Ever since his joined the industry in 1987, Keiji Inafune’s making waves throughout his gaming career. After joining Capcom, the famed developer has been responsible for a string of commercial hits – such as Mega Man, Resident Evil 2, Onimusha, Lost Planet, and Dead Rising – and these have helped him carve out a respectable name amongst Japan’s elite gaming personnel. In recent years however, and as the Japanese games industry has struggled to keep pace with Western development, Inafune-san has come to realize that the domestic Japanese games industry is facing a crisis borne out of creative and commercial expectations. With proposed sequels to classic franchises (such as Mega Man) being turned down, and after becoming disillusioned with how creative talent had become increasingly corporatised, Keiji Inafune left Capcom in 2010 and decided to go it alone. Founding Comcept soon afterwards, his maverick spirit has once again shone through as he has been able to bring his creative flair to projects that he’s passionate about. And with Mighty No. 9 slated for release in early 2016, I sat down with one of his key associates – Yu “Nick” Yu (Comcept, Producer) – at this year’s Gamescom and got to ask him as to why the game is being physically released on all major consoles, as well as how Deep Silver got involved as the game’s Publisher. Enjoy the interview!
The game is coming out simultaneously on pretty much every single console out there – Playstation 4, XBox One, Wii U, Vita…
We are planning to release the game on everything right now. So that’s PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, XBox 360, XBox One, 3DS, and Wii U.
The game is also being released in physical format. Can you maybe explain as to why… even though its lineage, via Inafune-sans, harks back to the much-loved Megaman series… Capcom have obviously considered Mega Man to not be a commercially viable enough product or franchise for them to continue it on in this day and age. But with all the risks that are associated with physical media, why is Mighty No. 9 still getting a physical release on pretty much every format out there?
Well, anything to do with Mega Man or Capcom, I am not in the position to comment because that’s a different company. I don’t know anything about them.
But it’s the same kind of game if you think about it…
Well, it’s a 2D action platformer. So yeah… sure, it’s the same genre. But I think the gameplay, if you play it, you can tell it’s totally different from you know, the classical 2D side scrolling games.
The reason we’re doing a physical version is, actually the game was funded through Kickstarter, and originally we were only planning for digital download, but since we had so much good feedback from our gaming shows and from the fans, we thought maybe a physical release would be a good choice. And also we can bring the game to wider audiences. So that’s when we kind of teamed up with Deep Silver, the current publisher of the game, to make a physical release.
Deep Silver seems a bit like a… although they have a hand in a number of, some would argue, semi-niche genres or ideas, they’re still a western developer that seems almost at odds with the kind of philosophy that Mighty No. 9 espouses and promotes. What made you decide to pick Deep Silver as being the ideal publishing partner for your game?
Actually the whole thing about the partnership came out after last year’s TGS 2014. At the time, Deep Silver was one of the publishers who made the offer to us. So we saw the offer and we talked with our account manager, and Keiji Inafune found that Deep Silver was the most passionate one and understood the project the most at the time. So that’s why we chose Deep Silver.
In what way, apart from fronting up more money, because obviously that’s one reason as to why you’ve gone to a publisher as opposed to living off the Kickstarter proceeds… In what way has Deep Silver and their immense financial pockets helped your project?
So, everything a publisher brings to the table… there’s a lot of stuff. One being the physical release, because there’s a manufacturer, there’s shipping, everything! Talking to game stores, or department stores. That’s the publisher’s job. And also, after Deep Silver joined the team, they promised our
How big is Comcept as a developer?
At Comcept, we currently have about 30 employees, and about 2 offices in Japan; one in Tokyo and one in Osaka. I’d say half are in Osaka and half are in Tokyo. And Comcept is mainly formed by Keiji Inafune himself, and when we are making projects, we support the core member of the project; which means, director, producers and art directors. So as a company, we have several projects moving at once but with different team members. So that’s how big we are.
Now since the game is shipping on pretty much every single platform known to man, in what way is Comcept able to realize its ambitions of releasing Mighty No. 9 on every single platform, given the amount of manpower that you have at your disposal?
As a game company, we cannot make any games by ourselves. So we rely on our partners who are developers that we know. So in this case, the main developer of the game is Inti Creates who are responsible for most of the consoles. However, some of the porting stuff, we are actually outsourcing from different companies. That’s why we are not using the same team for everything. But we are using different teams, for different parts of the game. That’s why we can, you know, make the game for 10 platforms at the same time.
Now there have obviously been problems with regards to porting certain games unto different platforms – Bayonetta being a classic example as to how the lead platform was the XBox 360 version, and when Sega got their hands on it, what came out at the other end after wasn’t anywhere near as good. What steps are you taking to ensure that the quality threshold is pretty much consistent across every single platform?
I think the answer to that one is we make the game based on PC, not on any consoles, but on PC. So tuning from the PC version of the game to other consoles is much simpler. I’m not saying that we can keep everything at a consistent level, but [the consoles will be] very, very close to what’s on the PC version.
Would it be safe to say that the PC is the main platform then?
Yes, I think so.
I know that games are ultimately developed on PC anyway… But the PC version of Arkham Knight was riddled with bugs and it wasn’t very good, yet the PS4 and the XBox One versions were above and beyond the PC version in terms of quality. Given that you are developing the game [on PC], and I know that all games development is done on a PC, and given the fact that Japan is very much a console-centric nation, in what way does Comcept’s drive to (ultimately) consider the PC as the lead platform… maybe somehow, go against Japanese game-playing philosophy?
Right… So the idea of why we went to the PC first is simply because this project is funded through Kickstarter. In order for any company to make a game on console – for example PlayStation or XBox or Wii U – you actually have to have approval from that platform’s holder. You present them with ideas and they will approve, or not approve, the title on their platform. Because of the Kickstarter, we couldn’t assure the production until we were funded through the campaign. So we could not say any platform at that point because we didn’t have approval, and we needed approval to set that as a goal. So in a way, the only choice we had was PC and Steam, because there’s no approval process for Steam… There is, but it’s very simple. It’s pretty much the developer’s responsibility to release the game on that platform. That’s why we went [for] PC; not because we think PC is more superior or easy to do or anything like that, but because that’s the only thing that we could do with Kickstarter funding. Unless we had approval from the platform holders…
Which is ultimately one reason as to why Deep Silver came onboard because they needed to help you with the certification and approval process.
You’ve mentioned how Kickstarter backers will be receiving free DLC. What are Comcept’s plans with regards to Mighty No. 9 post-launch? Will you be intending to, even though you’re extending its lifespan through DLC… Are there any plans to maybe extend the game’s lifespan into say, a franchise? Will there be a Mighty No. 9 II for example?
I’m calling Inafune-san here, but when a game creator makes a new game, or makes any game for example, they always think about the sequel. Always thinking about what they can do with the IP. So naturally for us, for Comcept, we are already thinking about the next step for Mighty No. 9. Whether it’s gonna be a sequel or a spinoff, we don’t know yet. But since we already have this much attention, and a decent amount of feedback from the people who play the game, there’s just no reason not for us to not expand on the title.