Mikami discusses ZeniMax deal

Resident Evil creator talks buyout of Tango Gameworks by Bethesda Softworks parent, saying first project will be the last AAA title he directs.

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Last week, Bethesda Softworks parent ZeniMax Media made the surprise announcement that it had acquired Tango Gameworks, a game development house helmed by Resident Evil creator and Vanquish director Shinji Mikami. Though terms of the transaction were not disclosed, Mikami's studio focuses on AAA multiplatform game development.

Shinji Mikami
Shinji Mikami

In an interview with Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu (relayed by 1up), Mikami filled in more of the how and why he became evolved with ZeniMax, which is based in Maryland. According to Mikami, he had begun shopping his studio around at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo.

"I had been looking for a new business partner before all this, so I contacted 10 or so companies during E3, both Japanese and elsewhere," he said. "Bethesda was the best match among them because they gave us the most independent development environment to work with as we pursue our goal of producing Japanese games that work worldwide--that, and their track record when it comes to overseas sales."

The reason for he was searching for a business partner, Mikami said, was so that his studio wouldn't have to deal with financial pressure.

"We didn't want to have to live hand to mouth as a studio," he said. "If we did that, we'd have to take on work we weren't interested in just to pay the bills. That would then force us to expand our staff, and before you know it, we'd be thinking 'This isn't how we meant it to go.' I gathered the people around me now in order to create the best worldwide market-driven development studio possible--the independence of that studio is secondary to that goal. I decided that we'd all be happier if we could take this shortcut to creating the great games we want to create."

As for ZeniMax's end of the deal, Bethesda Asia GM Tetsu Takahashi said that Mikami's availability was a windfall. "We've been publishing titles from overseas studios in Japan for a while," he said. "But one of our other goals was to publish Japanese games overseas if we found the right content match. However, it's pretty hard to find creators whose work can really be appreciated around the world."

While neither Takahashi nor Mikami were willing to discuss the studio's first project under the Bethesda label, they did indicate that it will be a big-budget endeavor.

"That's the only sort of title we're interested in," Takahashi said. "Any such project is going to involve tens of millions of dollars either way, so instead of cutting dev time and features and hoping for a million copies sold, it's better to take your time, make something great, and aim for 5 million instead. We believe that there's actually less risk when you do it that way."

Lastly, Mikami noted that this project could be the last big-budget project he'll direct. "That's something I was planning for from the start," he said. "I can only last for so long handling both director and company president duties, and besides, I want to give our younger developers a chance. Knowing that, of course, makes me want to put all of my experience, my energy, and everything else I've got into this game. I'm pretty lucky that [Bethesda] was willing to accept that, too. Too many publishers are only interested in the very near future, after all."

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