In our Western Capcom offices, we are often asked for a status update on the possibilities of Monster Hunter Frontier (an online PC multiplayer version of our popular Monster Hunter series) coming to our territories and to this point, we’ve been somewhat vague in our answers. So it’s not surprising that in our Ask Capcom forums , we received more passionate requests for information from a fan . Given that I’m sure there are others who also want this information, I thought a blog post might be appropriate. My response follows: There are many factors that go into the decision and process of bringing a game to the West, but in the case of Monster Hunter Frontier, there are considerably more factors than a typical project. Here are just a few of the issues we’re continuing to wrestle with in on MHF.
Proper Prep and Resources
As it stands today, we (the US office) have no in-game support capabilities of the scale that would be required for Frontier. That would mean hiring probably at least three people full time dedicated to in-game support and getting some out-of-house overseas off hours assistance as well. It would also require additional marketing and PR support as we have no excess bandwidth to accommodate a product of this scope and scale on top of our current loads (and do it any justice).
At the same time, we have no permission for additional headcount at the moment. We have no server infrastructure in the West, so that would mean finding hosts and either renting infrastructure or buying it. There’s also additional headcount needed for the oversight of said infrastructure, see above for my headcount issues. On the financial side, we’d need to build financial systems that could accommodate the transactions needed Stateside. The transactional systems used in Japan are not the same as here and thus there’s additional development needed to make that happen. We’d probably need someone in our finance department who understands how said systems work… which could mean more headcount.
Today we have none of those things. All of those factors have significant impact on the bottom line (either as a cut of revenues or as an up front/long term investment). If we had more than one game of this nature to bring over at the same time, the economies of scale in terms of support needs and infrastructure would be beneficial. As it stands today, that’s not an option either.
Looking at the other side of the equation
In Japan, the team has no bandwidth to localize the game for the near term. I’ve said this numerous times on the Ask Capcom forum despite the fact I know you fans don’t want to hear it. It has not changed and likely won’t for the near term as they are continuously creating new content. So even if we had the above issues rectified, there’s no time soon that it would be coming Westward. Also, please note, the MHF team in Tokyo is not the same as the Freedom2/Tri team in Osaka. They are completely separate at this point. Lastly, there are a couple issues I have with the game at the moment, because it doesn’t do a few things that most Western online games do that you guys probably aren’t even aware of. I can’t get into what those things are right now but I suspect that the diehard MH fans will be forgiving, newcomers to the series (especially PC gamers who are used to other online RPGs), probably less so. Unfortunately, the fiscal viability for the project is dependent upon attracting newcomers on top of the loyal MH core fans so this is an important factor. This might get fixed over time but for the moment, the Japanese audience isn’t nearly as discerning about the issue or two I’m referring to (because PC gaming is almost non-existent in Japan unlike in the West).
Harder Than it Looks
Suffice to say, this is not a “spend $750K localizing, $500K on cost of goods and $500K on marketing, ship it and you’re done” type of project the way many of you are making it out to be.
It’s a multi-million, multi-year commitment to effectively launch a new business unit in the West. It would be the launching of service, not a product and we don’t intend to undertake any such venture in a haphazard fashion (the fallout would be legendary if we did).Which brings me to my last point.
The resources Japan has dedicated to MHF are considerable. They are indeed part of an entirely new business unit for that territory (called our Online Business Unit). They are the tip of the sword. We are not and it will take some time before we are able to allocate/get approved the necessary resources. For fans, that’s the unfortuante reality.
Give Up Hope?
Now, all of that said, does that mean Frontier isn’t coming Westward some day? No, it doesn’t . I’ve always said we’d be revisiting those decisions in 2008 (and the ultimate decision could wind up being to “talk about it again in 2009 if things aren’t aligned properly in 2008”).
If we’re just making a decision about potentially committing resources in 2008, even if it does happen it’s far enough away that you probably don’t need to be thinking about it any time soon.
On top of all of this, there’s the overarching brand strategy to consider. We need to grow the Monster Hunter brand on other platforms in the West before there’s a proper audience for Frontier here. Our Western management group has been charged by the powers-that-be in Japan with growing the MH brand as a strategic initiative for the company.
Please note, there are things in motion that I’m optimistic will allow for this to happen. When it does, you will see the appropriate financial commitment from our office. But also please be aware, these also aren’t any time in the immediate future. As I have been doing for a couple years, I am requesting your continued patience and commitment to MH.