Q&A: Capcom's Minae Matsukawa On Producing Phoenix Wright In A Man's World / Gamasutra

November 5, 2007

Earlier this year, Gamasutra spoke to Capcom's Minae Matsukawa, producer of the cult-popular Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series for DS. In her six years with the company, Matsukawa's past Capcom projects began with Breath of Fire V, and also include the Magical Quest series, the Street Fighter games, and the Darkstalkers game for PSP.

Matsukawa discussed being a female game developer in Japan, even more a rarity than in the U.S., and how the Phoenix Wright games found equal success on two very different shores.

Have you always been a producer?

I started off as an assistant or associate producer, and then once I got to Vampire Chronicle -- Darkstalkers for PSP -- that's when I became a full-fledged producer.

What is it like from your experience, being a female game developer in Japan? There aren't very many.

Yes, you're very right. I'm the only female producer at Capcom, and I personally don't know any other female producers in Japan. There's a lot of very difficult game positions in game development, but producer is one of the hardest, so I don't really understand why I decided to become a producer myself.

Why did you decide to, and why in games?

Actually, before I started at Capcom, I was working on different concepts for games for mobile phones. When I was just working on that on my own, just to get into that -- it was a fledgling industry back then -- I decided to apply at Capcom, and they ended up putting me in as producer.

Were you with a company at the time, or was that on your own?

I worked at a security company... I worked at Nintendo, and in the IT and online game distribution department. That's when I started to get into trying to do mobile phone games and applied at Capcom.

What made you decide to get into games?

I've been around different jobs. Some were in just a regular office, and [also] security... It was kind of boring and mundane, so I wanted to give another try at what I really like to do, which is games. That's where that came from.

Why do you think there aren't more female developers in Japan?

Are there many in America?

Not as many as males, but a lot more females in development in America than in Japan.

I'm not really sure if I should say this, but maybe it's because at least in Japan, as far as the imagination process...mentally and physically, women hadn't grown up thinking of having careers until retirement. You have that, and just the business of making games is sort of tough, with long hours -- even longer than regular companies. And also men think more about games on console than on handhelds. That's how it's been for a long time. It's a very tough job. Even looking at that, if you look at our sales and marketing, there are lots of women on that side. So they seem to be getting somewhere on that side over there.

That's always true in America as well. There's a lot more females on the marketing and PR side. I wonder if the Wii and the DS might not actually inspire more women to think that they could actually have that as a career -- obviously the market is much more skewing that way.

I started getting into games about ten years ago, and there weren't a lot of girls playing games back then. It was mainly the boys. I was kind of a rare case. Like you said with the DS and the Wii, maybe ten or fifteen or twenty years from now, we'll start to see more women game creators that have been inspired by the things Nintendo is doing.

I hope so. There are only a few female game creators you can point to in Japan. There's Rieko Kodama at Sega, and some other people at Sega on the Feel the Magic team, and some people at Koei. But other than that, there's very few. I mean like designers and artists.

I think there are starting to be more women in game creation -- not producing. For example, for Ace Attorney 4, one of the three character designers is female, and we have a lot of female background artists. Overall in Capcom, there are a lot of women game designers and artists.

I think there should be more, because we need to get other perspectives and experiences. Were you at all surprised by the success of the game in the U.S.? It seems to have kind of revitalized the adventure game genre here.

It's not really an adventure game, but I'm very glad to give people like you and the reviewers and the fans who love the game... it makes me inspired to keep making the game as good as it can be. It's very good to hear, that support. I don't know if it directly led to the revitalizing of adventure games, but that's great to hear.

If you don't consider it an adventure game, what type of game is it?

In Japan, we're just calling it a courtroom battle game. You're not just reading text, but you're interviewing and questioning witnesses and working with evidence. I don't really see it as a straight adventure game. It's kind of a genre of its own, I guess.

Are there any lawyers on the team?

No, we don't have any lawyers on the team. We just make everything up as we go along. But two years ago when we came to Comic-Con, it was one of the first ones out here we had on display. We didn't know how fans would react. There was a kid, about ten or twelve or so, and he was very interested in the game. He said, "My dad's a lawyer. I think this game will be really cool and I think it's going to sell really well." So that really inspired me to think that maybe there is a chance that people will like it here.

Why is it that the game has always been dual-language in Japan? What is the reasoning there?

Once we localized the first game, the localization team was really proud that we had this very polished product, so instead of just giving it to America, people in Europe, and everywhere else, we wanted to have Japanese people be able to enjoy it and see how fun it is in English. As you probably know, there's lots of people studying English, and we thought maybe Japanese people will play it.

Was that an extra selling point for it?

Very much so.

It was also great for people in the West who wanted to import it early!

Capcom's USA side has to say, "If you can put English in it, don't do it before you give us our game." They kind of yell at me sometimes about that.

But at the same time, when they send out review copies, they send out Japanese boxed copies. So, did you get to work with Inaba and Mikami?

They had the whip going on for the first game. They had some advice and support, because they were the big producers and I was up-and-coming, and they helped me out a lot.

They wrote a lot of the scenario too, right?

Actually, the scenario was written by Shu Takumi for all of the games, including Ace Attorney 4.

How was it working with Inaba and Mikami?

I wasn't very experienced at the time when I was starting. They had already made lots of games. They were always very nice and very kind, and gave lots of advice and suggestions and helped me out.

Was it intimidating at all?

It wasn't really intimidating at all. They're very laid back, and are very nice all the time. When we put Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney on the DS, that was kind of my big break into making bigger games. We were going to add in new content a little bit. Not pressure, so it was an easy step up for me, and I was very glad to get the chance to work on something that became such a big hit with fans.

