I grew up loving Capcom’s games. Street Fighter II Turbo occupied so much of my time growing up, and my constant quest to find a reasonable copy of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for either the Playstation 2 or Xbox sucked up much of my time in college. I even remember saving all my allowance as a kid for when my family went to Shenandoah Acres each summer, so I could live in the arcade and feed quarters into the original X-Men vs. Street Fighter.
I still have and love my Super Nintendo with copies of Street Fighter II Turbo and Super Street Fighter II Turbo, as well as my Sega Dreamcast with Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Unfortunately, that same loving feeling that I used to look at Capcom with has diminished for one reason: they haven’t moved forward.
Staying Put at a Steady Pace
Now, I know that this statement is not entirely true. I know they’ve brought innovations to their titles and did a great job revitalizing one of the most storied franchises of all-time, Street Fighter. The issue that I have with Capcom is that each and every successful title they have feels like capitalizing on their past successes more than forging ahead to create new ideas.
Take Street Fighter IV, for example. That was a game that Capcom needed to make. The Street Fighter series, no, the entire fighting genre, was hurting for a shot in the arm, and Capcom led the way with Street Fighter IV. The game was a huge success and featured some of the most enjoyable 2D fighting ever available. Unfortunately, rather than leveraging that title’s success through downloadable updates like games today tend to do, Capcom decided to go the retail-release route with their update. A curious move, seeing as how digital distribution is cheaper and cuts out the cost of producing the physical media, but Capcom justified it by saying that the update was too great to release as DLC (though we have seen some incredibly large updates released as DLC in the past for other franchises).
Going from there, you have two separate games that cannot be played with one another. Then, Capcom decided to expand upon the Street Fighter IV again through Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, which saw the release of four new characters, as well as various balances. This time, however, Capcom released the game both as downloadable and retail, giving players the opportunity to choose how they wanted their content. The fact remained, however, that there were now three versions of the same game, and the loyal fans of the franchise were all but duped into buying the same game three times. At least it seemed as though Capcom had learned that fans don’t want to re-buy the entire game to receive minimal updates, and that the DLC method could be a viable option to provide.
The Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Debacle
Fast forward to 2011 to see Capcom releasing the highly anticipated Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. The game was received fairly well, though the longer the game was out, the more apparent it was that the experience wasn’t exactly what fans had hoped for. Spectator mode, which allowed other players in the lobby to watch fights happening, was conspicuously absent, and the overall network features were underwhelming. It was promised, however, that not only would the game be supported with multiple characters by way of DLC, but also a patch that will add Spectator mode completely free of charge.
Months passed with no news of the alleged patch, when it was revealed in May that Spectator mode would not, in fact, be added to Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Around that same time-frame, a suspicious tweet from Capcom Europe’s Twitter account announced that they were closing up shop on Marvel vs. Capcom 3 DLC after only releasing a measly two characters near launch. The tweet was immediately retracted, with the account later stating that they, in fact, meant to say Street Fighter IV.
Despite that retraction, no more character-based downloadable content ever saw the light of day for Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Then, a leak hit the web that Capcom would be announcing a “Super Marvel vs. Capcom 3” at San Diego Comic-Con. Fans assumed it would be made available by way of downloadable content, but no. Capcom decided to go retail only with this release, completely abandoning any lessons they had appeared to learn with Street Fighter IV.
To top it all off, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 advertised prominently that it would include Spectator mode. Remember Spectator mode? Yes, that mode that was promised free to purchasers of the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 game, would now be included in this upcoming re-release. With the announcement of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, one has to assume that the controversial tweet mentioned earlier was actually true the first time around. It has come out that Capcom is already planning downloadable content for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, but if what we’ve seen in the past is any indication, nothing is guaranteed with their plans.
There are certainly those that argue that Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is actually a very good deal, when you look at how much those characters would cost to purchase individually. To that argument, I agree to an extent. If you knew that you would buy each of those characters individually, it would cost a lot more than $40 to do so. Unfortunately, most people wouldn’t end up purchasing all of the characters. I know I certainly wouldn’t touch more than half of the new fighters, which were leaked the day the game was announced.
The Mercenary Permanence
What’s even more baffling is the fact that Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 being retail-only plays contrary to patterns that Capcom has shown in the past with other series in attempting to combat used game sales. One such example is Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, where save-data is not erasable, a move that is presumed to be a tactical test in the growing war against used game sales. The enormous customer backlash prompted Capcom US head Christian Svensson to announce that the situation would likely not happen again. The move remains one that may be studied in the future, as industry titans attempt to salvage as much of their earnings as possible as used game sales rise.
