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  <h1>Street Fighter II’s Creator Says Mobile Games Will Crush Consoles</h1>
  <h2>Wired Magazine</h2>
  <h3>By Chris Kohler 12.04.14 | 6:45 AM | Permalink</h3>
  <p>Yoshiki Okamoto has struck out more than once. But he’s not out of lives just yet.

<p>After getting fired from Konami in the 1980s, he joined Capcom and created the global megahit Street Fighter II in 1991. He bailed out of Capcom in 2003 to become one of the first—but far from the last—of Japan’s big-name game producers to launch an independent studio, Game Republic. It ballooned to 300 employees at its peak, but shuttered ignominiously in 2011, millions of dollars in debt.</p>

<p>“It became too big,” Okamoto said. “The business and content creation of anything for the console platform became just kind of overwhelming. It wasn’t at a level anymore where I could gather my friends and create something.”</p>

<p>Now, Okamoto is working with the popular Japanese social messaging service Mixi on Monster Strike, a quirky combination of billiards and Pokemon. And he says he’d put it up against anything on consoles.</p>

<p>“Pick out a PlayStation 4 game, and bring them both in front of people and say, which was the most fun? Which provided the most excitement? Which was the most exhilarating? Which one are you going to come back to immediately? I’m 100 percent confident that this game will actually win over a lot of the console games.”</p>

<p>This may be braggadocio, but Monster Strike is pretty fun. You collect different monsters that appear as balls on a playfield. Wind them up and bounce them around to reflect off the walls and bounce into the weak points of enemy balls. The monsters you collect will have different powers, such as the ability to go straight through opponents instead of ricocheting off of them.</p>

<p>The simple gameplay, Okamoto says, goes back to the roots of 8- and 16-bit game design—that is, back when his games were king.</p>

<p>Okamoto says he’s always been ahead of the curve in believing that mobile devices are the future. Not always in a good way.</p>

<p>“I have been working without a PC or a computer for about 12 or 13 years,” he says. Right around the time he left Capcom and founded Game Republic, he decided to just stop using PCs altogether. “I was commuting by shinkansen a lot,” he said. He’d use his phone for so much business communication and gaming while on the bullet train, and he believed that cell phones were getting so amazing and convenient that they were sure to destroy the PC market. So why not switch over before anyone else did?</p>

<p>“Everyone got frustrated,” Okamoto said. The boss of one of the biggest independent game studios in Japan refused to use a computer. He’d write out all of his game design documents in (impeccably neat, at least) paper notebooks. He’d walk over to subordinates and ask them to print files for him, or do any other task he couldn’t accomplish with a mid-2000’s Japanese flip phone.</p>

<p>“Fast forward 12 years, and now my notebook is heavier than everyone’s laptop,” he says. “I admit that it might be good timing for me to switch back, but it’s too late for me. It would be embarrassing.” Tablets, he says, count as mobile devices, so Okamoto feels he can use an iPad at work today without losing face.</p>

<p>“I want to be ahead of everyone else. So I’ve been making these big steps,” he says. “But every time I’ve made those big steps, I feel like I’ve made them a little too early, a little too soon, so I feel like I’ve failed a few times here and there.”</p>

<p>Okamoto is quick to stress that he isn’t just bandwagoning the iPhone free-to-play gold rush. He created a mobile game called Dragon Hunter for Japanese feature phones. Of course, since those pre-iPhone platforms never made it outside of Japan, his game was stuck there, too, which was painful for the creator of one of the first global game phenomenons in Street Fighter II: “I felt like, no one outside of Japan is going to be able to see my game. How can I correct this?”</p>

<p>“I do feel that maybe i was a little too early for that time, because feature phones never made it outside of Japan. But i know that the future is in the mobile phone market, so that’s where I’m headed,” he says. “There was a time when all these big film actors in Japan started to migrate over into TV, and us as viewers [were] upset—no, this is my movie star, my movie idol. But they were smart in making that move to becoming actors on the small box, because now they’re the biggest TV actors we have. I see a similar movement or shift with mobile vs. console.”</p>

<p>“YouTube celebrities are even more famous than actors, in our day,” chimes in Monster Strike’s producer Koki Kimura. Formerly an account manager for Mixi’s social messaging service, he recruited Okamoto to design this game, Mixi’s first original title and his first as producer.</p>

<p>“Street Fighter is also a form of communication-slash-entertainment,” Kimura says by way of explaining Mixi’s interest in making social games. People would make friends gathering around the arcade machines. “You can gather around a community around the game, and that becomes a communication platform itself.”</p>

<p>“Right now places in like homes, the household itself is becoming its own mini-arcade. You see people gathering at lunch time, or on the train, or just as you get off the train, people are trying to hook up with people nearby. It’s kind of like mobile mini-arcade centers popping up everywhere.”</p>
  <h2>“We can’t do anything about being categorized as a free-to-play or freemium game.”</h2>

<p>Monster Strike encourages this behavior by letting you team up with other players, not only across your online friends list but those you happen to be geographically proximal to—fellow train riders, perhaps. While it’s more likely that such a thing would take place on the crowded, sprawling public transit lines of Tokyo, Mixi says that there has been a significant proportion of multiplayer matches happening this way in U.S. cities as well.</p>

<p>WIRED spoke with Okamoto and Kimura days after South Park aired an episode skewering the business of free-to-play mobile games. Were they worried that there would be a backlash against freemium games, of which Monster Strike is one?</p>

<p>“We can’t do anything about being categorized as a free-to-play or freemium game,” said Kimura. “In this day and age, going with free is just the clever approach of providing content so it reaches as many users as possible.”</p>

<p>Monster Strike’s approach to getting users to spend money differs from that of other games, Kimura says. “You can’t get the strongest character in Monster Strike by paying,” he says. “Nor does paying get you to 10 levels beyond where you were before you paid.” Skill should get you further than money, Kimura says.</p>

<p>Like many games, Monster Strike gives you the option of paying to extend your health if you die just before finishing a level. (Cynics might argue that the levels are designed so that you tend to fail when you’re tantalizingly close to the end.) But in a Monster Strike game, one player can pay to help out the entire group of players. Like buying your friends that last round of drinks.</p>

<p>“Depending on which gamer you talk to, everyone has a… preconceived notion of what a free-to-play game is,” says Okamoto. “They only have one opinion, and that’s it. They don’t know that… there’s so many different genres, play styles, etc. And so yes, I am worried in that sense that I would hate for anyone to… just walk away without even trying.”</p>

<p>“To come up with something brand new out of nowhere is not something that the console market, that developers, can even challenge themselves to do these days,” says Kimura. “Yes, it is true that the money is flowing into our market. That gives us increasing opportunities to try something new.”</p>


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