Yoshinori Ono risks health for Street Fighter and had no support from CapcomPosted 10:19 am on Monday, June 11th, 2012 by John 'Spartan' Nguyen
When Street Fighter IV came out, it revitalized the 2D fighting game market for the current generation. The many different Street Fighter IV games have gone to sell over 6.4 million copies. The Street Fighter IV series is still my preferred fighting game this generation. The man responsible for bringing the franchise back is Yoshinori Ono.
Capcom did not believe that they should be spending a dime on bringing back Street Fighter, but Ono-san believed.
“The company kept telling me: ‘It’s a dead franchise. It doesn’t make any money,” says Ono. “‘We have series that make money like Resident Evil and Onimusha. Why bother with a dead franchise?’”
The fans and journalists were pressuring Capcom to make a new Street Fighter game, and Ono-san took it upon himself to make it happen and to please the community.
“Eventually I was given a small budget to create a prototype. That wasn’t really down to me pestering my superiors so much as all of the journalists and fans started making a lot of noise and pressuring Capcom. This was a strategic plot on my part. I had been asking all the journalists to make noise about the series when out and about.”
“I would always tell them that it was their responsibility to tell Capcom, not me as I don’t have the power. Journalists and fans have the power to move Capcom – not producers. With so many voices crying out for a Street Fighter game Capcom could no longer ignore it any more and so they gave the green light for a prototype and they asked me to create it. It’s a miracle that happened after a decade…”
It was the community that fueled his passion to completing the game.
“What fuels my passion is the community. In my philosophy, Street Fighter is a game, but really it’s a tool. It’s like playing cards or chess or tennis: it’s really about the people. Once you know the rules it’s up to the players to put themselves in the game, to choose the nuance of how they play and express themselves. I think fighting games flourish because it was this social game. If it had been a purely single-player thing, it would never have grown so popular.”
Even from the beginning and end of the project, a lot of people at Capcom still had doubts and fears.
“Until the day of release, Street Fighter 4 was an unwanted child. Everyone in the company kept telling me: ‘Ono-san, seriously why are you persisting with this? You are using so much money, budget and resources. Why don’t we use it on something else, something that will make money?’ No-one had the intention of selling it, so I had virtually no help from other departments – they were all reluctant, right up to the day of release.”
It was Street Fighter that brought him to gaming glory, and it was also Street Fighter that had him hospitalized due to overworking.
“I woke up and walked to the bathroom,” Ono says of the morning after his return from the Street Fighter X Tekken trip. “When I opened the door the room was abnormally steamy. Stranger still: the steam was rising. It kept rising, up and up, and I didn’t understand what was going on. It was like I was suffocating. Then, when the steam reached my head level I passed out cold and collapsed onto the tiles.”
“My wife was at home and heard the crash. Later she told me that she ran into the bathroom. There was no steam, just my body on the floor. She called an ambulance and I was rushed to hospital. When I came to, the doctor told me that my blood acidity level was on par with someone who had just finished running a marathon. He asked me: ‘Ono-san, what on earth you been up to?’ I told him that I woke up, went for a bath and simply passed out. He didn’t believe me. I guess I have been working too hard. You could say my health bar was on the dot.”
And when he came to, did Capcom worry about him? No, the company wanted him to continue where he left off.
“There was no change in my schedule. 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.”
John “Spartan” Nguyen is the editor-in-chief at Nerd Reactor and is based in Orange County, CA. He is a graphic designer and illustrator.