Discussing Fighting Games With the King of Iron Fist

DLC, e-sports, and the next generation of consoles: Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada discusses the big issues facing fighting games today.

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This year has already seen a massive spike in the number of fighting games released, and the hits just keep on coming. Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Persona 4 Arena, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are still on the horizon. While variety is rarely seen as a bad thing, the growing number of solid fighters has created some unique issues for developers and their community.

After contributing to the symposium earlier this month, Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada was kind enough to tackle some follow-up questions. From downloadable content to e-sports, Harada addresses some of the big issues facing the genre today.

Last week, Capcom stated that part of the reason Street Fighter X Tekken's performance "lagged" was because of "cannibalism" in the fighting game genre. Do you believe cannibalism could impact the performance of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and, in the future, Tekken X Street Fighter?

I'm not in a position to speak about the performance of Capcom's titles, so it's a difficult question to answer. However, I do know that besides [cannibalism], there were other factors that led to that outcome with SFXT. For example, the condition of several retailers in Europe was not good at all, and their expected sales had accounted for a large part of the expected forecast. So the timing in general was not very good, and quite unlucky.

I actually took some staff with me to look into the conditions of the European market directly, and we couldn't find even one copy of the game on shelves at several major retailers. Especially in the UK, we spent a day and a half scouring London for a copy and found none. Even though Internet sales account for a larger share recently, we are still quite dependent on actual retailers for a large share of our sales. I feel that the market circumstances were a large factor in the case of SFXT.

TAG2 isn't to be released until September, but I am currently formulating a strategy to avoid the situation of not having any copies on the shelves of major retailers. That being said, not only is there SFXT this year, there is also Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Dead or Alive 5, and a few 2D fighters as well, so I'm sure it is fair to say the genre is quite saturated and quite possibly eating into the sales of each other. However, for TAG2 we will include game features to appeal to not only hardcore Tekken fans, but also to more mainstream gamers as well.

How will Tekken Tag Tournament 2 improve the online experience for console players? What role will Tekken-Net play?

At this time, I can't talk about this too much yet. But I can say we are definitely working on areas that people were dissatisfied with in Tekken 6, and we are also adopting online lobby elements that are popular in SoulCalibur V.

Another big change is that we are incorporating elements of Tekken-Net, our popular arcade network service that has been implemented since Tekken 5. There are many elements to be implemented, but I think the teams feature will change things the most. This element changed the arcade version seven years ago from being a solitary experience to being able to share the joy of victory and the pain of defeat, and also player growth, among teammates. I think it changed the fighting game community a lot. Anyways, I hope that you all will be looking forward to updates about this.

What are your hopes for the next PlayStation and Xbox consoles? What types of functionally should be available, and how will they be implemented into future Tekken games? How are you changing the mechanics of Tekken for release on Nintendo's Wii U console, if at all?

Because of the rise of mobile PCs and mobile devices, I think game consoles will continue to lose ground. It is because of this that I would look forward to seeing a dominance in hardware spec from the next gen of consoles that would provide an experience like that of the arcade, but even still it would then be difficult to compete with high-end PCs, in which the spec can be as high as your budget allows. Maybe my way of thinking, of placing priority on hardware spec, is outdated anyway.

People were joking that they wanted to see swimsuits for Ganryu and Kuma, so I'm thinking of doing that for real!
I am an avid PC gamer, so obviously that influences me a bit (laughs). So, with this factor in mind, I guess it is more realistic to hope that the next generation of consoles will achieve higher performance while still keeping cost in mind, but will also have some kind of eye-opening feature that is console-like. One thing that stands out is that boot-up time of the console, loading of the game, starting where you left off--all of these waiting times have increased lately. Since these consoles are built specifically for gaming, I hope they greatly decrease the time it takes before you can actually play the game.

Recently tablets and mobile devices have become more convenient and have a lot of features. Not only that, but you can stream movies or games over the network. Consoles will need a service that is more attractive, and increase the responsiveness of the hardware. But maybe my preferences aren't exactly normal. I can't really say much about the Wii U version of Tekken, save that it will include features that make use of the unique hardware--features that will put a smile on your face. So, I hope you all will look forward to it!

