Sunday, July 31, 2011

Capcom should learn a lesson from SEGA

Ok, before I talk about the recent issue with Mega Man Legends 3, I want to take you back in time.

The year is 1996. It’s a week after my 10th birthday, and just another week or so before Thanksgiving. One of my favorite habits at this age is going through magazines that are months behind the current issue. My two favorites at this point are Nickelodeon and Disney’s Adventures. (PWI’s writing wasn’t enough to make Mama pay so much for it back then.) Now for all that year, the magazines were hyping SEGA’s next greatest game, a game so revolutionary, it would put the gaming industry up on it’s ear, introduce a new camera, smack yo’ grandmamma and forever change what you knew about video games forever.

It was to be dubbed Sonic X-Treme.

The ads were already circulating before the game was even finished. Disney’s Adventures already saved a spot for it on the annual Christmas checklist, and Nickelodeon ran a contest for some X-Treme swag.

Now let me stop right there. I was a Nintendo girl, head over heels for my first console, an SNES I had only been playing since that prior May. I never owned a SEGA console. I had already watched the Sonic movie (Does anybody have a copy of this??) and a few episodes of the first and second Sonic cartoons, but I really only followed the animated series at this point, and usually because it was filler until re-runs of Super Mario Brothers and Sailormoon would air at ungodly o’clock in the morning on USA Network, so my knowledge of Sonic at that point was vague at best. (Though somewhere I still have my Tails flyer and Dr. Robotnik wind-up, both from McDonald’s.) But even I was intrigued. Since I was more familiar with the cartoons and merchandise than I was Sonic then, I figured this would somehow be used in a Sonic special. Maybe Sally would stop being a stuck-up bitch and be a playable character? Maybe Rotor would invent a portal in space and Sonic would have to fight aliens? Maybe Sonic would meet a future child of his, and she would be named something relative like Sonia? Ah the wild imagination I had. Like SEGA would EVER let ANYBODY take it that far.

Sonic X-Treme already had a HUGE fanbase. Everyone who knew anything about SEGA was talking about it. The first screenshots and videos were coming out, and true to their word, there was a new motion-sickness-inducing camera for the game, and the graphics were exactly what you would expect from the mid 1990’s. Geometric. But hey, this is 1996, and we all thought it was totally tubular. (No really, have you seen the fish-eye lens?)

Now the plot was nothing new. If you’ve played the first Sonic game, then you know the drill. Dr. Robotnik. Animals turned into cyborgs. Sonic saving the day, yadda yadda. But then in the summer, we heard that there was a change in the plan, as Sonic now has to rescue a gorgeous new girl named Tiara Boobowski. Sort of a squirrel hybrid, but in a sporty costume. Not at all as offensive as Sally Acorn’s blue vest/boot combo, which left her princess bits hanging out for all to see. But of course Boobowski was a last name that flew the way cinder blocks do not with Mama, so I can’t say I can see her buying the game for me if I had a Saturn. (Although now she likes Mortal Kombat.) We heard all kinds of crazy things, like Tiara being a playable character, Tiara replacing Sally as Sonic’s female of the day (By the way, have you followed the Archie comics? He’s a whore. :P) Tiara being a princess, Tiara being the daughter of a scientist. HOO BOY! The more I read about her, the more I couldn’t wait to see her. Adios Sally! Good luck with figuring out the whole career vs. Sonic vs. long lost older brother thing. Tiara seems to have A LOT less drama in her life. (For more: )

So here we are, pre-Thanksgiving 1996, and the world is waiting for Sonic X-Treme. Children’s books and t-shirts are being sold for it, new toys are coming out, posters, commercials, everything is in line for the game to debut on Sega Saturn.

And then…. POOF!

Just before Christmas, the game was postponed to early 1997.

No need to worry! This will give them enough time to finish the graphics. Maybe even throw in another level or two. There just didn’t seem to be much of a reason to worry. Ads and promotional goodies still followed, hyping the new game.

It was an innocent time. We were all told to believe in everything each company said and what they claimed to stand for. We were all told never to question the corporations, and really, there wasn’t any solid reason to think that SEGA, with all their rabid Blue-Blur fans backing this, would ever deceive the public.

So imagine the shock and surprise when the announcement rang out that SEGA was reneging on their promise and cancelling Sonic X-Treme.

