Games used to be something special. Before Nintendo, Pong consoles and arcades made a hit on the American and Japanese culture, and by proxy to the whole world culture. They raised new questions and put old matters under new scrutiny. Then they bombed, and not too late Nintendo Entertainment System created a new market. The game market we have now is a bastardization of the halcyon days of Atari and Nintendo, which means it looks pretty much the same as it did when Atari wanted E.T.
Games were a huge thing. At the time you saw a large amount of games references in the daily shows, and the exact same references are still being circled around. Mario, Donkey Kong and Pac-man have always been relevant in the eyes of the public because they were That Big Thing at the time, something new and something that showed what this relatively new thing was about. Even during the 90’s we got some things that got somewhat popular in the overall culture, and do take notice that I am speaking of THE culture, not gaming culture or not sub-culture. Games were ambitious, games were aplenty, games were everywhere and everybody knew the big names. Go ask now the name of the Call of Duty series from a random person on the street, and most likely they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. They might say Lara Croft.
The game industry has grown, but at the same time it’s much smaller. The amount of games the developers put out has been cut in half or less while development times have become longer and longer, but this isn’t reflected in the games’ quality. We all remember how Duke Nukem Forever ended up being when it was released. The same applies with Nintendo’s Zelda games by large, as every major release of the series they’ve made has become worse and getting further away from the core of the series. It would be better to think that those games are just puzzle solving simulators in magical historical pseudo-Europe that just happens to have the exact same characters and names as the Legend of Zelda Action RPG series.
How can we argue that video games are more popular than ever when all the major figures in the culture are Mario and Pacman? How can we argue that games have progressed when they borrow methods from literature and films? Hell, we saw the resurrection of those infamous early-mid 90’s FMV games in modern games with all the video crammed into the games with those quick-time-events. We could say that games have evolved less to be games and have become more interactive entertainment and that’s a whole new bag of beans that isn’t video or computer games.
In short; we’ve been getting less and less games, their quality has been steadily dropping and thus they’re also making far less impact on anything. So, what’s CAPCOM’s response to this situation?
This is going to be CAPCOM’s strategy for the upcoming generations. However, before we talk about that, I’d like to direct your attention to the upcoming franchise Gaist Crusher.
Gaist Crusher is CAPCOM’s last line of defense of sorts. It’s meant to be a multi-platform franchise with toys, comics, games and a TV-series. Perhaps even a card game at some point. It has all the elements that should make it popular with decent designs, collectable monsters to leech all of the kids’ parents’ money and multitude of main characters from where kids can find someone to relate to, and for the adults to draw indecent comics of. In the 00’s the Battle Network was a like a goldmine to CAPCOM, but it soon dwindled down because of the developer change after the third part and the overall drop in quality of the games for the rest of the series. What Gaist Crusher needs to be, as a game, is to be a goddamn good game. It’s running on a modified Legends 3 engine, which was a modified Lost Planet engine, so that’s most likely pretty decent. But if the game fails, the rest of the products can’t really help it. As much as we hate it, the seed product in most cases is the thing that will keep rest of the side-products alive.
And Gaist Crusher’s franchising concept goes against CAPCOM’s upcoming strategy with the DLC.
One title every three to four years has always been a bad idea. When CAPCOM was at their strongest, they churned out a game every year or two and kept going. Same with Nintendo and other publishers. There was no real reason to have different editions, as the players challenged themselves to beat the game before the next one comes out. We see that at the third year point there’s a point where the company needs to stimulate interest in promotion of the next title, which would be completely unnecessary of the time interval of the games weren’t that large. That would also cut down the advertising costs, which seem enormous nowadays, and would enforce a lot of restrictions on the devs and we all know that limitations are your friend. CAPCOM does make a good point; you lose fans during that 3-4 year development. That’s why you don’t develop a game for half a decade. You want your game out and move to the next one.
The Enhanced DLC model CAPCOM will now be putting into action is partially understandable, partially completely baffling. First of all, it’s a good idea to support a game with add-ons. That’s why expansion packs worked in computer games, and why it was a bad idea to get rid of that model. CAPCOM seems to think that churning out DLC to their games will be a successful model, but they fail to realize that in order to customers have their attention of the game on that development period, the game actually needs to be good. No amount of DLC will make a bad game draw more attention to it. It will cause a negative effect, where CAPCOM will be called as massive idiots for relying on DLC to get their money. This actually has already happened, and nobody likes the Street Fighter X Tekken DLC fiasco. You can’t make support form of the product your main product.
I mentioned that CPACOM’s most successful games always had yearly releases. They’re suggesting to release three games a series in a decade. In the 90’s CAPCOM churned out a lot more games per series than nine. During 00’s we saw six Mega man Battle Network games within sex years and those were good six years. While they were at it, they also had the Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero (and ZX) series running by it. Then, they just stopped stone cold. Hell, even with Resident Evil series saw yearly releases from 1996 to 2012 and it’s going relatively strong. Why? Because they keep making a Resident Evil game every single year, thou 1997 release was a Director’s Cut, but that still kept people interested because it a whole new product.
In addition, DLC is never something new. DLC is just an addition, a condiment, for the main course. If CAPCOM decides to put more effort and money of making side dishes, nobody really wants their main offering. They used to manage to release a good game every year, and can continue to do the same. All the devs can.