Gaming

Why Katsuhiro Harada Wishes He Was Working on Project L

When it comes to a long-standing series like Tekken, the goal is always to surpass previous installments by introducing enough changes while still maintaining familiarity. That’s precisely what director Katsuhiro Harada and producer Michael Murray shared with me during our conversation at this year’s Evo.

In our discussion, we delved into Tekken’s place in the gaming industry and its status as one of the most beloved fighting game series. However, despite its popularity, Tekken has become a significant source of stress for its creators. Nevertheless, Harada remains confident that the upcoming Tekken 8 will reign supreme, even with the daunting task of surpassing Tekken 7’s remarkable sales.

Redefining the Legacy

“The game’s goal is difficult to define,” Harada revealed to Digital Trends. “However, the toughest challenge from a business perspective is surpassing Tekken 7’s 10 million copies sold. We aim to take everything we accomplished with that game and exceed it by 130%.”

Michael Murray chimed in, expressing a similar sentiment. “I want more people to experience Tekken, just like how everyone knows Lara Croft. I want the series to become more accessible through various avenues, such as merchandise, anime adaptations like the recent Tekken release, and more.”

Attracting new players is crucial, although it may seem easy for a gaming giant like Tekken. However, there remains an ongoing mission to break down the barriers to entry typically associated with fighting games. I asked Harada how Tekken 8 plans to make the learning curve less intimidating for newcomers.

King flexing his muscles in Tekken 8
Image courtesy of Bandai Namco

“I personally don’t believe that Tekken is the most challenging fighting game to pick up,” Harada argued. “There are many other fighters out there that are considerably more difficult, albeit with a smaller audience. Tekken doesn’t have the same entry barriers, and our emphasis is on creating a pick-up-and-play experience. However, like any fighter, becoming the best requires time and dedication.”

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Murray humorously added, “There’s also this elitist mentality surrounding Tekken. Many players believe that playing Tekken makes them better than others, although that’s not necessarily the case.”

Azucena holding a coffee mug in Tekken 8
Image courtesy of Bandai Namco

Embracing the Future of Free-to-Play

As we discussed the team’s plans, Harada threw me a curveball by asking how Tekken could attract more casual players. Personally, I believed that a series like Tekken, with its rich legacy and modern appeal, didn’t need to worry too much about that aspect. However, Harada shook his head and introduced one key term into the conversation: free-to-play.

“That’s why I’m so intrigued by Riot’s Project L,” Harada disclosed. “It combines a well-known IP with a free-to-play model, which is a recipe for success. Additionally, American players love the Marvel vs Capcom-esque formula. However, what interests me most is the business formula and how they will monetize the game. While fighting games can sell characters, once players have bought their main character, that’s it. I wish I could be a temporary Riot employee just to find out.”

Murray, on the other hand, expressed a more skeptical view of free-to-play models as the ultimate solution for fighting games. He pointed out that while these models might initially attract players, they often struggle to retain them in the long run. Murray cited the example of the delisted game Multiversus, which experienced a drop-off in player numbers after the initial excitement.

“When we released Tekken Revolution on the PlayStation 3 as a free-to-play title, we learned that consoles, at that time, were not the ideal platform for this model,” Murray admitted. “Had we released it on PC, the outcome might have been different. Console players, regardless of cost, preferred the complete package.”

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Murray added, “Interestingly, the release of Revolution actually led to a surge in sales for the other full-priced Tekken games.”

Nina Kicking Paul in Tekken 8
Image courtesy of Bandai Namco

Constant Evolution and Mainstream Appeal

While many fighting games struggle to break out of their niche markets, Tekken, along with Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, stands as a massive outlier in terms of mainstream appeal. When asked about this phenomenon, Murray attributed it to Tekken’s ability to adapt to the ever-changing gaming landscape.

“We continually update the game to keep up with the times,” Murray declared. “While the gameplay is undeniably enjoyable, a game cannot thrive on that alone. Tekken’s success stemmed from its release on the PlayStation One, where it showcased a new world of 3D fighting with polygon models. This trend continues today, as Tekken consistently sets the benchmark for what’s next.”

Murray concluded, “Understanding our target consumers sets us apart. Not all of them are hardcore fighting game players. Some simply want to have fun with friends, enjoy the story mode, or play casually. With our style, features, and marketing, we consistently cater to this target audience.”

Tekken 8 is set to launch on January 26, 2024, for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Tekken 8 will kick off 2024; January release date revealed
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All Star Battle R is a great fighter, if you don’t play online

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