Review: Game developer must evolve

photo courtesy Google ImagesOmar F. Perez / Chief illustrator

Capcom – a video game company well known for the popular franchises “Street Fighter,” “Resident Evil,” and “Mega Man” – has been in the gaming world spotlight since 2011 due to the cancellations of “Mega Man Universe” and the hotly anticipated “Mega Man Legends 3.”
As 25th anniversary celebrations for “Street Fighter” and “Mega Man” begin, there come some great opportunities for the giant to redeem itself.
Unfortunately, tensions rose when Capcom representatives, instead of hyping the Mega Man 25th Anniversary, said, “Keep your expectations in check . . . Hope they do have some very good plans for the 25th, but I doubt its a game.”
Capcom is persistently sinking in lackluster public relations and poor business practice. They are failing to evolve with the video game industry as evidenced by poor downloadable content and weak franchise evolvement.
The concept of downloadable content (DLC) is to expand on the gameplay and value of a complete and finished product. The goal of this is to give the consumers what they want and to maximize the profits of the game.
In addition, DLC helps to make up for any losses from having games legally resold by companies like GameStop. DLC is the current wild frontier of gaming, where developers are finding out what works and what doesn’t.
It’s a relatively new concept they are still experimenting with.
Bethesda’s method of selling additional content for “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” came in the form of the sub-quest “Dawnguard.” This download offers a new adventure with new weapons, characters, story paths, and magical or vampiric abilities.
“Battlefield 3” sells content in the form of extra maps, game modes and weaponry. These are role-play adventure and shooting games, respectively, so it’s not difficult to imagine what developers will offer for these genres.
So how could games in the fighting genre offer decent, worthwhile content for consumers?
Capcom released costumes and tournament modes for “Street Fighter IV” in 2009, but would not release extra characters. Consumers wanted more. They wanted new characters and stages.
In classic Capcom fashion, an updated version of the game was released in 2010. The word “Super” sprang from the title and featured new characters, new moves and rebalanced gameplay. It would later offer downloadable costumes and characters. If this was not successful, the newer “Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition” would not exist.
Capcom repeated this step with “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” and its successor “Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3.” However, these company decisions are artifacts of the Super Nintendo business practice of releasing newer versions of the same game.
“Street Fighter IV” and “Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” are incomplete products because they are incapable of being updated for modern, competitive play; two games are purchased for one experience, a burden for the consumer.
In retrospect, this technique of selling content works only because the consumer says that it does.
Capcom’s top-selling franchises are essentially fighting, survival horror and action platformers that are harshly specific.
In order for Capcom to evolve with the industry, it needed to break into a new genre while maintaining the theme of the game. The franchise that was capable of this change was “Resident Evil.”
Having been named “Game of the Year” by Spike in 2005, “Resident Evil 4” is the combination of genres that all successive additions to the franchise now follow.
“Street Fighter IV” is coined as the “benchmark title in the revival of the fighting genre” and is in the lead of that segment.
However, the fighting genre is just that. Few successful games have strayed from the side-scrolling perspective that “Street Fighter II” perfected.
This leaves the “Mega Man” franchise, which has not received a true addition to any subseries since 2010.
In a rapidly changing industry where “Angry Birds” and casual gaming are leading players away from the consoles and toward PCs and iPhones, there may not be room for any of these franchises that Capcom is offering, though they are not completely at fault – they have no control over which way the industry grows.
We are entering the new generation of home consoles with the Nintendo WiiU this November. Time will tell if Capcom can evolve their business practices and their franchises to keep up with this pace and direction of the video game industry, as well as with what consumers demand.

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