By this time, my brother was just starting to grasp onto Sonic fever, so the news came as a surprise. Now with no SEGA console in the house, it wasn’t viewed as a big blow to either of us yet, but we both knew that this was a stupid move.

The uprising was quick and sharp. Now back then, petitions were fresh and new to the internet, just not as powerful as they are today. There was NO Twitter, Facebook, hell the closest thing to social networking back then were lame newsgroups and message boards. So it’s not like anybody had the luxury of being able to get a video game rally off the ground in a timely manner. Hell, the first solid petition involving people who worked on Sonic X-Treme wouldn’t get off the ground for at least another decade. So the people found a silent method. One that was nearly fatal to SEGA itself…

They stopped buying Sega Saturn and it’s products. Completely.

Magazine writers of the day surmised that the sharp drop in sales was a sign that SEGA just couldn’t keep up with Sony’s PlayStation and Nintendo’s N64.

Did you really buy that excuse? HA HA!!

SEGA was fully capable of keeping up with it’s competition especially from a graphical sense. Look no further than NiGHTS as permanent proof of that. Never before was there a game so stunning, and it was a Saturn exclusive.

But SEGA had performed a cardinal sin amongst game developers. They had cock-teased the public with what could have been an incredible game, only to pull the plug just before a finished demo was to be released. (Back in the day, if your name was registered to a magazine or developer’s list, once every so often you’d get an awesome disc in the mail, full of demos. They’re rightfully less rare now with the advent of XBOX monthly, but I treasure those days anyway.) Sonic X-Treme was already previewed by several magazines, who now had to save face while explaining to a hungry audience why the game they previewed was suddenly aborted.

But it wasn’t over.

For the Christmas rush of 1996, SEGA re-released what would be one of several Saturn ports of Sonic 3D Blast, which was completed in 7 weeks and had better videos, a fully 3D bonus stage and an alternate soundtrack from it’s Genesis/Mega Drive predecessor. (The 1999 Japanese edition ~coming nearly 3 years LATE~ had better load times but a glitch stage one. The European version was released as Flickies’ Island.) A nice gesture, but it was a hastily thrown together re-hash of a Genesis title. And adding to the story, while the Saturn version had better graphics, it lacked a save feature. And for a game as aggravatingly long as this, the lack of a save function was no longer acceptable. The $60+ price tag for BOTH console versions also did not help matters.

In July of 1997, SEGA released Sonic Jam ~ a full priced compilation disc of ALL the prior Genesis Sonic games, but with slightly enhanced graphics and new audio. Unfortunately, the game tends to crash if multiple sound effects occur, or if you even think about trying debug mode. Now aside from the re-hashed Sonic games included on the disc, there’s also a 3D world where you can play as Sonic while performing menial chores. Your reward? Concept art sheets and the credits.

Now there are a lot of kind hearted Sonic fans, who think of those levels as a precursor to Sonic Adventure. But at the time, veteran Sonic fans knew that what they were really looking at were glimpses of the unfinished Sonic X-Treme. A gander at 3D Blast and Sonic Jam, and you get an idea of what might have been.

They were un-amused. In fact, a lot of SEGA customers felt pretty damned insulted.

The demise of Sonic X-Treme was named as the catalyst for the premature death of the Sega Saturn.

The stigma never truly went away. While SEGA later wowed people with Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, they were never able to shake that dark cloud of “Is that all you can do?” and the darker cloud of “So, you gonna cancel yet ANOTHER good game?” the latter of which rang true when the Wii port of Sonic The Hedgehog was abruptly cancelled. (Though really we should all count our blessings there.) And since then, SEGA has had to deal with poor sales and the constant rebuttal from jaded fans, sick of seeing re-hashes.

PHEW! After all of that, I thought for sure that there would NEVER in my lifetime be another company, that would pull a Sonic X-Treme on us all.

Fast-forward to July 19, 2011. My brother races into the living room, frantic. After months of him raving about the Devroom, and how amazing this Capcom endeavor was, how awesome the non-trolls were and how cool the new game would be, he says to me just the most unfathomable thing I never saw coming.

“Capcom just cancelled Mega Man Legends 3!!”

I thought I had fallen asleep at the computer again. No way I had just heard something THAT stupid. Wait, let me grab the life-remote.


“Capcom just cancelled Mega Man Legends 3!!”

