In a recent interview, ArcSys’ Daisuke Ishiwatari and Toshimichi Mori were discussing the company’s different fighting games and what they’ve learned from them. What they see is that the less complex and easier to master mechanics of their two other big titles, Dragon Ball Fighters Z and BlazBlue, are selling more than Guilty Gear, and the next title will have less complex mechanics. Because, y’know, everyone is supposedly having hard time with them and everything.
Which isn’t the case.
Guilty Gear as a series found its place with the X and XX titles, something Ishawatari has historically being rather against, first trying to remove these games from his beloved story with Guilty Gear 2 Overture and then reinstating them back as side-stories due to fanbacklash. Let’s not forget him telling the fans that they’re too old for games, essentially doing a Shattner bit where he told Trekkies to get a life. Considering how BlazBlue helped him to regain Guilty Gear‘s license and was considered the fighting game franchise during the time when Capcom’s fighters were absent, Ishiwatari & co. really should reconsider their approach to the series if their first realisation is downgrading the game.
This lesson of theirs isn’t anything spectacularly special, both Mori and Ishiwatari have grown into businessmen first and businessmen tend to be reactionaries instead of trailblazers. They see certain kind of aspects selling well, wagering their bets and materials, and then changing existing products with an aim to cater for larger audiences. After all, once you’ve achieved a popularity within a niche, it’s much easier to expand outwards. The niche’s positive view on a product often travels outside this smaller section, and can catch on if the marketing and product meet with larger audience’s expectations.
The main problem with Guilty Gear being that the genre it is in itself has always been in the middle of being popular with the masses and being within a niche. As a franchise, Guilty Gear has a prestige spot of being recognised as damn good by most consumers into the genre and gained a small pop-culture status by the mid-2000’s.
In short, Guilty Gear as a franchise is a deluxe product. As a game it’s easy to get into despite its complex mechanics, but in the end they are hard to master. It may have generally lower consumer base as BlazBlue, which took GG‘s spot during its absence, yet neither series will never reach the popularity of Dragon Ball Fighters Z due to sheer amount of Dragon Ball fans out there.
Being a deluxe product with a limited consumer base isn’t anything bad, especially if the general view towards the product is highly regarded. ArcSys did a great job at building one of the best tutorial modes in fighting game history, but they can’t force consumers to get into said game. As mentioned, Guilty Gear‘s appeal is in its complexity, which really has been overstated. The sheer amount of options and unique methods to realize those options per character is rather unpresented in other fighting games, and by that extension does take a bit more time to learn. That goes for every fighting game, really. Games are, after all, all about learning the rules and trying to become the best you can. It has always been counter-intuitive for gaming for the games to hand-hold the player through them, as that’s essentially removing playing from the game. Some people just don’t want to play, they just want to spectate or walk around a house in search for a diary.
ArcSys would be doing damage to the franchise if they began to move against its established fame and history. Guilty Gear‘s complexity is not damaging the franchise, but as a businessman would rationalise it, it’s not for everyone. Naturally, the answer is to lessen those systems to make appeal the wider audience. Ishiwatari claims that it’s a difficult issue to balance with the controls and trying reduce the systems in the game, but in reality it isn’t. Keep Xrd as a series as it is, there’s no reason to muck around it. If they want capitalise on Guilty Gear while still appealing to the general audience, ArcSys should consider creating a sub-series. They actually have one they could re-use all the while poking fun at the fans and the franchise as a whole in good faith. Guilty Gear Petit is a thing.
You might want to turn the volume down, WonderSwan’s sound is rather spartan. The game looks better on a real screen, believe it or not
ArcSys won’t give two cents about this idea, because it is much easier just to recycle everything they have now rather than plan a new, more wider audience friendly entry in the franchise. Of course, a game like this would be considered a toned-down, dumbed down second rate entry by some, and because of this it would require a solid, well thought approach to make it competent. This being ArcSys, this will never happen in a million years, they’ll make more money on releasing most characters as DLC and concentrating on milking whatever they have left for now.
It’s a good idea to expand a company’s market, sure. However, it’s not a good idea to do this at the expense of your product. The market where most fighting games are, and all but one ArcSys games are in, is in the Red Ocean. You can’t expect to expand within this limited area, you’ll end up cannilibizing. The best option often is to offer more alternatives. A Metroid to Mario and Zelda, all three sharing different sections of the overall market, all offering different play. Expansion means you need to expand the lineup as well and maintain it, not take an existing piece and mangle it up for general markets that were not interested in it in the first place. Keeping your current consumers market is easier than trying to appeal to a new one, especially if you’re using the same damn product, just not even trying to keep it the same anymore.