Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Editorial: A Message to Capcom

On 18 July 2011, it was announced that Capcom was pulling the plug on development of Mega Man Legends 3 for Nintendo 3DS, along with its planned downloadable demo.  I first read about it on TVTropes a few days after the event, and my reaction was like, "Wait, what?", then I verified it on Wikipedia, and I facepalmed.  ...Okay, so I wasn't anywhere near itching to buy the game on day one, at some other point maybe, but I disapprove more on principle.  See, from its inception last year, Legends 3 was supposed to be this project where the fans would have input on so many of the game's details.  We watched as the fans submitted designs for the female co-lead, and let her keep the same name "Aero" in North America as in Japan.  A poll was even launched to let us choose from possible designs for the hero character.  And now all that's gone.  The official stance from Capcom was that fan interest wasn't strong enough in the project.  Erm... what?  What part of "fan input" were you missing!?  And now I'm reading that Capcom may have planned the cancellation ahead of time, despite the prototype demo being 90% complete.  I don't know, I'll just let wiser people than I explain it.  Click the links above.

Coincidentally, at around the same time, Capcom announced the upcoming release (due November 2011) of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, an updated rerelease of a game they first launched earlier this year.  Among the game's announced content, so far we have word of 12 new characters (many of them could be qualified as obscure) up to a total of 36, along with balancing updates and a spectator mode for online matches, on top of the existing content from the original MvC3, for an estimated US$40-50.  The content announced so far comes across as anemic compared to the likes of Super Street Fighter IV, not to mention unrelated games like the new seventh-gen Mortal Kombat.  Mostly this is a victim of poor timing: apart from being announced just a few months into the base game's lifecycle, it made its debut just a couple of days after the death of MML3.  Officially, the cancellation of MML3 was entirely unrelated to the development of UMvC3, but a lot of fans choose to believe otherwise, and I can't blame them.  So even if it's not the cause of MML3's death, UMvC3 is still the wrong game at the wrong time.

And yet it's ironic.  When you look at it one way, as per a comment on Blistered Thumbs by solss:

Stop with the “Capcom, what happened to you! make more RE and Mega man!”. Us fighting game enthusiasts had to play the same games for the last 10+ years while capcom churned out lame [...] megaman side scrolling game boy games and RE’s which were identical in gameplay in almost every iteration barring RE4/5. After a decade of waiting, capcom finally shows its loyal fanbase some support by FINALLY releasing a new street fighter/mvc, and all you casual players start whining. We had to wait, it’s your turn now.
Apparently, we're crying foul against a sequel (MvC3) we've waited over ten years for.  So no doubt, there's a sizeable chunk of people who had grown tired with the first two MvC games.  But by saying that, we're ignoring a few facts: 
1) This isn't a new game, per se, but an update to one we already got. And this is a franchise we're all too familiar with from them; heck, Street Fighter IV's on its third iteration already.
2) The game Capcom simultaneously axed also saw its last installment (Mega Man Legends 2 in 2000) over ten years ago.
3) I wouldn't exactly call the market for MML3 "casual". It's true a lot of games in the Mega Man franchise as a whole were released in the 2000s, but we have to look at this a different way. There are actually three distinct sub-franchises within Mega Man. There's the 2D platformers: the classic series, X, Zero, and ZX. There's the semi-RPGs, Battle Network and Star Force, and frankly I could live without them. Then throw in the Legends series and you have three distinct styles of gameplay.

Still, the timing couldn't be worse for UMvC3, apart from the reasons I've already given.  See, they've just published another update to SFIV (A port of Super Street Fighter IV for PC), and they're also running trailers for the crossover Street Fighter X Tekken.  So, Capcom, the way I see it, your problem is...


Guys, are you familiar with the concept of "diversifying your portfolio"?  If you were to produce only one genre of games at the rate you're going at, people will eventually get confused from all the similar choices available and not buy anything from you at all.  Think the Video Game Crash of '83 in microcosm.  Yeah, I just broke you.  (And yes, I am aware of some publishers who do specialize in one genre or two - Nippon Ichi says hi - but they're running on a smaller scale and haven't really done anything to draw our ire, not like you.)  As a matter of fact, this pretty much already happened last year, with Activision and the music game genre.  With so many individual Guitar Hero titles released in '08 and '09, in addition to its spinoffs and competitor franchise Rock Band, the backlash was so bad that they put the series on permanent (?) hiatus.  This coming from a company whose CEO wanted to continue to sell games with expensive peripherals all for the sake of more money.  Truly, justice has been served.  Long story short, Capcom, please don't do this to yourself: expand your focus to a wider variety of genres and franchises.  To intentionally belabour the point, yes, bringing back Mega Man Legends 3 would be a good place to start. 

As for the fans, there are many support options available at legends3.com.  You can join the Facebook group "100,000 Strong For Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3" (as of April 2012 they have broken their titular milestone), become a "Servbot" (named after the series mascot) and sign their online petition thread, or even contact Capcom USA's Senior VP directly.  Come to think of  it, the fact that Capcom's been keeping all these options open to us - Capcom is using that "Servbot" count to predict possible sales - is suspicious, as if they've always intended to release it after all.  Welp, we can't rely on them to play their hand.  We have to take action ourselves.  Please, if not for the game, then for business integrity in general.

This is IchigoRyu.

You are the resistance.

Next Episode: Okay, I think I've got it all out now.  I should probably take it back to a time when Capcom didn't have dollar/yen signs surgically implanted into their eyes.  Let's review one of their earliest games: 1942 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

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