I’m a bit surprised by the way Capcom have been acting recently. I always used to figure them for a company that had their collective heads screwed on pretty well, and with their Capcom Unity (geddit?) site showing a much greater effort than many publishers to engage with fans, it looked like they were getting 21st century marketing right.
Then came the Mega Man Legends 3 project, where the community would be able to play an active role in the making of the game. The Capcom Dev Room page allowed users to submit ideas — many of which would end up in the final game — as well as see how the development of a game progressed from start to finish, complete with all the trials and tribulations it faced along the way.
The other day, the project got cancelled on the grounds that its transparency was proving to be “quite concerning” for the rest of the company. This, to me, is somewhat worrying, and suggests that Capcom has something to hide. It could be something as simple as the fact that they actually haven’t done any real work on Mega Man Legends 3 since Keiji Inafune left last year, or it could be something altogether more sinister along the lines of the Team Bondi fiasco.
This isn’t the only mis-step Capcom have made recently, either. The Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D save game issue stank from start to finish. To say that it’s “not possible” to erase a save file on a 3DS game card is absolute nonsense — erasing a file involves writing to the card, and in order for the save to be on there in the first place the card must be written to. So there is absolutely no way that it would not be possible to reset the save data, yet Capcom persisted in perpetuating a lie to the community.
And today we learn that there’s an “Ultimate” edition of Marvel vs. Capcom 3 on the way, featuring 12 new characters, 8 new stages and a spectator mode. But existing DLC characters aren’t included in the package, naturally. And the “Ultimate” edition is a standalone retail product for $40, not a DLC expansion, which it really should be. I should be excited by the fact that Capcom have finally added Phoenix Wright to the game after a considerable amount of fan requesting, but instead I’m left with a bitter taste in my mouth due to them re-releasing a slightly-enhanced version of a game which only came out in February.
Sadly, this practice is becoming more and more common with this generation of consoles. And while I perhaps wouldn’t go quite as far as my friend Mr Peter Skerritt in saying that this generation “sucks” — there’s a lot to like, after all — I do believe that the obnoxious business practices that more and more publishers are starting to adopt are going to come back and bite both game companies and consumers in the ass at some point in the very near future.
I mentioned something along these lines on Twitter the other day in reference to Rockstar’s comments that L.A. Noire still isn’t finished despite having released its “final” piece of DLC. The response I got was surprising; the practice was defended on the grounds of it making good business sense. If we’re at this stage already where blatant money-grabbing and the cutting of content from games in order to hold it back for subsequent DLC or new retail editions is defended by the community because it makes good business sense, it’s a sad situation indeed. We gamers are supposed to be giving money to the software companies we want to support because we like their products, not bending over and asking in what ways they can violate us next. I’m quite happy to buy a game and never resort to piracy, but with more and more early adopters being punished by having to pay full whack for a product and then being stung for DLC down the line, it’s understandable if people feel disillusioned by the whole thing.
That said, not all hope is lost — since picking up a gaming PC I’ve been using the consoles far less. And while there is DLC for PC titles, many PC gamers are a lot less patient with this sort of bullshit — largely because there’s an enormous and active modding community out there more than willing to provide content of a higher quality than Activision’s $15 map packs for free. And there aren’t many PC games I’ve played recently where there’s a big hole for some DLC — I intend on going back through Mass Effect 2 at some point, so I may feel differently after that, though.
The most frustrating thing I find is that people don’t seem to realise or care that they are being taken advantage of. We can complain all we like about Capcom releasing the same game twice in the space of nine months, but we all know that there are enough people out there who will happily part with their cash and give Capcom the sales figures they need to justify rolling out this obnoxious business practice again and again. We can bitch all we like about paying $15 for Call of Duty map packs, but people pay it, again showing Activision that it’s Okay to Do This. And we can point our fingers and say L.A. Noire’s add-on cases should have been in the game in the first place, but I bet most players picked them all up just out of curiosity if anything, giving Rockstar the green light to do more in the future.
It’s refreshing to see that not all of the industry is operating in this way, though. Indie developers are flourishing — and the community is taking to them. Indie RPGs Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World along with awesome roguelike Dungeons of Dredmor topped the Steam sales charts on their day of release, and in less than a week on sale BoD/CStW has equalled its sales from a year and a half on Xbox Live Indie Games. Minecraft continues to go from strength to strength. And Frozen Synapse proves more popular than its developers could have ever dreamed.
Right now, I’m thankful that the indies exist, because with every day that passes, each new “teaser reveal”, each new embargo, I’m losing more and more respect for the big publishers.