Yoshinori Ono was the man behind resurrecting Street Fighter and bringing it back to the masses. However, his physical health was the cost of it all. His interview doesn’t only shed light on why Street Fighter X Tekken was such a massive failure, or why we most likely won’t ever see Street Fighter V, but also why CAPCOM won’t make another proper Mega Man game for the next ten years to come.
“So from the company’s point of view, if the team is stating that it cannot do any better combined with a lack of sales, it’s a complete story and it’s time to move on.”
All the most recent Mega Man games from Maverick Hunter X to Mega Man 10 sold decently, but not well enough to warrant sequels. Mega Man Legends 3 was fate of the same treatment.
“Until the day of release, Street Fighter 4 was an unwanted child,” Ono says, his tone at once sad and defiant. “Everyone in the company kept telling me: ‘Ono-san, seriously why are you persisting with this? You are using so much money, budget and resources. Why don’t we use it on something else, something that will make money?’ No-one had the intention of selling it, so I had virtually no help from other departments – they were all reluctant, right up to the day of release.”
I have no doubts CAPCOM felt the same way about Mega Man X8 and anything that came after it. The Battle Network series sold like hotcakes with its balance of real-time fights and collecting, as did Mega Man Zero with the high difficulty level and modern take on the series. Both of these had sequels and failed miserably.
Creating a Mega Man game should not be expensive, and yet developing the for the current consoles is expensive. Mega Man 9 was costly because the old games had to be reverse engineered and go against the current state of technology. Mega Man 10 was quickly thrown together after that, but only after the sales numbers came in. Developing for the GBA was cheap in comparison, whereas the DS fetched higher price, and the lack of sales that ZX series had doomed it. Same with the Starforce series, which shared the same weaknesses; they were lite versions of their predecessor series.
Mega Man Legends never had proper sales. People bought the first game because it was Mega Man in 3D, but even these people knew what they were getting into; completely different thing that main series were about. Legends 2 sold very little, and at this point CAPCOM had already started becoming the entity we have today.
Legends 3 was cancelled for one reason; it would not have sold well enough. This is the reason CAPCOM “killed” Mega Man; there was no money in it. CAPCOM’s obsession on HD gaming is what killed Mega Man.
Back in the 80’s and 90’s CAPCOM was all about making great games, as evident on Ono’s statement. Arcades was where CAPCOM ruled and made their money. When the arcades died, CAPCOM had to change. However, we all remember how Nintendo’s sales always plummet when they abandon their arcade roots. The same goes with CAPCOM. However, CAPCOM has nothing to make a comeback, as they’ve stopped producing their own arcade machines (the glorious CPS series) and barely produce worthwhile game there any more.
Would it be possible to reproduce the arcade feeling at home? If we take another look at Nintendo, the answer is Yes. Capcom has done it many times over, and the Disney license games they did back in the 80’s and early 90’s is a proof of this; these games were arcade games adopted for home consoles. These games have a hidden property as well, which is that they are generally rather cheap to produce as they do not need to be in HD at any point, but they do need a proper developer team who simply wish to make a good game. This team also needs to have limitations and a clear goal what they’re doing, and keep it simple. Very few arcade games were complex to begin with, and the most complex arcade games happen to be fighting games like Street Fighter III.
Why ZX series died out wasn’t just it’s watered down content, but because it wasn’t a Mega Man game. Zero series gave a proper way to roam free, but within strict limitations. If I wanted to play a 2D-exploration, I’d play Metroid. The Starforce series wasn’t just watered down, but also complicated certain matters that were supposed to be simple but abundant. The decision to make Starforce 3D was most likely an executive decision, or at least what the market department decided. Any good businessman could’ve seen that both ZX and Starforce would flop.
Does Mega Man have an audience out there? Yes, but the customer base has diminished in great numbers. People who got into Mega Man were at age five to fifteen when Mega Man 2 hit the scene. It was my first Nintendo game I ever remember playing and beating. It was the game that made me jump from Atari 520ST, from computers, to consoles. Now we’re all well over our twenties and thirties. People who played Street Fighter II have enjoyed Street Fighter IV, but I’ve seen that they will always regard II as the better game, for good reasons.
Up until Mega Man’s twentieth birthday we all could enjoy great amounts if insanely well made games, as well as bunch of mediocre and bad ones. When somebody like Ono does the same thing to Mega Man as he did to Street Fighter, we can expect Mega Man 11, or perhaps X9. If done correctly, they will use that era’s technology and not rely on nostalgia. They will put their heart’s tears and blood into it, crafting the same fun game have had since the first one.
CAPCOM isn’t toying with their customers. They’re not pissing them into their eyes or anything like that. To them it’s a cold truth that Mega Man does not sell any more. The golden days of their unofficial mascot has been long over and there’s nobody taking the lead. To us customers, to us fans who still wish to see a new Mega Man these times are sad. We can play over and over the past games only so many times. CAPCOM has not been loyal to anyone in the past ten years. The CAPCOM which developed Street Fighter II, Final Fight, Mega Man X, Captain Commando, Kikaioh and all other classics is no more. The CAPCOM we have nowadays is in financial trouble. It tries to survive in these times when macroeconomics are bad, but quite worse yet.
It’s wrong to say that Mega Man was killed off. Mega Man was not killed, but simply… stopped. It’s a dead franchise. Capcom didn’t kill off Mega Man, but in their eyes everything that Mega Man had is no longer alive. Perhaps they’re following the small sales the comics and books are making, but a new game seems to be out of question. CAPCOM’s not willing to invest into releasing the DASH games on PSN, as they would need to pay some money on the licensing issues in the game, like the songs, and they aren’t interested in removing them from the games… which only shows that they’ve lost the source codes.
It’s been a good run guys. The only thing we can really do is to keep asking CAPCOM for a new Mega Man game, and hope that they have someone who is willing to take the same burden Ono did with Street Fighter. Without a person like him inside, I’m afraid it all will be in vain otherwise.
Mega Man’s story is far from over; We never got to know what happens after Mega Man 10, how would Lumine’s rebellion affect X’s world, how the world became one of race of Carbons, and how the hell did Trigger get off Elysium. As far as CAPCOM stands, these are questions that are left open, never to be answered. And perhaps it is for the better….
…everliving life in memories…
…until someone awakes the hero anew.