Tekken series producer Katsuhiro Harada has confirmed that his games will never offer paid-for character downloads, telling us fighting game characters are "like chess pieces" that are "essential [to] the game."
Speaking in the wake of the controversy surrounding Street Fighter X Tekken, which features a dozen DLC characters whose data is already present on the game disc, Harada stated that Namco would not follow a similar route with its own fighting game franchise.
"Tekken has never had DLC before and charged for it," he told us during Namco Bandai’s Global Gamer Day event in Las Vegas last week. "This isn’t really directed at Capcom, I have always said this, but I see the characters and their move sets as chess pieces – they are essential items necessary in the game and we would never sell any of those individually."
Harada was keen not to be seen as a critic of Capcom’s strategy, which has led to a storm of protests from fighting game fans. "It’s Capcom’s business decision, obviously," he said, "but I expect the reason they did that was, if one player bought a character that another player didn’t have, they would not be able to play against each other online.
"Each player needs to have the character data on their disc – if one doesn’t, they would need to download it before each match – and as that includes the character model, the data would be large, increasing the download time.
"I also wonder if it’s because the game has characters which are Vita-specific, and they wanted to make it so that owners would be able to use them on PS3 as well."
Harada's thinking is in line with Capcom's official response to the controversy, sparked when hackers found the 12 additional characters on the Street Fighter X Tekken disc shortly after its release last month. Street Fighter producer Yoshinori Ono said the data was on the disc "to save hard drive space, and to ensure a smooth transition when DLC is available."
Importantly, however, Harada has not entirely ruled out paid DLC in the Tekken series, though he says it would only be used for vanity items. "There are some strange people on Twitter who ask for really peculiar items like bikini suits for Lee Chaolan," he told us. "Obviously, we wouldn’t have had that in our original development plan, so if we were going to do it, we’d need to create it right now, without a budget – obviously we’d have to charge a little bit for such items."
Harada also said that characters could be made available early as pre-order incentives, but stressed that they would be free to other players and unlocked in the natural course of playing the game. But as for characters or items offering a competitive advantage, it seems, Namco’s position is final: no paid-for downloads. "I was saying this before the Capcom thing happened," Harada insisted. "My stance hasn’t changed."