No I really did hear something THAT belligerently stupid. WHAT???

Well history truly repeated itself that day. Here we were, just WEEKS after Nintendo Power ran a 4 page spread on it, weeks after the trailer was released and the $5 prototype was announced, and moments after I had read that there were companies looking to sell merchandise based on MML3 should the game sell well, did I suddenly have a flashback of that fateful day in 1997, when Sonic X-Treme had been struck by a Smooth Criminal. Only now the Blue-Blur had been replaced by a Blue Bomber.

Worse? Just like SEGA, the string of misfortunes included over-priced re-hashes, unexplained cancellations and general corporate immaturity:

Good grief! And Capcom’s excuse would be just as lame as SEGA’s:

It didn’t meet our criteria.

Oh. So making money doesn’t fit your criteria. Honoring your promise to the public doesn’t meet your criteria. I see.

And just like before, news has since rang out that the Nintendo 3DS ~ the would’ve been home for MML3 ~ is now suffering. A mere month or so after release, the price has been slashed down to $170, as much of the library of 3DS games only center around re-hashes and baby games.

And right now, Capcom are doling out full priced re-hashes just as quickly as SEGA once did.

Just yesterday, I was reading about the next Street Fighter game. Oh sure, you can tell me all you wish that Marvel vs. Capcom, SF X Tekken, and the 3DS game are all “different” games, but it looks to me like they’re all the SAME game with a few name changes.

So let’s look at the brass tax of Capcom over the last two years:

1. Street Fighter 4 is released at $54.99. It’s billed as the most complete-y-completest game ever.
2. 5 Street Fighter 4 DLC’s are released. US price about $10 per download. That’s $50 for all 5.
3. Super Street Fighter 4 comes out at $60.
4. Several DLC’s are released. While the first one is free via a promotional, the rest are $10. (Let’s just say $20 since I can only think of 2.)
5. The 3DS port is released at $35.
6. Tekken X Street Fighter is announced, and it will work off the same art and engine as Street Fighter 4. Price rumored to be $60.
7. Street Fighter X Tekken (A totally DIFFERENT game) is also set to debut at $60.

Now mind you, this is the main Street Fighter 4 series as released by Capcom. I have not yet added in DLC’s for the last 3 games, nor have I counted Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, each priced at $60. So let’s do the math here:

54.99 + 50 + 60 + 20 + 35 + 60 + 60 = 339.99

Round that up to the next dollar, and I have just spent $340 on the SAME GAME, over and over and OVER AGAIN!!

Each time, I may see a SLIGHT change in graphics, maybe a few additional characters or a costume change. But nothing, not even the story changes all that much. Ryu is still seeking vengeance and redemption, Sakura is still seeking Ryu, Chun-Li has yet to find out what happened to her father, and save but for Ken, none of the other characters have evolved at all. Hell, their knowledge of each other is as vague as it was in Street Fighter 2, so what am I getting, really?

But this is a method that DOES meet Capcom’s criteria. Oh never mind the fact that MML3 had an original story that SON OF A CASKET actually continues a storyline from a previous game! No no no, we don’t need THAT. Instead let’s trick the public into buying a repeat of the last game they paid $60 for. We’ll just toss in a new trick or two and say it’s an all new experience!

By Christmas, we will be able to see definitively if this is enough of a slap in the face to cause Capcom’s stocks to plummet. But this is a big enough move that it has forever damaged the integrity of this corporation. Maybe not enough to bring it down, but enough to have consumers thinking twice about their next purchase.

Now while it’s much too late to salvage Sonic X-Treme enough for even a downloadable, there’s still a chance that Capcom could heed warning and release MML3, at least as a downloadable. People are already jumping to join the campaign:!/GetMeOffTheMoon and you should too. It’s still early enough that a revival could happen.

Another thing we as fans should try, is selective boycotting.

If it has Mega Man on it, buy it.

If it’s Capcom, but there’s NO Mega Man? Walk away. DON’T buy it.

As gamers, we need to show Capcom that they’ve made a terrible mistake, and that Mega Man is the most profitable thing they’ve got left. We also need to show them that re-hashes are NOT acceptable rain checks, when a game they promised has been cancelled. Hopefully this will get through to the shareholders’ ultra-thick heads, and amends can be made.

Of course, if they’d like to go bankrupt, I suppose that’s fine too.

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