Capcom is arguably the largest name in video game development ever. They have had a at least one hugely successful game on every major console since the NES (Neo Geo doesn't count). They have also been on the verge of bankruptcy more than once. Have some time to do some reading? Then lets take a look at Capcom's strengths and weakness, what they are doing now, and what they should be doing to both make money and make us happy.
Strength #1: Excellent Character and visual design
Depending on your age you likely associate the word "Capcom" with one of five characters. If you're in your late 20's to early 30's, it's Mega Man. If you are in your mid to late 20's, it's likely Ryu from Street Fighter 2. If you are in your late teens to early 20's, it's the zombies from Resident Evil. Or if your just a kid (by my old man standards anyway) then it's likely Dante from Devil May Cry or maybe Viewtiful Joe.
All those characters have had movies, comic books, anime, American animation, toys, and/or comic books made about them, many of which have been highly successful. No other video game developer has consistently made characters that had that kind of cross over appeal. That's due in no small part to the excellent visual design of those characters.
Capcom games of the 80's and 90's games were synonymous with incredible craftsmanship and quality, which should come as no surprise seeing as Keiji Inafune, Capcom's equivalent to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, was also originally schooled as a 2D illustrator. And Capcom's production artists are legendary in both the video game industry and the comic book industry. They have multiple books available featuring nothing but their production art, all of which are almost constantly sold out.
One comic book production team, UDON, has made a successful career out producing nothing but tributes the 80's and 90's Capcom design team's visual style. That company is currently living out the fan artist's dream in being contracted by Capcom to remake the graphics for one of their games in HD.
Capcom knew how to make characters that appealed to a broad range of audiences, and they created artwork for their games that is still drooled after today. That's a huge part of why they have been so successful for so long.
I should clarify that Capcom Japan made the drool worthy artwork. We all know that Capcom America had nothing to do with it.
Strength #2: You make the game
I see Capcom as the company that pioneered player controlled content in games. It started with Mega Man, which gave the player the option to choose what order the levels were played in, and in doing so what weapons would be acquired in what order. Also novel at the time was the option to choose what weapon you used and when you used the, a feature for the most part only used only in RPGs up until that time.
This effectively makes Mega Man a game where the player is partially responsible for the game's design. Keep in mind this was during a time when every side scrolling platformer consisted of levels that had to play in a predetermined order certain order, with the only weapon other than the one you start with being the temporary kind, the kind you have to scrounge to find, and that you could only carry one of at a time. Mega Man crapped in the face of all that, thought outside the box, and provided something unique. It provided the reward of becoming a walking tank (or the talking wank, depending on where you are from) that we all take for granted in video games today.
Street Fighter 2 was the next step in giving the player a role in their game's design. You decide which character to use, you decide which of the six attack buttons to use, if you're going to button mash or try to execute complex "special moves", and perhaps most importantly you decide if you want to play against a friend or fight the computer. Before Street Fighter 2, none of those options ever came together in one game.
Resident Evil 1-3 are basically interactive Horror movies where you decide how the movie plays out. The camera angles, cut scenes, characters and monsters pre-established. The rest is up to you.
Viewtuful Joe gives you the power to apply various effects to the game's events like slow motion, fast motion, camera zooms, instant replays, and screen splits (in the DS game). This god like power gives the player a sense of nearly totally control over those aspects of the game's content.
In Okami, you obtain a magic brush, giving you the power to literally draw aspect's of the game's world yourself.
The list could go on and on, as could a list of the companies multiple other strengths, but I'm trying to keep it short. On to the weaknesses!
Weakness #1: Milking a dead cow
Earlier I said that depending on your age that there are a variety of different Capcom characters you might associate with the company. But no matter who you are, you must associate Capcom on some with one thing above all else, crappy sequels. They've done it to Mega Man on multiple occasions, murdering the franchise with half baked sequels, then somehow resuscitating it just the brink of death. But just like adding water to the ink in a pen that you should have thrown out a while ago, the results are inarguably with weaker and weaker as time goes on. The Mega Man name, unlike Mario or Final Fantasy, has inarguably lost a lot of it's clout over the past 20 years.
Street Fighter got milked to death with by many half assed sequels, slowly burning out any loyality that millions once had to the Street Fighter name. Time will tell if Street Fighter 4 will make up for that.
Resident Evil has died once, with rock bottom sales on Resident Evil Zero for the Gamecube, only to be brought back from the dead, at least temporarily, with Resident Evil 4. But they are back to milking it again on the Wii with Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles.
In many people's opinion (meaning, mine)Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe didn't make it past their second games before they started to run dry. Viewtiful Joe 1 was fantastic, totally original. VJ 2 was everything from the first game re-done, minus two playable characters and well designed boss fights. Then there is Red Hot Rumble.
Devil May Cry #1 was considered genius, #2 was considered a huge disappointment, and #3 a well done but apology. With #4 looking almost identical to the other games in terms of gameplay (sorry lemon), it's hard to say if the series has been milked dry or still has a little juice left.
If you've been a fan of Capcom for a while, you know what it's like to follow a Capcom produced game series, psych yourself up for the series' next installment, only to come to find that the series you had once loved had turned to garbage. If you were a fan of the original Matrix film or the original Star Wars trilogy, you likely went through the same thing with the former's sequels and the latter's prequels.
All game companies do a little franchise milking now and again. The thing about Capcom is, they consistently milk their big name series, even though each and every time they do, they start to lose serious money. Rumor has it that the company almost when bankrupt when Street Figther 3 failed to perform, and the company was only saved by the surprise success of the new IP... Resident Evil. And again it's rumored that Capcom almost lost it when the Resident Evil series failed to perform on the Gamecube, only to be save again, but this time by two fresh IP's, Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe.
