Thursday, July 21, 2011

Capcom: What The Hell?

I am writing this blog due to a few too many trends I'm seeing with a gaming company I once loved; Capcom. Not since the rise of Activison's Bobby Kotick have I seen such horrible and disloyal business practices of this level.

I think the first sign of trouble I witnessed was the leave of former Mega Man, Dead Rising, Onimusha, and Lost Planet producer Keiji Inafune. He was with Capcom for 23 or so years (that's one year less than my actual age, so that's really something to me) before quitting and making it known that he "hated his job." After reaching a higher position in his company, he started to feel stress almost constantly, to the point where he couldn't take it anymore and left. The strange things begin...

Almost four months after Inafune's departure from the company, Mega Man Universe, a title that was going to be released for Xbox Live and Playstation Network, allowing users to create their own levels and customize characters all in the style of the original Mega Man 2, was canceled due to "various circumstances." While I heard that the game had some initial negative feedback due to response time issues and the like, I fail to see how they couldn't have been addressed, as I must point out once more that this game was using the same engine seen in NES-era Mega Man titles.

Later in the same year, Capcom makes another strange and controversial decision. I admit this one could still turn out positive in the end, but it's still odd all the same. Devil May Cry, the famed series which began on the Playstation 2, is getting its fifth outing. Capcom chose to give the development of this fifth entry to Ninja Theory, known for the game Heavenly Sword. Capcom's lead producer had stated that Heavenly Sword had a huge impact on them and they wanted to see better narrative done in the Devil May Cry series. Cue the new game, simply titled "DmC." While the controls of the game do at least appear to be of a similar engine to the previous games of the series, Dante, the main character looks nothing like he used to. Now, if fans trace back far enough and work around the strange continuity patterns of the series, they'll know that Dante began embracing his half-demon side more with each entry of the series. This title is an origin title, something very strange considering Devil May Cry 3 was already a prequel, making the chronological order of each game even more scrambled than ever. But I'll finally get to the point of it all now. He looks like this...

... as opposed to what he once did...

... and that's just weird. Again, I'd like to be proven wrong and see this game reach critical acclaim like (most of) the other titles in the series, but it's very off-putting when things like this are put in front of us.

Now we get to one that personally stabbed me in the heart. One of my favorite series of games on the Playstation 1 (and based on the reaction to what I'll describe in the paragraph, I know I'm not the only one) was Mega Man Legends. This series brought a fresh new spin on the Mega Man franchise, by not only bringing it to a 3D-like environment, but giving us fun and exciting new characters and stories to experience. I have played many Playstation 1 titles in my times to the point where I’ve lost count, and yet titles like that stick more firmly in my mind than ever. The sequel only made things even better with its new lock-on system and improved camera angles, not to mention the scope of the story. They were highly underrated games at the times of release, and as a result, have been even more highly sought after since (If you look at ebay or Amazon sellers, you’ll know what I mean.).

After 10+ years of anticipation, Capcom and Inafune had finally announced they were beginning development on a Mega Man Legends 3. I don’t think I’ve ever seen internet message boards and IMs light up like I did the day this sequel was revealed. The excitement started to die down a little when Capcom announced it was going to be a Nintendo 3DS launch title. Despite this, gamers still remained hopeful and were even willing to support it out of sheer love for the past. Some more exciting developments were revealed when Capcom had showed everyone their plan to create the game. They were going to put out what they called a “prototype” demo game as a free download to go with the launch of the system. This demo was going to not only be an early stepping stone for those who couldn’t wait to sink their teeth into the new title, but also serve as a beta of sorts, where problems could be fixed overtime and bugs could even be addressed. After a few months, suddenly the news stopped coming. The 3DS had been released and there was still no word about the Prototype demo. Suddenly, on July 18th (the day after my birthday nonetheless!!!), Capcom announces the cancellation of the title. It would have been one thing if Capcom admitted that they simply didn’t feel like it was going to make them as much profit as their other titles, but instead we got something much more outrageous. From CapcomEURO’s twitter page:

This is not only completely false, but an insult to the fans all at once. Never did Cacpom state previously that the “dev rooms” would impact whether the Prototype would get released. I wasn’t even aware of this taking place until after it was well too late to do anything. Does anyone reading this recall Capcom putting any real marketing into this whatsoever? In an earlier post by the company, they had said they felt some worry over the concept of the fans having so much impact of the game. Now, they are basically saying the opposite, and that we didn’t do enough? Ridiculous! They were near completion of this Prototype and could have very easily released it as intended, and even more so, could have allowed THAT to determine whether there was an “audience” for this game.

I’m going to add one more little stipulation on the company’s part as icing on the already stacking cake. Literally MONTHS after the release of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, as well as additions of new characters and costumes and the like for downloadable content, and almost right after the announcement of Mega Man Legends 3’s cancellation, we receive another announcement stating that Capcom will be releasing an “Ultimate Edition” of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, not only with all of the new characters, costumes, etc. for a cheaper price ($40 to the $60 I already paid for the original), but to add salt to the wound and pretty much guarantee a purchase, it will also be adding characters that will not be available as downloadable content at any point in time, as well as a more updated and balanced fight system. They’ve made it imperative to buy now if you truly want the full game experience now.

As of late, Capcom has been heading in a very cruel and heartless set of practices, and others are starting to take notice. Instead of putting out any new or unique ideas, or even ideas that can branch off of others in clever ways, we are only given what these companies feel will make them money. None seem to afford to take any risks in the industry anymore, and if this trend continues, I feel it is the gamers and the industry itself that will continue to suffer as a result. Think about how many new game titles we’re getting this year, as opposed to the number of sequels and remakes, and once again, I think you’ll quickly understand the point I’m trying to make.

So what can we do about these horrible practices and lack of new innovations? Well, we have at least a few options. The first, in the case of Capcom I feel, is to contact them. Tell them how disappointed you are with the business practices they have been following. Even more so, give them the biggest blow of all, by not giving them anything. Would it be a sacrifice to not buy the Ultimate Edition of Marvel Vs. Capcom 3? Yes, it would. But I’m willing to do just that. Even if the idea didn’t work, or I simply bought the game used later on, I would at least know that I tried something. The only way to stop these practices is to remind these companies that if we are their customers, the idea is still to cater to us, not what works best for them. Thank you for reading, and I hope this has at least caused you all to think a little about what gaming is still all about, just as it always has been about: it’s fans.

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