Capcom’s Efforts to Continue Developing Resident Evil
Creating a game is a difficult job, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that horror games have special difficulties that no other genre has. Because this genre is closely related to human feelings and psychology, all aspects in it must be designed in such a way as to be in harmony and produce believable experiences. Naturally, if then the creators of a good horror game will be worshiped even up to several decades after the game was released.
But actually if we look at the overall market share, horror is still a niche genre among gamers. Even after spending a lot of money to create the best experience, developers may not be able to profit, especially when compared to mainstream genres such as first person shooter. Continue to rely on the same formula will lead to fans who are bored, but on the other hand the experiment has the risk of making loyal fans stay away. Creating a good horror game is not as easy as a jump scare party.
The most famous case example might be the Resident Evil series. Shinji Mikami left Capcom in 2007, after completing Resident Evil 4 and an experimental game called God Hand. After Mikami died, this survival horror series turned into more action-oriented. More explosions, more gunfire, and less fear. Horror fans are clearly disappointed, but financially, Resident Evil 5 and Resident Evil 6 were extraordinary successes, each selling 7.5 million and 7.3 million units worldwide.
Meanwhile, Resident Evil 7 which returned to its roots as survival horror sold less, at 6.6 million units. Resident Evil 2 remake, which received a very positive reception and won a value of 93 in Metacritic, also sold less than 4.5 million units. The Evil Within and The Evil Within 2, although supported by the big name Shinji Mikami, the sales figures are even fewer.
Of course not all games have to reach 110 million units such as Grand Theft Auto V to be called successful. Capcom also said that although numerically less than Resident Evil 6, Resident Evil 7 is still profitable because it has a smaller development budget. They also realize that in the current era a game can continue to sell for a long time, not like it used to be where the first day or first week is very important for game sales. Capcom does not consider Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 2 to be a failed product.
But that does not mean they do not feel anxious when developing these two games. Antoine Molant, EMEA Marketing Director at Capcom, in an interview told me that Resident Evil 7 and 2 were a big gamble. Although in terms of the quality of the developers, they are confident enough, they are worried that what they are making is not what the fans want. What if fans don’t like Resident Evil 7 using a first-person perspective? What if fans want Resident Evil 2 remake to maintain a tank-style control system, like the PS1 era back then?
“When we announced our strategy a few years ago, we said we would focus on our main pillars: Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and so on,” Molant said. “Some people consider it a culture of risk aversion, but actually we take risks. RE7 could fail miserably. And with Monster Hunter World, we have the potential to leave 4 million domestic (Japanese) markets to catch up with the Western market. ”
As a company, Capcom clearly pursues financial benefits. They have employees to feed, as well as shareholders to please. But internally, Capcom has its own way to judge whether a game is successful or not. Instead of pursuing the highest sales figures, they have other considerations in terms of artistic and fan acceptance. “We prefer games that get a score of 9 and sell less, than games that get 6 but sell more,” said Molant.
Molant calls Capcom a “boutique publisher.” That is, Capcom from the beginning did not design their game as a game that will be played by everyone. Capcom knows that they are creating something niche, and they are trying their best to optimize the niche. How to really find out what fans want, find the right moment to release the game, to create a game with a smaller scale and risk.
“We know our titles and our fans, and we know the appeal we have, and we also know what our competitors are doing and trying to do,” said Molant. “We won’t be able to compete against companies that spend tens of millions of dollars on marketing. We are, arguably, a boutique airline, and the January release schedule suits us. ”
Molant’s words might sound rather funny because it feels more suitable spoken by indie developers, not AAA developers who can sell games up to millions of copies. But indie and AAA, are both a business and need the right strategy in order to continue to survive.
With this niche optimization strategy, Capcom has managed to revive the survival horror genre, which a few years ago was considered dead. They prove that true Resident Evil – not an action shooter like Resident Evil 6 – still has a place in the market, while also showing the eyes of the world that they are not afraid of creating radical innovations. More importantly, Capcom breaks the notion that technology only makes the game more “beautiful” but erodes creativity.
In an era where more and more companies are “playing safe” and creating similar games, Capcom’s vision is a breath of fresh air, and I hope that idealism can be maintained.