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.