The Fall of Brand Loyalty in the Fighting Game Community: Rest in Peace, Capcom

by Justin Bell
on August 21, 2017

Fighting games are a genre of competitive game that has “rise and fall” periods harder than any other genre out there. Between generations of consoles, fighting games die out and are revived. It’s a process that’s been pretty consistent for years and years since fighting games were conceived.

Capcom is one of the big companies associated with those generational revivals. They make a lot of non-fighting games, like Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, and Megaman; however, their fighting game accolades are bigger than any company. From the SNES to the 360, “Capcom” was synonymous with “fireballs, uppercuts, and spinning roundhouse kicks.”

They made Street Fighter, which took the very generic “one on one” templates made by games like Karate Champ and shaped it into the granddaddy of all fighting games. Then they made Saturday Night Slam Masters, Darkstalkers, Power Stone, Marvel vs. Capcom, SNK vs. Capcom…

You get the picture. They made, like, half the fighting games on the market for a while. EVO, one of the biggest fighting game tournaments ever, just passed by. Two of their games were on the main stage—Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter V. Obviously, thousands upon thousands of people were watching, including me.

So what’s with all the negative press they’ve been receiving? Why are they gaining infamy? It certainly isn’t something they’re accustomed to.

Well, let’s start off with the events that just transpired at EVO 2017, and why they make Capcom, in particular, look awful.

Other Companies Are Showing Us Some Amazing Stuff—Capcom Isn’t

If you’ve been paying attention to video game announcements for a long time, you know that the landscape is changing. Companies don’t save up all their announcements for a big convention like E3 anymore. They’ll sprinkle them out over the year, and use them at the most opportune moments.

That’s exactly what happened at EVO 2017. Most of the big fighting game companies had something to share, and most of them came right at the end of the event, which runs from Friday to Sunday.

Here’s some of the notable stuff that got shown off:

  • Namco, the company that makes the 3D fighting games Tekken and Soul Calibur, announced a new guest character for Tekken 7. Geese Howard from Fatal Fury and King of Fighters will be joining the ranks! Badass!
  • Arc System Works, which develops everyone’s favorite anime fighting games, showed off Trunks joining the roster for Dragon Ball FighterZ. Everyone was hyped to high hell.
  • Arc System Works piled it on by announcing an entire game—a crossover fighter called BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle. It will feature two-versus-two battles with fighters from four franchises: BlazBlue, Persona, Under Night-In Birth and Jesus, that’s really something for anime fans to look forward to.
  • Arika, the company that made the 3D spinoffs of Street Fighter during the PlayStation area, has announced a new game. It’s basically everyone’s favorite characters from Street Fighter EX minus the SF originals like Ryu. Wait, really?

That’s a LOT to look forward to if you’re a fighting game fan. I literally screamed “WHAT” when I saw Arika’s trailer. (I would tell you the name of the game, but there isn’t one. It’s uploaded on YouTube under “The Mysterious Fighting Game.”)

So what does Capcom have to offer?!

  • A new character in Street Fighter V named Abigail. It’s an absurdly large and incredibly ugly man that was originally a random goon from Final Fight.

Huh…alright. But Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is coming up, right? Surely they’d show a new character from one of the new Marvel TV shows or something…

  • Jedah, a random vampire from the Darkstalkers franchise who is mostly forgettable, joins the fray. Also Gamora, the green chick from Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • You care about Gamora, don’t you?
  • I mean, she’s not Star Lord, but she’s definitely…uh, green…

Alright, that’s a major disappointment. It’s especially disheartening right after Arika took a lot of people’s obscure favorite Street Fighter characters and decided to make their own game with them. But that’s not all.

When they announced Jedah, they had pro fighting game player “Filipino Champ” on there to showcase the two new extremely underwhelming characters. He was on stage purely to shill, but he was doing a horrendous acting job.

Something like that doesn’t lead to tons of bad press all on its own, though. It’s just the newest entry in a history of bad decisions.

Capcom’s Fighting Game Trail of Tears

In 2008, Street Fighter IV was the first fighting game to make big waves in the 7th generation of consoles. (If you don’t know, that’s Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii.) This was the first main entry of the series in 3D, and it wasn’t terribly friendly to newbies, but it sold a ton anyway!

