While Yoshinori Ono has become something of a divisive figure in the fighting game community, he was for many years revered as the man who revived Street Fighter with his big personality and even bigger ideas.
Longtime Tekken Director Katsuhiro Harada and Evo Director of Business Development MarkMan Julio recently discussed their first impressions after meeting the former Street Fighter Producer and how some of his ideas changed the FGC into more of what it is today.
In the latest episode of Harada's Bar, Ono's friendly rival asks MarkMan what he thought about meeting the developer when Street Fighter 4 was coming out and shared his own humorous tale of getting to know each other.
"I'd met [Ono] a couple times before, but when I first talked to him, I literally thought he was **** or something," said Harada. "A while later I noticed he doesn't even drink alcohol at all though... We say the 3 main vices are drinking, partaking and seducing, but he doesn't do any."
Clearly, Harada seems to be referencing using drugs in the censored bit, but he doesn't want to put that on his friend even if it is just a joke.
MarkMan, however, speaks a bit differently about his early time with Ono while he was working at Mad Catz developing their arcade sticks and other hardware.
"I guess my initial impressions of Ono-san is that he had a lot of wild ideas in terms of growing the Street Fighter brand," said MarkMan. "A lot of what we did at Mad Catz in terms of supporting the community ideas wise came from Ono-san.
So he was the one who actually recommended that we sponsor a player like Daigo Umehara-san. He was the first player that Mad Catz sponsored, and I think that made big news and kinda shifted the pro player mentality in Japan and how it was perceived globally."
It's fascinating to hear that Ono was at least partially responsible for bringing larger and player-specific sponsorships to the FGC well over a decade ago, which has of course ballooned over the years into many / most pro-level players receiving support from eSports teams of all sizes.
How you feel about the current competitive FGC scene is up to you, but that shift has allowed more players to travel across the world frequently and provide them opportunities to chase fighting games as a career, which didn't really exist on the player-side of the industry previously.
Ono was held in high regards among fans for years for not only what his team accomplished with Street Fighter 4, but Capcom's initial push to get back into fighting games with Marvel vs. Capcom and Darkstalkers as well.
Unfortunately though, his public perception would begin to shift over time, as Capcom began making big missteps with each of their big fighter releases starting with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken, which continued through Street Fighter 5's rough start and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite failing to make a splash.
How many of those decisions actually fall on Ono's lap for what was going on behind the scenes will likely never be known though.
Ono would announce his departure from Capcom in August of 2020 amid rumors that Street Fighter 6 was facing internal development issues after 27 years with the company.
He bounced back almost immediately, however, and became the president of what is now Lasengle Inc, so he's probably doing just fine either way.
You can check out the full Harada's Bar episode below, and the discussions around Ono begin about 16 minutes into the video.
Image source: GameSpot.