POSTED: 06.18AM PST, 11/05/07 - Brandon Sheffield


Gamasutra あなたは、今までずっとプロデューサーとして働いていましたか?

松川 私はアシスタントや、プロデューサーに関連したポジションからスタートしました。そして、ヴァンパイアクロニクル(海外タイトルはDarkstalkers、PSPのソフト)でプロデューサーを初めてつとめました。

Gamasutra 日本には、あなたのような女性のゲームプロデューサーはいますか? あまり多くないようですが。

松川 はい。私はカプコンで唯一の女性プロデューサーです。そして、私には日本に他の女性プロデューサーの知り合いがいません。ゲームの開発においてプロデューサーは一番ハードな部類のひとつですが、私は未だに何故プロデューサーになることを決めたのかわかっていません。

Gamasutra 今の職業をどのように決めましたか? 何故ゲーム業界なのですか?

松川 私はカプコンに入社する前、携帯電話のゲーム開発という、今までとは異なった概念の仕事に取り組んでいました。そのころはまだ未熟な市場でした。その頃にカプコンに応募し、採用されました。

Gamasutra その頃はどの会社にいましたか? それとも独立していましたか?

松川 警備会社で働いた後、任天堂のITおよびオンラインゲーム部で働きました。その頃カプコンに応募しました。

Gamasutra 何が、あなたをゲーム業界に入ることに決めさせましたか?

松川 それまでの仕事は退屈と平凡でしたので、別にしてみたかったこと、本当にしてみたいことをすることにしました。それがゲームでした。

Gamasutra 何故、女性プロデューサーが日本には少ないのでしょうか?

松川 アメリカにはたくさんいるのですか?

Gamasutra 男性ほどではありませんが、日本よりはアメリカの方が女性プロデューサーが多いです。

松川 想像するに、おそらく、日本では定年まで仕事をする上で、精神的にも体力的にも、女性はゲーム開発という仕事には未熟なのではないでしょうか。マーケティングなどには女性が多いです。

Gamasutra それはアメリカでも同じです。マーケティングや広報の仕事は女性が多いです。WiiとDSはより女性ユーザーを増やしていて、市場は変わりつつあります。

松川 私は10年ほど前にゲームにハマりましたが、その頃はまだゲームをする女の子は少なかったです。主なユーザーは男の子でした。私は希なケースでした。あなたの言うとおり、10年か20年もしたら、WiiやDSのおかげで女性のゲーム開発者が増えるでしょう。

Gamasutra そう願っています。日本にはわずかなプロデューサーしかいません。セガの小玉理恵子氏(古くはファンタシースターのデザイナー、エターナルアルカディア等のプロデューサー)や、セガの「きみしね」チーム、後はコーエーに少しいる位です。しかしそれをのぞくと極めて少ない。後はデザイナーくらいです。

松川 プロデューサーではなくクリエイターに女性が増え始めていると思います。例えば、逆転裁判4では、女性デザイナーが3人のキャラクターを担当していますし、背景を描く女性スタッフはたくさんいます。カプコンには、多くの女性デザイナーがいます。

Gamasutra あなたは、アメリカでの逆転裁判シリーズの成功に驚きましたか? これによって、アドベンチャーゲームを少し蘇らせたように見えますが。

松川 私は逆転裁判がアドベンチャーゲームとは思っていませんが、ゲームが非常に好きなあなた、評論家、およびファンのみなさんに逆転裁判をプレイしてもらえて、非常にうれしいです。もっと良いゲームを創ろうという気持ちにさせてくれます。逆転裁判が直接アドベンチャーゲームを生き返らせたのかどうかはわかりませんが、すばらしいことです。

Gamasutra アドベンチャーゲームでないというのなら、どのようなタイプのゲームなのですか?

松川 日本では、法廷バトルと呼んでいます。テキストを読むだけではなく、証人と会い、対決しています。私はそれを単にアドベンチャーゲームとは思いません。独自のジャンルであると思っています。

Gamasutra 開発チームには弁護士はいますか?

松川 いいえ、弁護士はひとりもいません。しかし、2年前、私たちがComic-Conに行ったときに、10歳か12歳くらいの少年がこのゲームに興味を持ってくれて、「僕の父は弁護士です。このゲームはきっと売れると思う」と言ってくれました。

Gamasutra 日本版では英語版と日本語版の2つが収録されているのは何故ですか?

(答え省略。MTV Multiplayer参照)

Gamasutra 英語版はセールスポイントだった?

松川 そうですね。

Gamasutra 海外でいち早く輸入してプレイしたかった人たちのためにも大きなポイントでした!

松川 カプコンUSAには、英語版を入れるなら、その前にこっち(北米版)を出させてくれと言われます。

Gamasutra あなたは稲葉氏と三上氏と仕事をしたことがありますか?

松川 彼らは最初のシリーズでの決定権を持っていました。彼らからは忠告とサポートがありました。私のことをたいへん援助してくれました。

Gamasutra 彼らはシナリオも書いたのですか?

松川 いいえ、4作目まで全て、巧舟が書きました。

Gamasutra 稲葉氏と三上氏はどのような仕事をしたのですか?

松川 私が仕事を始めたとき、私にはあまり経験がありませんでしたが、彼らはたくさんのゲームを手がけていました。彼らは非常に素晴らしく、とても親切で、たくさんのアドバイスと提案をしてくれました。

Gamasutra 威圧的なことはなかった?

松川 そのようなことはありません。彼らはDSで逆転裁判をリリースする際に、素晴らしいバックアップをしてくれました。私たちは新しい内容を加える予定でした。ステップアップの機会になり、ファンのみなさんと一緒に大きなヒットとなって喜んでいます。