So, yeah, this is gonna be an article about the failings of Capcom as a company. It’s funny, because a year ago, I would be singing Capcom’s praises as though they were one of the greatest companies ever. Not only did they release Mega Man 9 and 10, two excellent throwback titles, but they also announced sequels to two of their beloved franchises, Marvel vs. Capcom and Mega Man Legends. Capcom had been releasing pretty good games for a while, and I honestly didn’t have much to complain about. But, as I watch recent developments, I can’t help but see a failing trend at Capcom, and I think if we look at the evidence, we’ll see that it has existed for quite a long time ago.
The Japanese game industry has been having problems for a while now. Former Capcom employee Keiji Inafune was long-quoted as saying that the industry was unwilling to change, and that they were sticking to the same tired old formula. This was ultimately the reason Inafune left Capcom in October of 2010. If we look at Capcom’s recent history, we will see that it very much follows the idea of an industry unwilling to change.
Let’s start by looking at one of Capcom’s most recent successes, Monster Hunter. The series is lauded all over Japan and has gained immense popularity. What is it about? It’s a hack-and-slash quest game about fighting various monsters and then forging them into weapons and armor. You get a quest to fight a monster, go do it, then come back. Quite frankly, nothing about the game is groundbreaking, except maybe it’s extremely open online multiplayer. The game is very much a slow grind kind of game, which appeals to some people, especially the Japanese. These kinds of slow-grind RPG games have existed over there for a long time, and continue to be replicated. Monster Hunter simply took this style of game and made the combat more real-time than the usual RPG. The game and it’s sequels have repeated this basic idea ad nauseam, without doing anything fantastically new to set itself apart. However, the game is insanely popular across Japan, and has even developed a devoted fanbase in the US. Most people I talk to, however, cite the game as being a long, slow grind that is hard to get into.
Monster Hunter’s success leaked into other titles. Lost Planet: Extreme Conditions was a semi-unique Third-Person-Shooter released by Capcom. It’s use of mechs in combat was relatively interesting and made itself stand out. Lost Planet 2 took Monster Hunter’s beloved multiplayer aspects and pushed them, to the point that the game pushed NPC teammates on you if you weren’t playing co-op with your friends. The game became a very much mission-to-mission kill monsters kind of game, losing several of the aspects that people liked about the first game. Even playing the game offline, aspects of the online mode seeped through, showing a game that was developed almost solely for its multiplayer components. Lost Planet 2 was not very well-received despite its immense buildup, and its single-player mode was cited as a big failure.
Now, I’m just building up to what we all want to talk about. Recently, Capcom cancelled their previously announced title, Mega Man Legends 3. Now, I’m gonna try really hard not to just be a fanboy about this. The fact is, Capcom did make some legitimate mistakes and mishandlings, even though it is within their right to cancel a title.
See, Keiji Inafune had been interested in Mega Man Legends 3 for years, but he always said it wasn’t on the cards. Finally, when he announced this game, it seemed that Capcom was finally on board. But it was curious, wasn’t it? The game was being called “Mega Man Legends 3 Project,” and Inafune claimed that all the fans would have a piece in the development of the game. Soon, a developer’s forum opened up, where fans would vote on various ideas put forth and submit their own as contest entries. As fans participated in the forum, a completion gauge of the game rose in percent. Everything seemed fine.
It is apparent that Capcom was never quite fully developing or backing the game. Rather, they were gauging interest in the game and trying to let the fanbase do the heavy lifting for them, going so far as to try and have them write out all the short dialogue for the one-off NPCs you find in towns and such. While this idea is kind of cute and interesting, it reeks of laziness and poor choices.
However, if this was truly how Capcom wanted to develop the game, fine. But there was another issue. See, Capcom didn’t advertise the development forum very well. Several people knew about it, but didn’t join because they didn’t think it was important. Many others I’ve talked to didn’t know the place even existed. The development forum was marketed as a gimmick and a piece of advertising, not as the means through which the game was going to be developed. Using that as the sole means of gauging interest in the game is fine, but you have to ensure that first the development forum is advertised. I never saw an ad for it. Only people who read game news or researched the game on their own would find it. The number of people who care about the series but who don’t actively pursue this kind of knowledge may or may not have been enough to turn the tables and get Capcom to continue development, but that is not my ultimate point. My point, is that Capcom is scared. They are scared to do something unique or different from what has already been universally popular, so if they don’t foresee automatic success in something, they won’t develop it. Seeing as how Capcom doesn’t seem to see potential for success in too many different games, this means the games that are getting developed seem very similar to previous games that they or other companies have developed. Rather than continue a unique franchise or start a new one, we see updates to Street Fighter or Resident Evil, where the new games change very little and are simply rehashing of an old idea.
While I still have plenty of Capcom nostalgia left over, they seem to have gone almost entirely corporate. I can now see through Keiji Inafune’s eyes and understand why he would leave this company, one that seems to be completely unwilling to take a chance in this artistic medium. I can only hope that Capcom sees the outcry of support for Mega Man Legends 3 and elects to change its business strategy, understanding that they need to work harder at this sort of thing.