As a long-time Mega Man fan, it should come as no surprise that I was once a big fan of Capcom. Mega Man isn’t the only franchise that I have an appreciation for under their banner. Resident Evil has had some great games, with Resident Evil 4 being a personal favorite. With the exception of the second title, I enjoyed the Devil May Cry series. Dead Rising 2 was a lot of fun, as well, and far better than its dull predecessor. I love their fighting franchises, like Street Fighter and their Versus titles, as well. However, over the past of couple years, they’ve seemed to have taken a turn for the worse. Fans constantly cry out over the changes or absences of their beloved franchises and the poor business practices of the company in regards to how they manage downloadable content. As a result, it’s starting to show in their bottom line. Resident Evil 5’s expected sales have been reduced once again, this time to 5 million units, further cementing that they’ve taken the franchise in a bad direction, despite the fact that those numbers aren’t necessarily horrible. They’re just not up to par of what a Resident Evil title should be selling. The recently released Ninja Theory-developed Devil May Cry reboot has also had it’s forecast downgraded from 2 million to 1.2 million, no doubt the result of the changes made to the lead character, Dante, the overarching plot, and the atmosphere of the game. If we look back into last year, the only two titles they released that could really be seen as successes were Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City (which many now regret buying, as do I, as it was abysmal), and Dragon’s Dogma, Capcom’s take on The Elder Scrolls formula. This really puts things into perspective. Clearly, Capcom is screwing up somewhere, and I know exactly what they need to do in order to get back on the right track:
Stop Westernizing Established Franchises!
It’s really that simple. Let’s flash back a couple years here before I get down to the nitty gritty, though. Before he left the company, former employee Keiji Inafune did go on the record as saying that Japanese developers were lagging behind their western counterparts, even labeling Capcom as one such company. One game he brought up, Lost Planet, is a perfect example of how Capcom did and should be appealing to gamers in Europe and North America. It was a new IP this generation and saw some rather great commercial success, starting as an Xbox 360-exclusive, then later releasing on both PC and PlayStation 3. As you can tell from the article, Inafune also sites how its sequel was a flop, failing to find the audience the first entry in the series did. Why? It’s because Capcom changed the franchise back to the sort of title that would appeal more to Japanese gamers, making it more akin to Monster Hunter, which isn’t as big in western territories as it is in Japan. At least, not yet. Regardless, they had it right from the beginning. If you want to appeal to the western market, create new IPs to do so, and keep the formula intact with each new entry while making subtle changes and additions to keep things fresh. Capcom had one such IP in Lost Planet, but they blew it, and with Lost Planet 3, they have gone back to the drawing board and created something that looks more akin to Dead Space than the original title of the series. Drawing off such a lucrative franchise is great, but only time will tell whether it pays off or not, and in my personal opinion, I preferred how the original title played. As stiff as it was, it had a uniqueness about it that simply no other third-person shooter has ever matched.
That isn’t the only title Capcom had right the first time, though. Their more famous franchises, such as the aforementioned Resident Evil and Devil May Cry series, are ones they have done right with few exceptions that they have since corrected or were just best left in the past. These are, or at least were, purely Japanese franchises. They were never catered to the western market, but yet, they still found success here. Resident Evil 5 sold gangbusters, despite the economic climate of the game industry starting to go south at the time. Devil May Cry 4 was the highest-selling in franchise history and every title went on to be best sellers. So, what went wrong with these franchises? The issue is, Capcom changed them far too much to try to make them appeal to the western market more, but as a result, they did nothing but isolate their core fan-bases, and thus, sales have dropped.
This is where the oft-used phrase “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” comes into play. These two franchises, both rooted as games that primarily were skewed towards the eastern market, were still finding success here, so there was absolutely no need for Capcom to make them appeal to western audiences more. What brought about the changes? For Resident Evil, it more or less came down to the fact that Call of Duty is so successful in North America, and as such, they wanted to draw in that demographic by making the franchise more action-oriented, uprooting it from its survival-horror origins. They had hoped that they could at least get a large piece of the astronomical numbers the Call of Duty franchise sells year after year. Resident Evil is NOT Call of Duty. It’s not meant to be a franchise where you shoot living, breathing targets that carry firearms themselves. It’s supposed to be zombies and grotesque abominations in tension-filled encounters with limited resources at your disposal. This is what the dedicated, long-time fans of the franchise want, and based on the sales numbers, it was working. By making Resident Evil more action-oriented, Capcom lost sight of what fans truly wanted, thus isolating their fanbase and causing a huge outcry of rage and frustration. The company has commented as to why they think Resident Evil 6 didn’t do very well:
“We are currently analyzing the causes, which involve our internal development operations and sales operations. We have not yet reached a clear conclusion. We believe that global sales of 5 million units are proof that this is a popular title. However, we believe that the new challenges we tackled at the development stage were unable to sufficiently appeal to users. In addition, we believe there was inadequate organizational collaboration across our entire company with regard to marketing, promotions, the creation of plans and other activities. We will have to examine these results from several perspectives. We will reexamine our internal operating frameworks in order to identify areas that need to be improved concerning development as well as sales and administrative operations.”