What is your stance on downloadable content in fighting games, and how to implement it without causing consumers to feel as if they purchased an incomplete product?

No matter what method you employ for paid DLC, there are always going to be people in the community who see the game as an incomplete product, so I think this is unavoidable.

There may be some people who say, "I have no complaints with the DLC for this game." There are always people who will disagree. I think whatever you do, there will always be debate about this, and there will always be some who are dissatisfied.

On the other hand, are there really no complaints if you don't do DLC? For example, we didn't have any paid DLC for Tekken 6, and several months after release, I did receive a lot of feedback. People were telling me they wanted more content, even if it were paid content: "I would gladly pay an extra $10 if you added something to mode X or mode Z" and etc. It is difficult to add content because it does incur development cost, and often we already have to start work on the next project, so any profit that we made on the previous title would disappear quickly. The company and the shareholders it represents expect a profit, and it's hard to justify as a separate entity. I still think that maybe we can avoid a lot of negative feedback and please more of the fan base if the content was clearly developed after the original game. I'm sure there would still be complaints though, if the content is paid.

I personally think there has to be a line drawn when thinking about paid DLC for fighting games. The line the Tekken team has chosen regarding this is that stages, characters, and moves shouldn't be added as paid DLC. If they are to be added, they should be free. If you look at interviews I have done years ago, you can see I have mentioned this quite a long time ago. It's because these are necessary elements to a fighting game. Much like chess pieces to a game of chess, they shouldn't be charged for separately.

If I were to do paid DLC, I guess it would be something similar to iTunes; you could maybe buy more music to use in-game. That's something I would want personally, as well. Also, maybe some idea that was popular within the community on Twitter or Facebook, and to take that and actually put it in the game as DLC. People were joking that they wanted to see swimsuits for Ganryu and Kuma, so I'm thinking of doing that for real!

Do fighting games have a future in e-sports? Some feel this is a natural progression for the genre and the community, while others feel that they are unsuitable--because of the outspoken nature of the community--for professional tournaments and corporate sponsorship. How does Tekken Busters factor into this?

I think it is a natural progression for the players in the community who participate in tournaments. I also think that e-sports will continue to play a role, but it is hard to say with this specific genre whether it will increase or not. Unlike chess or actual sports, a game in an established series might change its rules at some point. The pace of the user base turnover (younger players coming in and older players going out) is quite different from genre to genre as well, so it's hard to say it will explode overnight. There are many aspects of e-sports that I am personally looking forward to, though.

Tekken has sold 40 million copies to date…but we learned 70 percent of players don't participate in tournaments. If you look at SoulCalibur, 90 percent of [players] have no interest in tournaments.
Also, fighting games are thought of as hardcore, and that people who play them all participate in the tournament scene. However, looking at Tekken as an example shows this is not really the case. Tekken has sold 40 million copies to date, making it the top in its genre, but we learned that 70 percent of the player base doesn't participate in tournaments or events. If you look at SoulCalibur, 90 percent of people who bought the game have no interest in tournaments.

I realized this a long time ago, and this is why we have included a lot of prerendered ending movies and minigames like Tekken Bowl and Tekken Ball. There are also characters that are easy to use, as well as characters that more advanced players will enjoy. Tekken sells several million copies per installment, but if everyone who bought the game were tournament players only, we would never achieve those kinds of numbers.

But the important thing is that it is like a sports car. Not everyone is a professional driver, but many wish they could be, and they can still feel excitement from that sense of speed and also feel impressed by the sheer specs of the car. The balance between hardcore players and casual players of fighting games is a similar balance. Ninety percent of major international tournaments are those that started with the players themselves, and I think that is something to be respected. I don't think we, as a company, should be trying to control those events.

I do think, however, as a maker of video games we should do what we can to encourage and support these events, such as providing limited goods for prizes, providing equipment, and sending developers to help make the event exciting. I think these are things we should do even more of. This isn't something that is quite understood within our company, so it is very frustrating at times (laughs). I want to do even more to help out.

