Two years ago, I interviewed Seth Killian, the at-the-time Community Manager of Capcom for an article on independent gaming. Skullgirls was due for release and indie gaming had become a hot topic. I’ve always admired Mr. Killian for the work he does both behind the scenes and in front of the vocal fighting game community, and speaking with him on a topic he was not often asked about was exciting. In our correspondence after the article, I had asked Seth if he saw Capcom ever throwing their support behind an endeavor such as independent game development.
Seth laughed and casually told me that Capcom is a very old-school Japanese gaming company, and that might not necessarily be their way. Fast-forward to the present day, and this statement by Killian may sum up a lot of what is currently wrong with a company that has become known for such iconic series as Street Fighter, Megaman, and Resident Evil.
Capcom appears to have a severe disconnect with their audience, or, at the least, modern consumers. With a future release list comprised of five sequels, two remakes, and only one original title, Capcom seems to be trying to squeeze blood from a stone with their development strategy. This may be due to an under-performing financial report back in May that saw expected profits down 56 percent from last year, and poor sales by titles that had been outsourced, such as Ninja Theory’s Devil May Cry reboot.
Beneath poor sales, Capcom has an even larger problem: a work culture that is stuck on the idea of what has been successful will always be successful. Capcom’s sordid tale involving the Megaman franchise and the handling of the series’ creator was the first crack in the armor of a company that, for a long time could do no wrong. Soon, other problems began to kill Capcom’s good will with consumers. Questionable downloadable content practices for games such as Street Fighter X Tekken and Super Street Fighter IV, the departure of Capcom Unity fan favorites such as Seth Killian and Christian Svensson, not to mention a glut of outsourced remakes and collections in lieu of new titles, have all been contributing factors to Capcom’s slow decline.
While a few small success have been found in the likes of Dragons Dogma, more misses than hits have occurred for the company. Titles like Remember Me and Asura’s Wrath fell by the wayside due to lackluster reviews and slow sales. Meanwhile, Capcom has slowed development down considerably, initially blaming the impending next-gen push. Meanwhile, the most exciting title on the horizon from the company is Ducktales: Remastered, an HD remake of a 20 year old NES game.
The most recent showing of Capcom’s inability to capitalize on and understand what their fans desire comes in the form of the Darkstalkers franchise. Capcom game producer and Street Fighter mainstay Yoshinori Ono has been known at fighting game panels, tournaments, and conventions to mention that if fans wanted to see an update to the cult fighting game series, then sales would be needed to back up said desire.
These hypothetical sales numbers were to be extrapolated from the release of Darkstalkers Resurrection, a HD re-release of the first and third game in the original series. Despite the fact that the title was in the top ten of digital download sales for the month of its release, Capcom considered sales for Resurrection to be “not good enough.” In essence, Capcom passed the blame to their loyal fighting game consumers. I’m not sure how Capcom expected consumers to be excited about a HD revision a 15 year old game, ported from a PS2 version that was doctored during the development process to act as much like the arcade version as possible. Add in the fact that the $15 price point seemed high considering the amount of content in the game, and it’s easy to see why even the most faithful Darkstalkers fan would not be thrilled.
Perhaps Capcom’s goals for the release of Resurrection were too high. Matt Dahlgren, fighting game manager at Capcom Unity, confirmed in an interview with Siliconera that the Darkstalkers franchise had been placed back on the shelf, all due to the title “not performing the way we would have liked.”
That statement by Mr. Dahlgren perfectly sums up the current issue plaguing Capcom: expectation. In an attempt to turn the ship around, Capcom has tried to do what has been successful in the past by taking advantage of their most iconic and popular titles. Now, however, this strategy has been met with slacking sales. An inability to understand the needs of their consumers and out-of-touch game development has led Capcom astray.
While a company as large and distinguished as Capcom should not be criticized for attempting to take advantage of the franchises that made them famous, they should be held at fault for refusing to change their ways in the wake of multiple failures. With a shallow future release list and a decaying relationship with their fan base, the home of Ryu, Megaman, and Dante may just have to hit rock bottom before things can ever truly get better.