[Originally posted on 1Up.com]
There has been a real zombie-trend the last few years, with games like Stubbs the Zombie, Zombies vs. Ambulances, Dead Rising and the king of zombie-feasts, the Resident Evil series, with RE4 being debatable ("they're not zombies!"). The zombie-trend has recently hit Sweden, two weeks ago a job opening for zombie-hunters was put out by a large cable TV network. 10 people with certified hunting and medical skills, as well as extensive knowledge on the undead where to partake in an expedition to gather evidence of Swedish zombies. Then last Friday (fittingly the 13th) the same TV network organized a zombie outbreak to promote the premier of the series Masters of Horror.
Capcom, there's a company that really loves zombies. They've been producing zombie-games for quite some time now, making such good money off of them that they appear to be so blind to reality at this point that they believe the undead really exist. In fact they might even be secretly worshiping them.
How so? Well, this is a company that appears to be at the height of it's life with a Q1 profit increase of 33% over last year and with financial successes like Viewtiful Joe, Resident Evil 4 and Phoenix Wright in the recent past, critically acclaimed Dead Rising, Okami, and God Hand (IGN, which game did you play?!) and upcoming Lost Planet, Devil May Cry 4 and Resident Evil 5, it has never been easier to love Capcom. But it has never been easier to doubt them either. Yepp, Capcom must believe in the power of the undead, because they seem to be committing suicide and the only explanation must be that they believe they will come back and walk the earth as the undead.
What did they do you ask? Well, just last week they announced that they are closing Clover studios. Clover, the studio headed by Atsushi Inaba the star producer of Viewtiful Joe and Okami. The studio, which started out as a 64-man operation is now down to 15 employees.Inaba-san, together with Clover-college Shinji Mikami (God Hand director and Resident Evil creator) and Devil May Cry director Hideki Kamiya have now left the company. The last few days has seen the game-forums of the world flooded with angry and mourning fans predicting doom and gloom. Downtrodden European gamers have started to wonder if Okami and God Hand are even going to come out in the PAL-territories. Bad sales of Okami in Japan has shown that Japanese gamers don't want new and different experiences. Like a zombie hunting for brains, the mainstream-gamer and corporate Capcom seem to crave only one thing, the mainstream want more "Grand Madden Fantasy Turismo", while Capcom craves more money and they are both oblivious to anything else, and will just keep dragging their feet towards that same goal.
This is the image that has been portrayed over the last few days, so what does Capcom have to say for themselves? Next-Gen.biz recently interviewed Capcom USA marketing VP Charles Bellfield on the subject. In the interview he makes some clarifications. It is true that Clover has gone from 64-down-to-15 staff, but does that mean that all have actually left the company? "The answer quite clearly is no." he says, "A large number of those have been transitioning over to Capcom development teams over the last few months as well as leaving." This he states is in part due to the Okami and God Hand projects being finished up and thus fewer people are required toward the end of the development process when testing and localization is initiated.
He goes on to say "Yeah. And you know I wish [Inaba-san and Kamiya-san] best of luck in the future. They've been, obviously, very integral to Capcom in the past, certainly with the critically acclaimed Viewtiful Joe as well as Okami. With those types of games, we absolutely give credit to those individuals, but I think it also gives credit to Capcom as a company that is willing to invest in that type of content as well. That doesn't change. Capcom remains the same type of Capcom we've always been and that we always will be. We've prepared- we are prepared- to invest in our franchises, to invest in our development talent, and to invest in our content. And, you know, [two year ago] we would have been mad to invest in Xbox 360 exclusive titles out of Japan, with the likes of Dead Rising and Lost Planet, but look what [we invested in] and what we can deliver consumers. That doesn't change." He clarifies that Atsushi Inaba, has left the company, but is retained as a contracted producer of Capcom on an as of yet un-revealed project.
Next-Gen.biz also reported that "Okami, released on September 19, has received stellar reviews (93 percent on GameRankings) and has achieved very respectable sales thus far. Earlier this week, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian forecasted it as one of the top software sales drivers for September."
But even if Capcom dance around the subject and things are maybe not as bad as they at first seemed, it's hard to imagine that the closing of Clover is not related to failing sales. The potential sales that can be garnered by catering to the mainstream should not be underestimated. In recent months game-journalists and hard-core gamers have been lamenting over the impending failure of the PlayStation 3 due to its high price and Sony's arrogance towards and how out-of-touch they often seem to be, with todays gamers. However, a recent study by Los Angeles based Interpret, showed that 8.9 million US consumers are prepared to pay full price (i.e. $500\$600) for the PlayStation 3 this fall, compared to 5.7 million consumers who are willing to buy Wii for $250 and only 800-thousand people who are willing to pay full price for the Xbox 360 ($300\$400). This only goes to show how powerful the PlayStation brand still is. For many people "Video games" is still synonymous with PlayStation.
So rest in peace Clover, you've done some outstanding work and to all their fans out there have hope, there's no doubt in my mind that the people behind these games will resurface in some other form, maybe as an independent studio and produce many more amazing titles.