They claim that they still haven’t figured it out, giving an answer that’s both ambiguous and loaded with big words. However, I just gave you the answer as to why it failed to meet its sales goals. They wanted more money, and who wouldn’t? However, tooling with an established franchise that’s rich in history and very high in popularity is not the way to do it, and this shows. Capcom has realized that something did certainly go wrong, and they have noted that, while still a ways off, the next entry in the Resident Evil franchise will return to its survival-horror roots. Also, they are porting the overlooked Resident Evil: Revelations, originally released on the 3DS, to consoles, which is a title that captured the atmosphere of the franchise while also giving the polished gameplay of Resident Evil 4, making for a title that a lot of fans can get excited for. I’m at least glad that they realize what they need to do with the franchise now, but it’s frustrating to see that they still don’t know what went wrong with RE6 when the answer is right in front of them.
As for Devil May Cry, Capcom decided that they simply wanted to give the franchise a western twist. This involved not only changing the story and plot, but changing the look and even the demeanor of the series’ protagonist, Dante. Here’s a look:
On the left, Dante clearly has a Japanese look, with white hair and a flashy jacket. On the right is the new Dante, with what a lot of people call “emo hair” and a more generic overall look. While it may seem silly that people would flip out over such a change, Capcom went and greatly altered an iconic video game character, so the anger does seem warranted. I’ll admit: if Capcom just up and decided to change Mega Man X’s look by making him look more human than robot, I’d be steamed, too.
It didn’t just stop there, though. From what I’ve heard from many players, as well as with my experience with the demo, the game is much easier than its predecessors. The DMC franchise is well-known for being a set of tough-as-nails titles (well, with the exception of the awful second title), and while making it easier does make it more accessible, it shuts out the core fanbase that looks forward to the challenge, thus disappointing them. My biggest problem with the game, and the reason why I have not purchased it yet, is because of the atrocious script that basically devolves Dante into an “F”-bomb spewing brat. Again, that is solely based on my experience with the demo, and the full game could very well be different, but it’s an issue for me nonetheless.
The Devil May Cry reboot has not been on store shelves long, but the result of westernizing this franchise is beginning to show, as well, with expected sales being dialed back. People wanted a new entry with the same wise-cracking, badass Dante and steep difficulty curve, but they wound up with something too far gone from what they were accustomed to seeing. Just like Resident Evil, the series was fine before the drastic changes. The future of the franchise is still too soon to determine, especially since Capcom has not yet made any comments. Who knows whether they will continue with the reboot or just let the series fall by the wayside for a while. My opinion? If they have a grand plan to eventually change this new Dante into the older version, then I say run with it. Fans will come around if they get his old look back. They need to up the difficulty again, though, and please, at least try to make a better script. The original Devil May Cry titles weren’t award winners in that regard, but they were at least bearable.
Perhaps this will teach Capcom not to tool too much with their storied franchises. Trying to change the audience completely only isolates the old audience, causing confusion, frustration, and, as a result, a loss in sales. Creating new properties to appeal to the west is exactly the way to go. Lost Planet 3, as I mentioned before, looks to be trying to get back on track. Dragon’s Dogma is getting a new expansion soon, allowing them to keep banking on the success it garnered last year. One of their latest titles, Remember Me, draws a lot from one such popular western franchise, Assassin’s Creed, while forging its own identity by involving the ability to tool with people’s memories. This is exactly what Capcom needs to do if they want to increase their western appeal, and I only hope for the best for them as these games start hitting shelves. They may not ever hit the same numbers as Call of Duty, but then, no one ever has except Call of Duty itself. They just need to learn to leave their classic franchises as they are, only giving more subtle changes and evolutions, and allow newer properties to expand their influence.