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Gaming: Capcom haven’t changed

Click the image for a link to the rather large source file.

One of my earliest posts on this blog, posted just under two years ago, worried about Capcom returning to their old ways and milking their games in an attempt to squeeze as much from the consumer as they could with the least effort. Back then it was prompted by the re-releases of Street Fighter 4 and Resident Evil 5, adding new content that would mean people who already owned the games would need to buy them all over again, at a budget price but still for more than one would pay for a downloadable update.

The new content was fairly substantial and Capcom alleviated my concerns a little more by asking gamers how they would prefer the Resident Evil 5 content to be delivered. Since then Street Fighter 4 received another major update as Super Street Fighter 4 Arcade Edition (the title already getting as unwieldy as the later versions of Street Fighter 2), but that was at least downloadable instead of yet another disc-based re-release.

However, in February 2011 Capcom released a new fighting game, Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds. Last week they announced Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds, which will add new characters and stages in addition to upgrades to the online infrastructure. As with Super Street Fighter 4 it’s safe to assume that this new online will be incompatible with the original’s, splitting the community and essentially forcing players to buy the new one to stay relevant.

The Capcom trio above look a little dreary compared to the colourful Marvel characters.

As it mentions through the link that means day-one purchasers will have spent $60 on the first game, $10 for the extra DLC characters, and now another $40 for the ultimate version six months later. It’s hugely disrespectful to the game’s biggest fans, and the release comes so soon after the original that you have to assume work started on it immediately upon completing the first game, and maybe even during that time between the game going gold and being released. Indeed, it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of the content could even have been held back specifically for this ultimate version, its release surely planned well in advance.

Obviously if Capcom had just released the game for $100 with all content intact then it wouldn’t have sold, but splitting that price across two releases doesn’t make it any more palatable. It’s hard to see it as anything other than greed, exactly how Capcom were perceived back in the days of their Street Fighter 2 milking.

I’ll end this on a more positive note, because I think it’s an interesting counterpoint. A couple of months ago Capcom also revealed a re-release for Dead Rising 2 called Dead Rising 2: Off the Record. It’s the same game again, same locations, weapons, enemies and the like, but with a major difference: Frank West.

Frank was the star of the original Dead Rising and garnered something of a cult following, so people were understandably disappointed when he was ousted as the star of the sequel in favour of the fairly bland Chuck Greene. This version reworks the plot to an alternate scenario where it was Frank, not Chuck, who went to Fortune City and got caught up in the zombie outbreak. That requires major changes to the plot as well new voicework and cutscenes, in addition to new content (weapons, psychopaths, vehicles) and the return of the first game’s photography.

Yes, it’s a re-release just one year after the original game, but the new content is so substantial that there’s no possibility it could have been downloadable content and genuinely provides something fans wanted. It’s a little surprising then that this is also coming from Capcom, that they can simultaneously demonstrate both the right and wrong ways to approach re-releasing their recent games.

Blue Castle did mention that Off the Record began as a straight director’s cut, suggesting Capcom were originally trying to get a basic re-release out of them but accidentally stumbled into doing this instead, so I don’t think it suggests a change of attitude. Still, if Capcom are going to milk their games for everything they can then I’d much rather it was through things like re-imaginings of the narrative rather than slapping in some extra content.

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