As I noted in our review, Resident Evil 6 marks the end of the more action-oriented Resident Evil games that started with Resident Evil 4. Resident Evil 7 travels back farther in time, playing like a modern version of the first Resident Evil. According to Capcom, the change wasn't because RE6 wasn't a financially successful game. It's because after finishing the globally-spanning blockbuster plot of that title, the development team had nowhere else to go.
"From a business perspective, Resident Evil 6 was a success," Resident Evil 7 producer Masachika Kawata told GamesIndustry.biz in a lengthy interview. "But we had pushed that style of Resident Evil gameplay, with the big storyline and the hero characters, pretty much as far as we could. It was a blockbuster scale of game. That almost left us with no choice but to change the series in order to keep it alive, because where do you go after that size and scale of game?"
Since the last Resident Evil launched, Capcom's competition in the space has increased. There are other titles, including P.T., The Evil Within, Alien: Isolation, Outlast, and Amnesia that have changed the tastes of horror gaming fans. Kawata said the team was prepared to evolve to meet that challenge.
"The market for horror games has changed over the years, I suppose," said Kawata. "But Resident Evil has always been a series that keeps up, it isn't afraid to change the style of gameplay. We have evolved a lot over the years in order to meet the needs of the market and our fans. So although the situation with horror games is not the same as it was the last time we released a mainline title, we do still feel we can appeal to a lot of people, including hardcore horror fans. The fact that we have rival titles in the horror space is not a bad thing, because it only increases the market for horror games as a whole."
Some, like myself, worried that the shift back to horror-oriented games might affect the sales of the franchise's latest entry. The blockbuster action model is potentially more enticing to a wider audience than a tense, dark horror experience.
"Certainly if you compare the sales of Resident Evil 1, 2 and 3 as a unit [the more traditional horror games], and compare it to Resident Evil 4, 5 and 6 [which are more action-orientated], the sales were a lot higher on the more recent titles," added Kawata. "But that's not just because of the types of content, we have got better at selling our games. The market has got bigger as well. So just because we are going back to horror, I don't expect we will see a drop to historical levels. The whole company is behind this title and the horror approach, and I'm confident that we are going to do well with this one."
Resident Evil 7 is currently out on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC, with support for PlayStation VR. The full interview is over at GamesIndustry.biz and features a discussion with Kawata and Resident Evil 7 game director Koshi Nakanishi.