Regarding Tekken Crash and Tekken Busters, although we gave our approval to do the show, Namco Bandai Games doesn't provide any financial support. I heard that it started out because the Tekken community over there was really taking off. We don't even control the content of the show. The logo is about the only thing I had them approve, I think.

How do you define success when developing a fighting game?

This depends on your position, I think. In a very bland way of looking at it, from a corporate perspective, you could say it is a success if it is in the black. For the Tekken team, part of it is the number of copies we sell. But it's not just selling the game and that's it; it's about creating a game that makes fans excited to see the next title, and creating a title in which people expect even more from you. That's why the Tekken series has continued for the past 17 years.

Discussion

81 comments
BranKetra
BranKetra

Can't wait to play as young Heihachi Mishima again.

kidnatural
kidnatural

Sequel to my favorite Tekken, TTT? Yes sir!

SonicTH
SonicTH

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Persona 4 Arena, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, AND Dead or Alive 5, thank you very much!

 

Year of the 3D fighting game indeed (SC5, VF5:FS, TTT2, and DoA5).

Virtua_Souls
Virtua_Souls

Nice interview. Thanks, Maxwell. I'm looking forward to trying TTT2 later this year... if I can pull myself away from Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown by then :)

DSkinMasque
DSkinMasque

If this game feels like a completed game and NOTHING is Disk LOCKED CONTENT (like all of SC5's DLC) then I will get it on launch. If not then I'll get it next year after I am done playing VF5 FS! 

conquerorsaint
conquerorsaint

did you bring up whether they will make a vita version? crossplay and transfarring features would be awesome! pls make a follow-up interview with this in mind!

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

For the people asking why Tekken ain't ever on PC. It's cause they don't have a PC team like Capcom does to port games over.

EnergyAbsorber
EnergyAbsorber

I cant wait for this TTT2!!!!  The first TTT was the best Tekken game, not T3 as many say.  I think many people say T3 was "the best" because it got a near perfect score. It was the best Tekken game "for its time" because no other fighter came close in the gameplay department. But TTT is an all around better experience.

mumui10
mumui10

no ps vita what da??!!

thekey
thekey

Why would they make an Arcade version of the game and not a PC version? that makes no sense.

hobotech64
hobotech64

I don't even really like Tekken, but this guy gets it.

Alyboy
Alyboy

This is the reason the Tekken-games are always so amazing. Harada-san understands us gamers. He knows what we want and what we need. I am glad he is in charge of the franchise, and I can't wait to buy the WE ARE TEKKEN-edition for PS3. :)

 

But Harada-san... please... include Miharu Hirano as a playable character?

monster637
monster637

to the people complaining about no net for downloading chars......i know in far off 3rd world countrys this is another problem...... BUT i let friends come over to my house and rip out my ether net and plug it into there consoles to let them do updates...........unless Your country is one they wont give dlc for or something, if there is a wifi spot somewhere or someone with net......you can update your fighting games and others

SauhlGood
SauhlGood

i dont mind dlc as long as it doesnt canniablize the original product just to make increased $... ie. locked chars...locked tourney/mp modes... i dont mind costumes/colors/accessories im alright with that and i would pay 5$ here or there to personalize my char... problem with dlc is greedy f*ers dont know where to draw the line, and will always go on the side of more $ and less content... than the other way around.

BiancaDK
BiancaDK

>Capcom releases game

>People buy it

>Capcom releases stuff to do the game

>People complain that it wasn't there to begin with

>Capcom travels back in time to save the future

pakhair
pakhair

I so much agree with this guy on DLC

 

Second I so much agree with him on future of consoles, Me being owning a high end PC since ages, I know consoles can never reach PC because PC market is different there you always pay to get good quality and it's definitely expensive, Consoles are cheap medium for many to do gaming + due to fixed specs (where as in PC Hardware varies a lot) the overall game package is always good (Good framerates and less bugs). What we need is faster loading times and Resume feature if we want to shut down our game something like temporary quicksave.

