The start of 2021 for new game releases is – to use my extensive vocabulary as a business analyst – a bit of rubbish. There is no doubt that COVID-19 had more than a small role to play, but it is definitely a shame to get behind new console launches and record sales for the Nintendo Switch.
But the early part of the year is not entirely devoid of AAA releases. There has been a Hitman game and a Mario release, and there will be a new PlayStation IP and Pokémon spin-off. And two of the biggest games launched over the next two months are from the same company: Capcom.
“I̵7;m not necessarily happy that the natural increase in users and sales is the result of a devastating pandemic”
Kiichiro Urata, Capcom
The first is the Nintendo Switch exclusive Monster Hunter: Rise, coming this week – a game that is a little difficult to predict. Monster Hunter has been hugely popular on Nintendo platforms, but sales have mainly been concentrated in Japan. The latest game, Monster Hunter: World, saw the series become a hit in the West – it is now Capcom’s most successful game with over 16 million sales – but it was released on PlayStation and Xbox, not Nintendo. This begs the question: Has Capcom reduced Western expectations of this?
“Not at all,” insists Capcom’s EMEA and UK Marketing Director Antoine Molant. “Let’s look at the installation base for the Switch – it’s a pure success story, and there’s still so much more potential.”
European COO Stuart Turner adds: “We are working very closely with Nintendo of Europe to make Monster Hunter: Rise a success in the region. We are very confident that the huge success we have had in the past on Monster Hunter: World will transfer to it. the passionate tab base we have on the Nintendo Switch. “
The other big game from Capcom is Resident Evil: Village in May. It’s been a few years for the Resident Evil brand, and Village is one of the first major third-party games for the new PlayStation and Xbox. But like all games coming to the new machines, it has to contend with the fact that the installation bases for both remain relatively small.
“Let’s not forget that Resident Evil: Village will also be available for the widely installed PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as for PC,” says Molant. “Internally, the most difficult thing is to divide our forecast, as it is related to how fast players will move over, and in connection with how hardware availability and future supply will support this.”
Turner adds: “We have known from our own sales in recent years that our products will sell for five or ten years plus. Village is not necessarily about chasing a new platform target group, but rather letting consumers choose which platform they want. Experience the game on. Whether it’s PS5, PS4, Xbox series, Xbox One or PC at the moment or in a few years, we offer people console upgrades for free, as we are convinced that it’s about experiencing Resident Evil: Village, not to had to make a difficult purchase choice given future plans and time for upgrade. ”
Having a busy start to the year is not uncommon for Capcom. Most of the major launches in the last generation have been concentrated during the first six months. It is very rare to see the publisher try to publish something significant during the traditional 4th Christmas sales window.
“I believe that launching games during the holidays is not Capcom’s main strategy,” said European CEO Kiichiro Urata. “By releasing new games in a quieter period, Capcom fans will be able to avoid congestion and can focus on enjoying playing our games. From there, we will conduct effective price promotions for each season and offer the best for a wide range of players. “
Turner adds that when it comes to releasing a game is not as important as it used to be: “In the past, we were very much about finding a window and making room for the titles outside of a manic end of the year to breathe and exist on their own terms. First-day sales are still very important to us and all our retail partners, but something that has become increasingly clear over the last five, ten years is that the digitalisation of the industry has extended the life cycle of a product indefinitely. the first weeks and months to then fight for a rapidly shrinking “shelf space” with hundreds of thousands of other releases.
“We still see Resident Evil 7 sending over one million units globally per year almost four years after launch.”
Stuart Turner, Capcom
“We know that quality sells and continues to sell for many, many years. We still see Resident Evil 7 delivering over one million units globally per year almost four years after launch. By planning much more long-term across different markets, we can Look at factors like promotional platforms, Black Friday, etc … that are becoming more and more important after the first 12 months. “
The “digitalisation of industry” has come up more than a few times during Capcom’s financial talks. The company revealed strong results in January due to digital growth, and last year stated how 80% of sales now come from digital, with an ambition to grow it to 90%. It is a goal that requires many different approaches when looking at a region as diverse as Europe.
“There is no size that fits all approaches to the EMEA market, in what is a large network of very different countries,” says Turner. “When broadband infrastructure speeds can vary by 100 Mb / s in a few kilometers, credit card adoption changes, cultural barriers or even cross-border brick and mortar retailing – the need to maintain flexibility in our digital approach is paramount.
