Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada has rung a death peal over Western arcades, but feels classic fighter games have a strong future both in and outside Japan.
“In previous versions [of Tekken], we had a few units installed in North America and Europe,” told Edge.
“We would be very happy to come sell our cabinets if there were places for them, but arcades are quite extinct in those markets. So for the moment it is true that [Tekken Tag Tournament 2] is very much focused on [Japan, Asia and Oceania].”
But arcades remain an integral part of Namco’s vision for the series, despite the difficulties.
“[The arcade] is indeed a very hard place to be, especially these days. The consumer world is a place where you buy a game once and that’s it. The arcade is about a coin, a 100 yen coin. If a game feels bad on your first play, it’s over. This is a very harsh but great place to learn. … You can’t find any better testers than the people in those arcades because they understand those issues very well.
“… You release a strong concept first and let it be beaten by users. What remains is something that has been polished and rounded on the corners and edges. That result is what you want to bring to the consumer world, it is our way. So yes, the arcade is a very important place for us and especially for this franchise.”
Harada said fighting games definitely went through a boom. He added that Tekken and Virtua Fighter ruled the roost during Street Fighter’s long silences, but Yoshinori Ono studied Tekken before embarking on Street Fighter IV.
“Fighting games are very severe as half of the players will loose automatically. SFIII was almost bringing that to 80 per cent. It was seen as the best 2D fighting could offer but it was very much exclusive to a few.
“… That’s why when SFIV came out, it wasn’t the continuation of SFIII, it went back to good old SFII. Ono-san told me that during those ten years of silence, he studied Tekken to understand the reason for its popularity. So he realized that [Street Fighter] needed to be simpler, to leave an open door to new users. That is why SFIV is so successful today.”
As for the future of the series, Harada is optimistic; while commenting that “Americans are quite good at Street Fighter while Europeans are better at Tekken”, the producer confirmed the series has a strong user base outside its home territory.
“The fact is Tekken is gaining lots of popularity outside of Japan today. I think 90 per cent of our users are outside the country.”
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is the next entry in the series, and direct sequel to the 2000 PS2 original. It uses a new engine developed since Tekken 6, and will release on networked cabinets in Japanese arcades this summer, with console and international releases to be confirmed but expected.