 

+ Another major reason was SFXT is a terrible package (Not a bad game though), There aren't enough single player modes variety and story mode is almost non existent and the achievements/trophies are horrible (It's a factor for many gamers). In the ned it was a good game but lacking in many aspects and definitely polish

TheoAlmighty
TheoAlmighty

What a cheap tactic of getting people to buy their games. Free DLC characters? The game is not out until September, why not put them into the game? Anyways Tekken really need to step up their game because it seriously feels the exact same every year. I played Tekken 2 through 6 and felt just added few new moves, characters, and walls over the past titles. This is probably why people are not overly competitive on it. Since not too much have changed since Tekken 3. If you think about it, the other games like SF and MK have changed up their fighting mechanics with every numbered sequel they released. MK added combos, juggling, weapons, x rays, specials, reversals. SF added combos, juggling, ex specials, ultras, and focus attacks. Both games adding few new moves and characters along the way. Which is why I feel like I have to get a new MK or SF title when a new one comes out because it feels fresh everytime while I feel just the opposite when it comes to Tekken and even Soulcalibur games. I admit though both MK or SF games have been extra lame with DLC and all but it's okay since you can always wait for GOTY or arcade editions at a cheaper price and with all the content.

Flamerdragon
Flamerdragon

Respect to Harada.

 

I will always buy my Tekken games. Since Tekken 2.

Reason I bought Playstation the first place instead of N64 (Pokemon) back in the days.

 

Still loyal to Playstation and Tekken.

Heights00
Heights00

I seriously hate how games are made today. WHY THE FUCK are they making characters DLC?? Back in the PS2 days, ALL characters were avaliable in-game by unlocking them through arcade mode. This got me pissed off, as some people do not have online accounts. This has already made me unable to play as ogre, angel, michelle and kunimitsu. FUCK this age of DLC. Rant over!

PresidentDman
PresidentDman

I'm surprised in all of their analysis they haven't considered the prospect of 'franchise fatigue'. A lot of Tekken players will have been playing since the PlayStation 1 days and lets be honest while the game play is solid nothing has really changed in the formula.

 

If I wanted to go out and get a Tekken game in September I could have the choice of TXSF, Tekken 6 and Tekken tag 2, I might not necessarily choose Tekken Tag 2 and I don't think I would consider owning all those titles. 

Dentalflossbush
Dentalflossbush

i think its strange that people dont understand why games have DLC, its an industry standard, it track who plays online, its tracks fan dedication, with games being resold at a drastically higher rate than being sold new, it tracks how many people are actually playing the game. Tekken has ALWAYS been loyal to their fanbase, so perhaps you should be loyal to them, just download the DLC, its free, let them know how much you care.

jnw93
jnw93

I cant see this doing alot better than VF5 & DoA 5

wld007
wld007

Tekken is easily the best fighting game franchise today.

garysingh34
garysingh34

tekken 6 is a class game but unplayable because of the load times.

03469186617
03469186617

Tekken is the best fighting game as far as i know.................and i dont like dlc for tekken.........plz harada dont do the dlcs thing.........

 

steve4532
steve4532

can't wait for tekken tag 2 gonna be amazing

 

souther_hill
souther_hill

I love Tekken to death, but there will never be another one like Tekken 3.

SeptuagintXXX
SeptuagintXXX

wow, he measures success by how many copies he sells AND by whether he puts out a good title.  See that capcom--- when you make 15 versions of the same game and add content that should have been included with the first version to each subsequent version, nobody likes you.  You might increase your sales numbers, but at the cost of your reputation. 

pqwoei
pqwoei

DLC characters for Free, GREAT!! too bad I have terrible internet connection on my 360. If only Harada-san would include every character on disc then I would be the happiest person on earth

darkboy90
darkboy90

 @TheoAlmightyShut the hell up. You try making a fricking video game see how much time and effort is put into it. You try thinking up a gameplay mechanic for Tekken instead of complaining like a little princess. Harda san put out free dlc characters as a sign good will to players complaining about Capcom's dlc fiasco. But apprenetly you got enough money coming out of your butt that you'll give Capcom your money willingly. Here a thought how about giving me your money since you don't like free stuff. You try thinking new combos for tekken  charcters oh wait thats right you can't. Shut the hell up moron.

