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FEATURE: Game maker Capcom's head takes on wine-making in California

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 3:04 PM

TOKYO, Mar. 24, 2009 (Kyodo News International) -- Kenzo Tsujimoto, founder and chairman of Japanese game maker Capcom Co., sees similarities in managing the game business, including the development of blockbuster titles like Biohazard, and one of his recent interests -- wine-making.

The keys to nurturing good games and wines are ''exactly the same,'' Tsujimoto said in a recent interview, as his private business passed a significant milestone last year with the launch of the first vintage of wine made at his winery in Napa, California.

The first shipment -- 600 boxes of a wine selection -- sold out quickly on an order basis, with buyers including upscale restaurants like Michelin three-starred Japanese restaurant Koju in Tokyo's Ginza district.

Just as talented game creators are essential for hit games, good ''terroir'' or special characteristics that geography bestows upon wine such as a vineyard's soil and weather conditions, as well as quality personnel, are crucial for wine-making, said Tsujimoto.

He joined hands with prominent winemaker Heidi Barrett and vineyard manager David Abreu to make the wine, for which Tsujimoto spent a total of 10 billion yen, or about $100 million, of his own money.

''Creating the right environment, nurturing top-class quality and making utmost efforts to do your best with the hardware, or terroir. This is management and the only thing I can do,'' said the 68-year-old Tsujimoto, who nurtured Capcom into an enterprise with an annual revenue of over 80 billion yen, about $800 million, in one generation.

After graduating from a Nara high school in western Japan, Tsujimoto developed his early career in the wholesale business for small food retailers, but changed jobs after feeling the approach of supermarkets was affecting the business. He left his hometown to move to Osaka and jumped into the entertainment industry.

Tsujimoto began leasing games imported from the United States and Europe, such as pinball machines, to small candy stores. Later he engaged in the business of Invaders computer games and enjoyed their huge boom in Japan in the late 1970s.

''Video games went over big, and the transition from analog to digital took place...and Japan was strong at it, and took its turn selling (digital games) to the United States and Europe,'' he said.

In 1983, when Tsujimoto was 42, he set up Capcom, which later introduced blockbuster game titles including the Street Fighter battle game and the Biohazard survival horror game. Biohazard was made into a Hollywood film starring actress Milla Jovovich.

The firm's most recent big hit is Monster Hunter, an action roll-playing game that allows the player to team up with up to three other hunters online to take down monsters.

In 1990, a U.S.


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