While Yoshinori Ono has become a divisive figure in the fighting game community, for many years he has been revered as the man who revitalized Street Fighter with his big personality and even bigger ideas.
Longtime Tekken director Katsuhiro Harada and Evo director of business development MarkMan Julio recently spoke about their first impressions after meeting the former Street Fighter producer and how some of his ideas made FGC what it is today.
In the latest episode of Harada’s Bar, Ono’s friendly rival MarkMan asks what he thought of meeting the developer when Street Fighter 4 came out, and shares his own humorous story of meeting each other.
“I had met [Ono] a few times before, but the first time I spoke to him, I literally thought he was drunk or something,” Harada said. “However, after a while I noticed that he doesn’t drink alcohol at all…Let’s say the 3 major vices are drinking, sharing and seducing, but he doesn’t do any.”
Harada clearly seems to be referring to drug use in the censored part, but he doesn’t want to blame his friend for it, even if it’s just a joke.
However, MarkMan speaks a little differently about his early days with Ono, when he worked at Mad Catz and designed their arcade sticks and other hardware.
“I think my first impression of Ono-san is that he had a lot of wild ideas to grow the Street Fighter brand,” said MarkMan. “A lot of what we’ve done at Mad Catz to support community ideas came from Ono-san.
So he was the one who actually recommended us to sponsor a player like Daigo Umehara-san. He was the first player Mad Catz sponsored and I think that made big news and changed the mentality of professional players in Japan and how it was perceived around the world.”
It’s fascinating to hear that well over a decade ago Ono was at least partially responsible for bringing larger and player-specific sponsorships into the FGC, which over the years has of course led to many/most pro players taking support from eSports teams receive All sizes.
How you feel about the current competitive FGC scene is up to you, but this shift has allowed more players to travel the world frequently and given them opportunities to pursue fighting games as a career that didn’t really exist on the player side of the game industry before.
Ono was held in high esteem by fans for years, not only for what his team accomplished with Street Fighter 4, but also for Capcom’s initial push to get back into fighting games with Marvel vs. Capcom and Darkstalkers.
Unfortunately, his public perception shifted over time as Capcom made major missteps with each of its major Fighter releases, beginning with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken, followed by the bumpy start of Street Fighter 5 and Marvel continued vs. Capcom: Infinite failure to make a splash.
How many of those decisions actually fall on Ono’s lap, however, what goes on behind the scenes will likely never be known.
Ono would announce his departure from Capcom in August 2020 amid rumors that Street Fighter 6 was facing internal development issues after 27 years with the company.
However, he bounced back almost immediately and became President of what is now Lasengle Inc., so he’s probably doing fine either way.
You can watch the full Harada’s Bar episode below, and the discussions surrounding Ono begin about 16 minutes into the video.
Image source: GameSpot.