There's an air of secrecy as Comcept's PR staffer shows us around Keiji Inafune's new digs in Shinagawa, one of Tokyo's many bustling business districts. "Not many people have seen inside," she says. The last time we visited Comcept (and sister companies Intercept and Ding) back in January, Inafune - the brains behind Mega Man and Dead Rising - had a staff of 20 in a rented office on the, er, less good side of Shinagawa.
"There are about 25 of us now," he says. "We've got a bit bigger, but those are mostly support staff, working on things like web design and so on." Inafune also has an office in his native Osaka, but he spends about four days a week in the Shinagawa office. The main bulk of the tenth-floor space is split into two separate rooms, with Comcept and Intercept on one side, working diligently on Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, Soul Sacrifice and countless other Inafune concepts, and mobile developer Ding on the other.
Between them is Inafune's office, kitted out with a desk ("I hardly ever sit at my desk - I'm always walking around, talking to people"), a PC ("I pretty much only use it to check Yahoo! Auctions") and a half-empty bookcase that holds what looks like a small shrine to Inafune himself, including a couple of hand fans decorated with his face ("Someone made that for me!").
THE IDEAS FACTORY
In the reception room, near the elevator, a TV screen shows an endless loop of trailers for Yaiba and 3DS game KAIO: King Of Pirates. A display case holds framed artwork for some of Comcept's games - including J.J. Rockets, a smartphone game made by many of the Mega Man team - and Inafune's four books. The first three are business inspiration books (How To Make A Megahit Product 100 Million People Will Buy, and so on), while the supernatural murder-mystery novel REM is written by Mizuru Nito and based on an Inafune concept that could just as easily have become a game instead.
"It's a great building," says Inafune, taking in the curved walls and bright strip lighting. "Also, it's a two-minute walk from Sony." Comcept does not operate a full development studio. Instead it farms out concepts to other developers, one of which is Sony (on Soul Sacrifice). Ninja-zombie scrapper Yaiba, meanwhile, is being made in collaboration with Team Ninja in Tokyo and Lost Planet 3 dev Spark Unlimited in California. Shortly before our visit, he'd been to see them. "I helped bring a lot of Western developers on board when I was at Capcom, and when I left, so did many of those developers," says Inafune. "Spark Unlimited were one of the few that stuck around, which to me proved their resilience."
As for the secret details of Yaiba, Inafune is painting in broad strokes. "Yaiba will feature slow shambling zombies and also fast ones. But it's not just zombies; there are ninjas and mechs too. It'll be as satisfying to play as a Ninja game, but like in Left 4 Dead there will be all kinds of zombies. I only want to make games that are original, and if it can be original while also featuring well-known IP like Ninja Gaiden, that's even better."