“Capcom was very good at squeezing people to the last drop of their blood to get work done.”
At least, according to Street Fighter IV producer, Yoshinori Ono.
Back in 2007, it seemed like Street Fighter was down and out. The series hadn’t seen a new installment since the excellent Street Fighter: New Generation, which despite being arguably the best game in the series’ history, was undone by a shrinking arcade market and a poor console port. Yoshinori Ono had worked on Street Fighter III, and during the years in which the series lay dormant, managed to work his way up to the role of producer. That’s when he started pitching ideas for Street Fighter IV – the game would that would push the fighting genre back into the limelight.
“I was working on Onimusha 4 and during that time I repeatedly submitted my proposal for a new Street Fighter,” he told Eurogamer. “The company kept telling me: ‘It’s a dead franchise. It doesn’t make any money. We have series that make money like Resident Evil and Onimusha. Why bother with a dead franchise?'”
Ono eventually managed to acquire a small budget to create a prototype, largely thanks to journalists and fans who “started making a lot of noise and pressuring Capcom,” this apparently being one of the rare occasions on which Capcom decided to listen to fans.
The work took its toll on Ono, however. The capering funnyman was rushed to hospital back in March. Ono puts his collapse down to the tight work schedule Capcom had him on. When the interviewer suggested Capcom had made him take a break, he responded: “Whoever told you that is lying. The situation is the complete opposite. Nobody told me to take a rest. When I returned to work, Capcom didn’t even acknowledge that I had been in hospital.”
“There was no change in my schedule,” he continued. “I was at home for an entire week before the doctors allowed me to return to work. When I returned to my desk there was a ticket to Rome waiting for me. There’s no mercy. Everyone in the company says: ‘Ono-san we’ve been so worried about you.’ Then they hand me a timetable and it’s completely filled with things to do.”
While he knows how to craft a solid fighter, Ono also serves as a kind of mascot for Capcom. He’s a funny, likable character working for a company that really needs as much good PR as it can get – a role Ono seems fairly comfortable in.
“Thankfully there’s no pressure,” he said. “I naturally like interacting with people, talking, laughing, I enjoy Twitter. People always write to me saying ‘Capcom sucks’ or ‘Ono sucks’ and so on. But there’s a positive in that criticism because it means that people care and are interested in what I am doing. And I do listen to the community and its suggestions. It’s not like they are going to stab me, right? As long as nobody stabs me I am happy to receive criticism.”