“By having more digital data, we can identify local deviations in more detail than ever before, put plans in place to support all markets in ways that suit consumers, to develop how we invest and support each and every unique market. To do this, we will eventually grow Capcom’s brands and IPs throughout the region. “
Of course, what has contributed to the increase in digital sales, and the increase in sales in general, has been COVID-19, which has seen game producers across the board report strong results.
“I’m not necessarily happy that the natural increase in users and sales is the result of a devastating pandemic,” says Urata. “What’s important is that all of Capcom’s team members do their utmost during this challenging time, so that core fans, returning fans and new players who bought during the COVID period can continue to enjoy playing Capcom games. “
Turner notes: “Sometimes we have to be thankful that while large numbers of people have been dumped all over Europe and companies have been decimated, we have managed to sustain and grow over what has been a terrible period for many.
“In general, we have seen more people looking for escape during this pandemic, whether they have chosen to do so via Disney Plus, Netflix or games. What all these platforms have in common is huge back catalogs of content combined with brand new Sure, techniques and technology are changing, but good stories, experiences and escapism will always remain whether the content was created 12 weeks or 12 years ago.
“Capcom’s great strength has always been the huge back catalog, which must count around 300 titles now. We have seen a huge increase in newcomers in our IP in the last 12 months. Our goal is to build on this new audience together with our existing and core audience to expand our growth throughout the region. “
In addition to the two major game launches, in 2021 Capcom will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Resident Evil. The company began talking about its plans for the series earlier this year with a video presentation that became known for presenting the ‘tall vampire lady’ from Resident Evil Village, who took the internet by storm – and surprised Capcom. The video revealed the free Resident Evil multiplayer game Re: Verse and teased the upcoming Netflix series Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness. Molant says fans should expect lots of merchandise along with the restart of the Resident Evil movie series. But the big focus is on the Village.
“Our main ambition for this year, even if it happens so much at the same time, is to ensure that Resident Evil: Village will be the best performing title of Resident Evil, both in terms of quality and business,” says Molant. .
The Resident Evil series comes from a strong console generation. During the Xbox 360 and PS3 era, Resident Evil performed well commercially, but critically it was a mixed bag. Things have been more consistent on PS4 and Xbox One, especially with 2017’s Resident Evil 7 and 2019’s Resident Evil 2 remake, both of which sold well and were rated strongly. The remake of Resident Evil 2 was a special triumph, and actually sold the game it was based on.
“Our main ambition is to make Resident Evil Village the best-performing Resident Evil title”
Antoine Molant, Capcom
“This would not have been possible without our fans, for whom we cannot thank enough. In the end, our feedback boosted confidence that we were on the right track in developing the reimagining of Resident Evil 2,” says Molant. “As for Resident Evil 7, the direction the game took surprisingly got some fans at first, but in the end the reception has been fantastic. Several years after its release, the performance is still staggering. Of course, there will always be parts of the audience that may not be full. “And for us, it’s extremely important to listen to these voices, as they can make us better.”
Turner adds: “It has been fascinating to see the success of the new recordings and the impact they have had on a new generation of players. The development team under Takeuchi-san watched Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 just as Disney does with its remake of old movies – to keep them fresh, new and relevant.The audience that picked up and played Resident Evil 2 had now not played games or, in some cases, even been born when it was originally released.However, by taking the core concept and modernization using of structures and designs that get the most out of today’s technology and get rid of the old limitations, have made it possible for even more people to access the titles.
“There is now a group of 18 to 30 year olds who can talk lovingly about how Resident Evil 2 is one of their best gaming experiences. There will always be people who are worried about the modernization of these classic titles – much like I ‘I would argue that the Elton John soundtrack is better on the old Lion King – but being able to have more people access to, enjoy and experience an old classic must be a good thing. “
Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, Street Fighter, Devil May Cry, retro titles – Capcom has had a successful time at the back of its core brands. Over the last generation, the company has become completely dependent on its existing franchises, without any major new IPs since Dragon’s Dogma in 2012. But it is planned to change in 2023 with sci-fi games Pragmata for the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
“Capcom’s strengths lie in the IPs,” says Molant. “These can be expanded so much through new platforms, new stories, characters, settings, technological leaps and similar approaches. At the same time, we and our development teams are fully aware that building new IPs means developing long-term potential.”
Turner concludes: “We see great demand for existing IPs from our player base, and that’s what we have been delivering in recent years. That said, the current development resource has enabled us to start developing a new IP. “And everyone here is quite excited about the perspective – it’s been a long time coming. It’s different from what Capcom has done in recent years, while still maintaining our core values.”