 

pakhair
pakhair

 @TheoAlmighty 

 

Indeed SC 5 was outdated. Tekken 5 was a huge step up over 4 (it was horrible) but 6 didn't do too much with game design, it only added tons of new characters + a horrible story mode. Tekken need a breadth of fresh year, they should take some risks now.

 

 

On the other hand I'm excited for TAG 2 cause loved the first one years ago, wishing to have some fun. But it should be the last game with these kind of mechanics, major problem with namco fighters is accessibility, they should work on it. And more destructible and well drawn stage will help DOA 5 can be looked for inspiration of stage design (although details on it is less at the time).

Dentalflossbush
Dentalflossbush

@Heights00 they made DLC characters so they can track the amount of people who have or had the game, to get an accurate representation of the fanbase. Back in the PS2 days pre owned games didnt make up 60% video game sales

Kilvoctu-san
Kilvoctu-san

@PresidentDman TxSF isn't out. You're thinking about SFxT, which plays nothing at all like Tekken. Tekken 6 will be about 3 years old by September. TTT2 will be the obvious choice. Not seeing the "franchise fatigue" here when we haven't had a new console Tekken in 3 years. I think you meant to post in the Capcom section.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

 @Dentalflossbush

 I think DLC is more about selling you something that you can't sell back ( like at Gamestop ) so you are more likely to keep you game because of the money you invested in DLC. So many sell stupid stuff and others sell very important part of the game and other just to unlock stuff (unlock stuff that no so long ago you would unlock by playing the game ... )

 

In the case of Tekken it is nice but still ...

Kilvoctu-san
Kilvoctu-san

@jnw93 Compared to Tekken, the mentioned games have a much smaller fanbase. Among my friends and the fighting game scene here, I don't know anyone who plays DoA, and I know one person who plays VF (two if I count myself).

Kilvoctu-san
Kilvoctu-san

@pqwoei they most likely will be on disk, with the DLC as unlocks.

thekey
thekey

@Magegg That still doesn't make sense to me, because console games are pirited all the time. And how much profit could they possiblely make in an arcade, These days? (Especially if you only have one arcade market) Oh well I just see it as a loss of potential sales. Why make 45 million when you can make 55 million?

TheoAlmighty
TheoAlmighty

 @darkboy90 

 

Wow what a stupid comment. First, never said I had money coming from my butt, I even mention that it's better to wait for GOTY or arcade editions cause it's cheaper and has all the dlc. Additionally I am not hating on tekken as much as you think. I played Tekken 2 through 6 and Soulcalibur 2-5 and although i enjoy them to some degree you gotta admit the gameplay mechanics are the same or has changed very little especially compared to other fighting games like MK and SF which is why they feel fresh to me everytime. Anyways you're telling me to think of new combos for Tekken? How exactly does that change or add to gameplay mechanics?  OH wait... It doesn't....

Magegg
Magegg

 @thekey  @Magegg Console games are never as pirated as PC games.

Also, the console companies who made the deal of having a game exclusive for console loose money every time a player gets the game for PC instead of for console (and if the PC version is piracied -it always happen-, it's double bad).

Arcades do very well in Japan.

Dentalflossbush
Dentalflossbush

@Coco_pierrot i dont fully agree but you make a respectable point.

Coco_pierrot
Coco_pierrot

 @Dentalflossbush  @Coco_pierrot

 in this case it is fun that they won't charge anything but  in 90% of your post it is about why game have DLC so in general DLC is an incentive for you to keep your game and thus kill used market because you won't likely sell a game that you put money in DLC.

 

And yes even free DLC is about money ... Capcom had a very bad moment right now, I'm sure they lose money because of what they offer as a DLC, so Namco try the inverse hoping to win over people who liked SF and are frustrated by their stupid DLC.