While that move may be looked at as a way to earn more income from new sales, Svensson’s response probably won’t likely be studied as a move of public relations brilliance. After the customer base had the audacity to assume this was Capcom, a company that releases multiple versions of nearly every game they put out, was trying to earn more money through disallowing players from erasing any existing save-data on Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Svensson was quick to come out with a passive-aggressive remark. “I think it’s fair to say there was never quite the malicious intent the conspiracy theorists out there would have you believe,” Svensson said.
Really? Calling people that have a very valid concern about the direction a company they have likely loyally supported for decades “conspiracy theorists” for voicing that concern? It’s not only insulting to the company’s customer base, but also counter-productive from purely a public relations or customer service standpoint. Also, let’s be honest, what are the odds that if this backlash wasn’t happening with a game such as Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, where save data doesn’t matter all that much, we might see this save data issue with the next 3DS title?
Pioneers of the Future?
Though, who knows? Maybe this is the way that companies will go in the future. With the growing fake outrage companies are faced with in this day and age on the internet, maybe companies need to strike back in some way. Could the act of Svensson writing off those that are voicing these concerns as nothing more as “conspiracy theorists” be the future of how companies handle the raving lunatics on the internet who blow everything out of proportion: by questioning their very credibility or sanity? It may seem unlikely, but its certainly possible.
The internet may garner a lot of false outrage and disproportionate reactions, but there are ways that Capcom should be utilizing the internet that they are not. The internet, particularly social networks like Twitter, allow companies to remain in closer contact with their customers than ever before. It’s obvious that a large chunk of the Capcom fan base enjoy Mega Man, so why are they shunning the iconic blue bomber? Not only did Capcom outright cancel Mega Man Legends 3, but they neglected to include him in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Petitions have been put out and people have bugged Capcom on Twitter, but the company remains resolute in their decision.
So this brings us to our question: is Capcom simply developing based on past successes, or are they pioneering the way of the future? There are certainly things that Capcom is doing that will be looked at by others when trying to combat used game sales. Developers absolutely, 100% deserve to make money off of their creations, and Capcom is just being the most outspoken with their actions. They say the nail that sticks out gets hammered down, and perhaps the criticism of Capcom is just simply that.
Just look back at Lars Ulrich of Metallica, who came under heavy fire for criticizing P2P file-sharing services like Napster. People wrote him off as just a spoiled rock star who wanted more money, but when you look at where the record industry (and really, the journalism industry) is today, we’re starting to see the negative side of getting our entertainment for free. Lars was correct in his criticism. Everyone is entitled to try and make money off of their creations and products, and Capcom is trying to do just that. Would I say they went about it all wrong by disallowing save-data erasure? I’d say so, but at least it did occur on a game that doesn’t really need to have players start from the beginning.
It’s all about the precedent
Not unlike the Diablo III persistent online connectivity issue, it’s more an issue of precedent than something that affects most gamers. As I mentioned earlier, what’s to keep Capcom to try something like this on a game that lack of data erasure would be a very real issue? Say Capcom did this with Resident Evil Revelations, would it be a big deal then? Of course it would be, because people might want to play that story over again without just going through a level select.
The real issue with Capcom is that while they certainly see the outrage regarding their actions, comments like “conspiracy theorist,” show that perhaps Capcom is too willing to write off concerns as being from “raging fanboys” or “internet tough-guys.” It’s in that moment that Capcom shows that they’ve lost touch with their community. Until the complaints and concerns of the community fall on an ear that is willing to listen and address the issues through actions, it will be difficult going for Capcom fans.
So how do fans make their voices listened to instead of heard? The easiest way for a company to “listen” to their customers is when they speak with their wallets. If you hate the idea of Capcom releasing Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 within nine months of the original, but say “I’ll buy it, but I won’t be happy about it,” you’re part of the problem. It won’t be until Super Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Turbo: Arcade Edition sells 5,000 copies in a month that Capcom will stop. Why would they stop? If they can do minimal effort and reap great rewards and yield high-sales, what’s their encouragement for trying harder to develop a new IP, or even an entirely new entry into the series?
The inverse is also true. If you’re among those who think Capcom is doing the right thing with Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, by all means, purchase it! Tell them how much you enjoy the new fighters, re-balanced existing fighters, and Spectator mode. Just know this: you have no grounds to complain if Capcom decides to release another iteration of the game.
Now, if Capcom is listening to me, I’m eagerly awaiting Ms. Maxsplosion.