Things have been pretty wild for Capcom in 2018. We’ve seen the legendary creation house shoot out of one of its lowest lows in 2017, into the absolute highest of highs this year, and everything following that has largely been ripples. But with that sort of juxtaposition comes reactions on the corporate side of things. If various reports and, well, Linkedin updates are accurate, things shifted around at Capcom that could have long-term effects on things that have been familiar for years.
Earlier in September 2018, Event Hubs reported that Yoshinori Ono, the Blanka toy-toting, flamboyant, always friendly face of the Capcom sect of the fighting game scene is no longer in charge of that part of the company. Ono, formerly Head of Consumer Games Development Division 2 (which includes the fighting game stuff), has been moved to General Manager of Department 2, Consumer Games Development Division 3. Taking over that spot is Ryozo Tsujimoto, the current rockstar producer of the Monster Hunter franchise.
What we saw was, despite both of these men having long histories at Capcom, a shift that was, at least in terms of how it looks from the outside, a reaction to what went down at Capcom within 2017 and 2018. Capcom’s fighting decision had struggled since Street Fighter IV damn near brought the genre back to the mainstream on its back, but the particular low point hit when Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite, a new entry in a series that always seemed bulletproof, bombed for who knows what actual reason. The game was a disaster, and we may never know how that came to be, from a production standpoint.
Meanwhile, Monster Hunter: World is literally the best-selling single title in all of Capcom’s long history. When you look at the Capcom canon, the massive library of games that are each eligible for Best of All Time status depending on who you’re talking to, picturing any single title as the best-selling is almost abstract, and Monster Hunter: World eclipsing them all sounds impossible. Yet, here we are. Tsujimoto, perhaps, was being rewarded for his massive success as a leader and could very well become the face of Capcom itself in the coming years.
At the same time, Ono had been around for a long time. He even stepped down once before, due to health issues, although he seemed to bounce back quite well. He even remained the face of Capcom’s fighting community well after his Linkedin-reflected title change, took the stage most recently at Evo 2018 and continued to engage with Capcom events on social media. It was just as possible that Ono was simply stepping down to a less strenuous role and passing the torch, so to speak. Event Hubs’ article came without official word after all, and it could have looked too much into things that are admittedly colored by events at Capcom.
That said, the piece did make further connections to moves that have changed things around with Capcom’s reputation in other ways. It attributed 2018 changes to Street Fighter V’s marketing path to Tsujimoto, such as the release model for the third season of roster additions. Could that be true? It’s hard to say, especially as Ono, again, took the stage and delivered those announcements. It was a messy looking situation, and one that was complicated by the stark cultural differences in Japanese businesses. It could be that, while Ono still had great value as the “face” of fighting games, Tsujimoto was now established as the guy who could make things happen behind the scenes. Capcom’s fighting game division is extremely important, but it’s a ship that needed a new direction. Meanwhile, Tsujimoto was able to take a relative, international obscurity like Monster Hunter and turn it into a phenomenon in a year crowded with big releases.
There’s a lot of back and forth and conjecture, but the bottom line was that there had been legitimate movement in Capcom with two of, perhaps, its most important current producing talent. That movement happened right in the middle of two big events. It’s totally possible there were more nuanced explanations at hand, but the reality is that things at Capcom could be very different going forward and 2019 is wide open for Capcom once Devil May Cry 5 comes out. Seeing what happens next will be a journey for sure.