Opening the second day at the Japanese CEDEC conference, Capcom R&D chief and head of online business Keiji Inafune – also the creator of massive franchises such as Mega Man and Onimusha, and producer of recent global hits Dead Rising, Lost Planet and the forthcoming Resident Evil 5 – took the chance to plead developers to interact with their business and management staff more.
Completely filling the Showa Womens’ University’s Green Hall, as well as all available standing space, Inafune’s talk – titled ‘The Business of Games, and the Game of Business’ – explained that it was important for game creators to think from a business standpoint as well as a creative one. "The creative viewpoint and the business viewpoint are 180 degrees apart," he explained. "They’re conflicting stances. But it’s through trying to meld these opposing viewpoints that hit games are made."
Inafune was quick to point out that he didn’t mean that creators had to blindly follow managment’s orders, but had to take them into consideration. Speaking about when he was made head of Capcom’s internal development efforts, he revealed that he was asked to focus on sequels "so that we could minimize the risk of something new failing. So I said, ‘Yes, I understand,’ and then did the exact opposite. When a company’s troubled, its staff are stressed, and if you press more tiring orders on to them you’ll exhaust them. So, in order to make everyone want to try their best, I thought that we should make something new."
"But when you think about it from a business viewpoint, management deals in absolutes. But, naturally, nobody can predict the future so, at that point, it’s important to lie. When you’re asked, ‘Are you sure it’ll sell?’, you should muster all your self confidence and say ‘Yes, it’ll sell.’ The future’s an unknown, but you can’t invest in something if you say ‘I don’t know whether it’ll sell or not’. In order to keep pushing on with your ideas, there’s no other way but to completely believe in them," he said.
Taking a more direct tack in order to get his message across, Inafune said: "There are people here who are probably thinking ‘Yeah, but this is Inafune, so he can be that persistent’. As soon as you think that, you’ve lost, because you don’t believe in your ideas. What that means is that Japanese creators are, plainly speaking, behaving like spoilt children.
"There are a lot of people out there acting independently with the idea that they can make good products without knowing anything about business or management – but those people can’t make hits, because they’re not thinking about their game from a business standpoint. If the creatives and the business people aren’t in agreement on the idea, it can’t succeed at the global marketplace."
"Having a positive relationship with management, not going out of your way to avoid them, is really important – even if negotiations with them do often feel like arguments. And in those bitter internal struggles, believing that you can make something great is key. Thinking ‘if I’m going to make something good I need more development time’ is the weakness of game creators. Using that sort of sentimental reasoning is useless if you can’t clearly show how that extra time will increase sales and improve the power of the brand."[Thanks to Famitsu for extra quotes]