In an interview with Venture Beat, the producer of Mega Man 11 Kazuhiro Tsuchiya tells that the reason why there was no new Mega Man game for such a long time was because there was nobody to helm the ship. As much as Keiji Inafune gets shit flung at him because of Mighty Number 9, he was the force that made Mega Man happen for solid decades. Despite that, he was but one man, and games at this scale are never a single man effort.
Tsuchiya’s assertion that the atmosphere within the company wasn’t right, that nobody wanted to tackle the challenge to make a new Mega Man. It is without a doubt partially because Inafune’s rank that held the series in place, but just as much corporation’s own politics played in the mix. We’ve seen from Capcom’s own titles they’ve released that their library’s style has changed little by little this past decade.
For Koji Oda, the director of the game, it was the Casshern situation; if he’s not going to do it, then who will? Oda’s right in that social media and fans overall have been pining for a new game in the series.
However, would Capcom allow a new game just like that? Highly doubtful. Mega Man‘s 30th anniversary celebrations probably was the largest reason why the Mega Man 11 got greenlit, especially after the reception all the leaks and trailers the Man of Action Mega Man cartoon have been less than favourable overall. Banking on the core fans going balls deep into anything carrying a franchise’s name is not the best idea, not even for Star Wars or Metal Gear.
There is one quote from Oda that must be given a high emphasize;
Inafune’s departure was a big part of it. His leaving Capcom left a void, and people were hesitant to step in and become the new “Mega Man guy.”
This, dear reader, is the power a face has. Inafune, by all means, was father of Mega Man, the carrying force of the franchise, someone who would drive it onward, someone the consumer can latch unto and associate with. An inanimate product in itself needs some sort of association with something positive, be it a good time with a friend and a bottle of Coke, a friendly dentist recommending an Oral-B electric toothbrush or some representative from a corporation talking about something you love.
These two have been largely unknown to the public in terms of being a face. Tsuchiya was a programmer on Mega Man 7, but as usual, nobody gets glory as a programmer despite being one of the most important roles in game development. Perhaps his most known title is Asura’s Wrath, where he was the producer. Oda’s worked largely on Resident Evil titles, mainly as director with remakes. He was system planner on the original and got Special thanks in Street Fighter Alpha 2, but Shinji Mikami always took the spot as the face of Resident Evil in every regards when he was still with Capcom.
Because these two are now heading Mega Man, there is a marketable face again. They don’t come from scratch, there’s already something we can associate them with. If Mega Man 11 ends up being a massive success, and the fan expectations for it are massive, one of them or both will end up the successor to Inafune’s place as the face of the franchise, someone the consumer can reflect upon.
However, just as I said that Inafune leaving was just part of the equation, so are the sales, if not even more so. Oda saying that the sales figures for Mega Man Legacy Collection were the driving force behind Mega Man 11 being put into development jives with what I’ve been commenting on for these years; data matters extremely so for Japanese game developers. When there is established data and form, it is easier to get through the execs to get something done. A simple thing like having a name’s localisation into a correct form from may take numerous already existing sources to assure executive powers that its worth it. A single name. To assure Capcom’s higher rank of being allowed to put a new Mega Man title into production has required more than solid sales numbers. It has required fan feedback of all kinds being collected and presented in proper form.
Mega Man as a franchise didn’t go kaput only because Inafune left, but because its sales potential had been waning most of the 00’s. The consumer is a fickle thing, first claiming that Capcom is just rehashing franchises by making a title after a title to satisfy market wants, but then is being criticised for not having new titles for the franchise. I doubt its just the sales data of Legacy Collection that was presented for the execs, but also the data of sales from previous digital releases. After all, Capcom’s a corporation that must make profit. Making games that would have meager sales is not exactly in their favour. They’re not here to make art, but cold hard cash through commercially viable products.
I would argue that Mega Man‘s absence has done it good. Call it the Godzilla effect if you will, where an absence of a product for number of years will allow the market view reset a little bit and most of the baggage previous movies have delivered have managed to level out. It’s much easier to make a new entry after some time have passed with rejuvenated interest. However, there are times when something can get so hyped and becomes so expected that it simply can’t meet the expectations for whatever reasons. Star Wars Episode I is probably the example of this. Disney really screwed up by making Star Wars mundane, but that’s another topic.
Will Mega Man 11 deliver? At this moment, it looks like something that can probably excel decently. It’s not exactly what could be described a pretty game, some of the animations still look janky and the Double Gear system seems rather generic way to try forcing a gimmick into the game. It’s not something the franchise hasn’t done before, but can they make it work with the standard formula? Will the stage designs be excellent? Will the music be up to the standard?
And of course, there’s how Capcom is releasing the product. They intend to make most of it, but if you’re European and want the game for the Switch, you’re out of luck. There is a petition up that asks Capcom to release the game in physical format, but seems like the interest isn’t there. This isn’t the first time Capcom of Europe makes less than ideal decision.