker's Hironobu Sakaguchi on a new role-playing game named Cry On, and it's also developing two other games: Bullet Witch and Vampire's Rain.
Cry On, Bullet Witch, and Vampire's Rain are all large-scale projects, and Hoshino confirmed to Famitsu Xbox 360 that there's a lot of money being invested into each of them. Although it's a huge risk to throw a great deal of cash into original games that aren't sequels, Hoshino said he feels people are getting tired of the same old titles. He thinks that the launch of a new console provides the biggest opportunity to start a new franchise from scratch.
Hoshino said his aim is to expand Cry On, Bullet Witch, and Vampire's Rain into successful series. Aside from making sequels, he also hopes to expand them into arcades, mobile phones, and online content if possible.
Hoshino also revealed that AQ Interactive is considering two to three other midsized Xbox 360 projects. Whether the projects will be accepted will depend on the console's success in Japan, he said.