Cave CEO and president steps down as outlook darkens for shmup studio

The president and CEO of Japanese developer Cave has resigned his position.

Ito Masahito, who will be replaced as president by chairman of the board Kenichi Takano, becomes the second high-profile executive to quit the firm this year following the departure of COO Miko Watanabe in May.

It marks a dangerous development for the bullet hell shooter genre (or ‘shmup’), of which Cave is one of the last standing developers.

The company, however, has struggled to monetise its titles in an increasingly alien market.

Long gone are the days when Cave could release a title at full RRP and for it to earn a place for itself on retailer’s shelves. Although the genre survives to a certain extent in Japan, recent UK releases such as Deathsmiles, DoDonPachi resurrection and Akai Katana have struggled to gain traction. And that’s despite carrying discount RRPs.

After a seemingly failed experiment to distribute via Xbox Live Arcade in the form of obscure title Guwange, Cave had seemingly found greater success on iOS.

A host of titles released to critical acclaim, garnering decent sales. But this alone was not sufficient to sustain development. As a result Cave first tried dabbling in IAP with iOS title DoDonPachi Blissful Death, but the move was met with great hostility from the genre’s loyalists, for whom skill alone – and not spend – should be the differentiating factor between players.

Cave then changed its tactics, upping the price of its iOS releases fro 2.99 to a whopping 9.99.

And the indications are that this is not working either. Cave has scrapped plans to develop for the Vita, and currently has not got any planned console releases on the cards. How comitted it is to shooters remains up in the air.

It seems startling that a company whom for many is the sole developer of genre with as dedicated a following as the bullet hell shmup cannot find a business model that works. After all, we live in a time when the industry is more diverse than ever – from triple-A shooters to bedroom smartphone coders to thriving indies.

Cave’s inability to exploit this to its advantage could yet be its undoing.

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