The man who last month stood as Capcom’s game development boss is today the independent developer who believes the great publisher will crumble unless it undergoes significant change.
In a dramatic turnaround, Keiji Inafune has decided to break away from his ‘life-job’ employer with an extraordinary level of severe parting shots in a candid interview with Japanese publication 4Gamer.
Inafune – who had worked at Capcom for over 23 years – said the business priorities at his former company has diminished the kind of innovation and entrepreneurship that it desperately needs in the long run.
“Saying this will make publishers angry with me, but publishers themselves are forcing developers into becoming subcontractors. ‘For this amount of money, finishing by this deadline,’ and so on, and even more than quality. ‘Aim for this number of sales,’ is what's being pushed,” he appeared to say.
The quotation is based on a translation published on game forum NeoGaf.
Inafune said his role as research boss at Capcom forced him into a business strategy where the aim was to deliver multiple projects that each needed to break even. He said that was his focus.
“In short, if each project doesn't incur a loss, it'll add up. In the end, whether it's 100 thousand, 200 thousand, or even a million yen, it'll all add up. It's like having a diverse portfolio. Plus, minus zero. If it's zero, it's certainly not a loss.”
He said such a strategy is one flop away from the house of cards falling down.
“If you lose even 500 thousand yen, this theory suddenly breaks down. So a worst-case zero is fine. So if you don't get back to at least zero, it's no good. If everyone worked to at least cover the costs, there's nowhere to go but up from there.”
And it is this routine that Inafune fears will kill Capcom – and could very well be the reason for his previous comments that Japan is dying as a game development nation.
He said the break-even business model allows games to be not perfect, not brilliant, but ‘okay’. Just enough.
“For me, if just anything is okay, I don't want to do it,” he continued.
“It's not that I can't, it's that I don't want to. But [at Capcom] I had to. Being required to do something will kill you eventually.”
He then appeared to, rather cryptically, compare a focus on game quality with eating food:
“So if you're starving and starving to the point of death, and before your very eyes you see natto [a soybean-based food], which you absolutely hate. ‘Ugh, I don't eat natto, so I won't have it.’ Well, then you die.
Referring to his new life independent from Capcom, he said: “If I eat natto, I can survive. At that point, it's egotistic to say you won't eat natto because you hate it, because you're making the mistake of putting likes and dislikes over life and death. Won't you just wind up starving to death?
Earlier in the interview he described himself and the middle-management at Capcom as ‘salarymen’.
“Salarymen [like myself] think that if you complain long enough, someone will bring you a hamburger. If it's a hamburger, you'd eat it, right? Things like that. That's how things have been done for a long time, so that's how it got this way [my departure].”
And in a punishing denunciation of his former masters, he said: “At this rate, Capcom will not eat its natto and die. They shouldn't let it be, because they'll die otherwise. We let it be, so it got to be like this. I love Capcom. I want to save it. So I'm not going to just let it be.”