This was also the time when fighting games were still expected to release the old-school way: in arcade cabinets. I could walk down to the boardwalk in 2008 and challenge a little Vietnamese kid to a pickup game. (I didn’t win.)

The arcade stuff is pretty important for reference because it’s tied into some of the problems that Capcom started to have. They wanted to do things the old-school way at home, too.

If you remember Street Fighter II, you might remember it had a ton of different names. So there’s like, SUPER Street Fighter, Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter II: Champion Edition… It got pretty hard to keep track of, and pretty much no one was buying more than one edition.

It made sense at the time—when they wanted to roll out an update, it had to come in the form of an entirely new edition. When they wanted to let you play as Akuma, they couldn’t walk into your house and manually update your cartridge. Go buy a new one if you want to be the bad guy.

You can imagine why this is a problem in the 2000s. In 2010, it was time to release Super Street Fighter IV. It’s the same game as “vanilla” SFIV, but it’s got a buttload more characters. For people that know what being a fighting game player is like, it was some dark foreshadowing.

Not too long after, there was Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition. That’s a lot of words for a game where people punch each other really hard. Not only were the titles getting longer, but the updates were getting smaller. Arcade Edition only added four characters. Big whoop.

Then Ultra Street Fighter IV… and by now, people are really, really sick of Capcom’s antics. Just release a new one already.

Capcom’s Line of Excessive Money Grabs

Oh, yeah, and this wasn’t the only game they were doing that to. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 released in 2011, retailing at 60 dollars. It sold pretty well—it was missing some mainstay Marvel heroes, but hey, no game is perfect right?

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 released before 2011 was over. It was 40 dollars. If you were an original customer for MvC3, the full game billed you for one hundred dollars. And it didn’t stop there.

Everyone was excited for another crossover game they were making, Street Fighter X Tekken. It was a match made in heaven! It had parallels between the main characters of each franchise, tons of goofball elements, and really promising gameplay trailers.

Well, the game came out in 2012, and it wasn’t great. It happens. But people weren’t just angry about waiting for a bad game; they were angry about one of the greediest, grubbiest business practices to ever come out of the game industry.

Street Fighter X Tekken released with a roster that was meant to be expanded with paid downloadable characters. This normally wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that every single one of those downloadable characters were already on the game disc. They could be accessed with hacking, too—every single move was animated clear as crystal.

Boy, people were pissed. I’ve never seen people so pissed at Capcom. That was the mistake that made people start making “Top 10 Capcom Mistakes” articles. The lists usually had “no more Megaman games” at 10 or so, with #1 being “massively ripping off their hardcore fanbase.”

The Torrential Shift of Fighting Game Fans

I’m a die-hard fighting game fan, and I always will be. No matter how many times Capcom has burned me, I still get a tingle down my spine everytime I see the blue and yellow logo phase into existence when a new game starts. However…

I’m not really playing the new Street Fighter. I’ve ceased to care about any of the new character announcements for it. I sure as hell won’t be playing Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite—you know, fool me once, etc., etc.

To add onto that, we’re in a new total golden age of fighting games. I can play five new and current fighting games within the span of a few hours and have a complete blast with all of them! I’m addicted to Killer Instinct combos, hitting parries in Tekken 7 feels better than sex, and I still really can’t get over throwing Batarangs at people in Injustice 2.

Why bother with a company that isn’t providing me with awesome new games?

That’s the sentiment that a lot of fighting game fans are echoing. It’s something you hear across all levels of players, from the most casual to the literal professionals. The name Capcom doesn’t mean the same thing that it did 10 or 20 years ago.

This is also affected by an attitude a lot of new gamers have. Once the population of a game declines, others follow suit. It’s really weird for a lot of the new generation of players to “hang onto” dying games. That used to be a cool thing—look at the Super Smash Bros. Melee community, sixteen years strong—but it isn’t anymore.

Players won’t jump the ship entirely, but the difference is becoming really clear. Capcom is going to have to change their style of development and business practices fast or they’re going to fade while the other companies usurp the throne.

Watch out for the next major fighting game tournaments—you might see lower viewership for Capcom games than you’re used to.

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