GameCentral speaks to the makers of the new Monster World expansion, about loot boxes, the Capcom revival, and too many dragons.
The last time we spoke to Ryozo Tsujimoto it was just before the launch of Monster Hunter: World in early 2018. We had an interesting conversation with him then, but there was a sense that wed all been through this routine before, of Capcom promoting a new Monster Hunter in the West and it selling only a fraction of the amount it does in Japan – enough to make it worth the trouble of localising the games, but not much else. But times have changed.
When we met him at Gamescom recently it was after the game had sold over 13 million copies, with major expansion Iceborne about to deliver a mountain of new content and keep the game and its players going until the next generation.
Iceborne is released this Friday, and well have a full review later this week, but before that we were able to talk to producer Tsujimoto, as well as directors Kaname Fujioka and Daisuke Ichihara, about what, to the outside world, seems like a surprise success – but which we learned was the result of years of planning and research.
Tsujimoto did most of the talking, with the others pitching in with their own comments, all of which were translated at the same time. Speaking to them it was obvious they already had a clear vision of what would follow Iceborne, even though itll probably be a while till we find out what that is. But the expansion, and its planned stream of free updates, seems more than capable of keeping fans engaged well into next year and beyond.
Formats: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC
Release Date: 6th September 2019 (PC – January 2020)
GC: Honestly, how much of a surprise was it to you that the game has been so successful? I thought it would prove more popular than usual in the West, but I never expected this.
RT: It definitely surpassed our expectations. Back in the early days of the series we had an original target of wanting to sell 1 million copies of a Monster Hunter game and that felt like a big number at the time. Now weve gone over 10 times that, weve sold over 10 million copies of Monster Hunter: World. I think the latest figure is over 13 million copies now.
RT: So its clearly blown away those expectations. We were confident it would do well but it was a pleasant surprise. It was a motivating thing to see how well it did. Its something that gets the whole company excited, not just the Monster Hunter development team, but Capcom as a whole were really thrilled with this. It does mean that we then want to keep doing better though, we keep wanting to put our sights on the next target.
GC: It did seem to be the start of a whole new chapter for Capcom, especially being followed by the equally well received Resident Evil 2 and Devil May Cry 5. I imagine the success must be one of the high points of your career?
RT: From the consumer perspective World wouldve come out first and then the other titles, like RE2 and Devil May Cry, came out the following year. So it might look like World kicked off a kind of renaissance for Capcom. But I think its important to remember that in development terms all of these titles were in development earlier than Monster Hunter: Worlds release. Kind of roughly the same time. They just happened to get released at different periods.
So I think that all of the titles were a sign of Capcoms new direction, to focus on really great quality games that would be well received by fans and also that can sell well. I dont think we can take credit for having brought back the company by any means, but we are one part of the companys recent rejuvenation.
GC: I do seem to remember a financial statement a few years ago, talking about taking a new direction. So I guess that worked out.
GC: I find the success of the game fascinating because so little fundamentally has changed about it. You had a quote last time I met you, I imagine you said it to everyone, that I thought was great: If you want people to get better at chess you dont sell them checkers.
Translator: Ah, he didnt literally say that. He said something that meant that, but I put the metaphor in place.
GC: Wow, you should be in marketing!
GC: And yet, I think if youd asked any Western gamer, at any point in the series lifetime, how you could make it more popular over here they wouldve said put it on home consoles, make sure the graphics are good, and make sure its online. Its something that couldve happened any time in the last 10 years, so why didnt it?
RT: I think World was just good timing for us to push the series forward in this direction. Over the years weve released so many titles for Monster Hunter – I think its practically one a year over the series history, when you include all the versions that are out in Japan as well. I think that we were simultaneously having to serve our existing fanbase whilst planning the evolution of the series, that would bring it to the global scale that it has reached.
And you have to find the right time to move in that direction, because it does involve leaving behind the previous one to some extent. [This may be a veiled reference to Nintendo exclusivity for the mainline entries running out recently – GC] I think it just became a confluence of factors that releasing the game on home consoles when we did, as you said, served the needs of Western players in a great way. But it also meant that we could do things like bring the graphics to this level and use the built-in online functionality. The timing just was right for Monster Hunter: World, I think.
GC: One thing I wonder though is that… I can think of a number of Japanese games from other companies where it seemed like they were appealing directly to a Western audience and then you realised, with the next sequel or expansion, that actually it was a kind of coincidence. That they hadnt really understood what Westerners had liked about the previous game at all. Are you worried you might fall into that trap? Because Im sure its not easy, especially for a series thats had such huge success as a Japanese-focused product.
RT: We worked very hard, in the preparation period, for Monster Hunter: World to make sure we did understand what Western players wanted and that meant that we were talking to our Western offices a lot. But we also conducted focus-testing, in the West, so we had focus testing looking at early versions of the game and playing it and telling us what they thought.
And we were really able to get a lot of direct feedback that way, from players who are not used to Monster Hunter… how they feel when they play the game and what they like about it, what they find off-putting. And we did that several times and were really able to iterate on the development of the game and go into it knowing that we were getting it right for the West and not just having a coincidental success, as you say.
I think our success is based on a real foundation of putting in the effort in the early stages to understand what we need to do and then getting it right when it came to development.
Bearing in mind what the Western players are like, observing them directly, that kind of thing… its something you cant do over the course of a couple of months. You have to really have it in mind that youre gonna be thinking in terms of years to do this kind of preparation. So I think having that in mind for so long is really starting to pay off.
GC: I was speaking to the makers of Borderlands 3 recently about expansions and they also have a history of using a lot of big story-based DLC. But thats become a rather old school approach recently. The question of having microtransactions and loot bRead More – Source