It's a dangerous game that Capcom plays by milking the way they do. If I were to make a movie about the history of Capcom's carrer, I'd probably call it "Dangerous Milkers".
And that's all I have to say about that.
Weakness #2: Being in the wrong place at the wrong time
Capcom's management has been reading the market wrong for a while now, maybe more than ten years. They release a Mega Man and Ghost's N Goblins game on the PSP, though both those series have always had fans amongst the Nintendo faithful. Although both titles are excellent, they fail to find audiences on a console owned mostly by people who didn't start gaming until the 90's. They release a Resident Evil game for the Nintendo DS. While PSP owners would have loved it, the family oriented fans of the DS completely ignore it.
Then there was the decision to make Resident Evil games only for the Gamecube, while all the series' fans had bought a PS2. And that time they made a cel-shaded, Zelda inspired game for the PS2 instead of the GC, when most owners of the PS2 were obsessed with real world based crime games like Grand Theft Auto. And who could forget the way Capcom backed the Dreamcast with the likes Resident Evil: Code Veronica, Cannon Spike, GunBird 1 and 2, and multiple ports of Street Fighter 3?
I love that Capcom seems to be willing to forget good business sense and just make games for the consoles they want to, but I can't help but feel that it's more than just innocent abandon of judnement that drives these decisions. I think that some idiot running Capcom Japan actually thinks these were all good ideas from a business standpoint.
For example, not that long ago they Keiji was saying that the only games that will sell on the Wii are puzzle games or motion controlled games. Then Resident Evil 4 Wii and RE: Umbrella Chronicles sell through the roof, and Zack and Wiki flops harder than an frustrated great white shark, out of his tank, in a shopping mall full of beef steak. (just made that one up on the fly, folks)
In conclusion, Capcom has awesome artists and game designers, but terrible buisness men calling the shots. With that in mind, lets look to Capcom's future.
Capcom's plans for 2008, as we know them
Resident Evil 5 is a sure bet to sell, though nothing about the game looks to have the power to bring in new players who didn't like RE 4. All the same, the game is sure to move a lot of 360's and PS3's, especially in Japan. In the US I think a lot of 360 players have no attachment to the RE series, and I doubt it will sell as well as Gears did, and definitely not as well as Halo 3.
I'm guessing that unless Street Fighter 4 is really innovative, it will only be played by the completely loyal hardcore. If it's in 2D it's in trouble because no one but Smash Bros fans play 2D fighting games anymore, and if it's in 3D the less loyal hardcore fans of the series (like myself) will feel abandoned and lose interest. Plus the competition with Virtua Fighter 5 and Soul Caliber 4 will likely be too much for SF4 to keep up with. The Wii is actually the console where SF4 probably had the best shot, as it is the current console of choice for many old school gamers, and for the world in general. But that's the one console SF4 is not coming to. Typical Capcom business decision, meaning it's totally dumb.
Devil May Cry 4, like RE5, will sell well with fans of the series, and not with anyone else.
That Bionic Commando game is a wild card, but my bet is it will flop. Again, old school fans of Bionic Commando bought the Wii, but that's the one console the game isn't coming to. Plus, Wii controls + bionic arm could have kicked ass. As it stands, Bionic Commando "Next Gen" will likely just be a Spiderman game with a "Hardcore" paint job. But I hope I'm wrong.
Okami for the Wii likely wont sell that well either, as anyone interested in the game already has it for the PS2. The game will be better on the Wii, but not enough to counter the aspects of the game that caused it to sell poorly, namely the fact that it's a new IP, it's cel shaded, it takes place in ancient Japan, it's wordy as hell, and stars a white wolf whose name is nearly unpronounceable.
All the same, I'll be pre-ordering it.
And that's about it for the big name Capcom Games for 2008, at least off the top of my head.
What I think Capcom should do in 2008
Well, I should have said "What I hope Capcom should have been already working on for 2008", because if they start work on any of these ideas now, none of them will be ready by 2008. Regardless, hers is what I think Capcom should do in 2008.
Resident Evil 5 comes packed in with Wii-Remote/Nunchuck rip off
A lot of critics ripped the Wii port of RE4 apart, stating that the controls were a downgrade and that no one should buy it. Those guys were obviously Wii-a-phobic or just on crack, because RE4's port to the Wii has shipped over a million copies so far, despite the fact that the game looks identical to it's GC counterpart. The people have spoken. the Wii controls are superior.
Personally, I can't even play RE4 on the GC now that I've played it on the Wii. It's so much less fun, so much more disconnecting with the control pad alone. I know I would be more that willing to pay 30 extra bucks for a 360/PS3 controller that would make RE5 on the PS3/360 control like RE4 on the Wii, especially if that controller could be utilized for other future games like Bionic Commando. People buy Guitar Hero for $90 for that "extra" controller. In fact, people buy the Wii itself just for the controller. So people sure as hell would shell out an extra few bucks for RE5 if it came with a superior controller. It wouldn't need motion sensing, just the analog stick/laser pointer combination. That combo is half the reason why I own a Wii at all. I could give a rats ass about motion control. It's all about the pointer, and of course the Virtual Console.
Such a move would truly even the playing field between the PS3/360 and the Wii. I'm sure a lot of Wii's would be traded in for PS3/360's if this move ever happens.
But if it doesn't happen, then we'll need a....
Resident Evil 2 remake for the Wii with RE4's game engine
A lot of people have already predicted that it's in the works, as Capcom developers have eluded to interest in remaking all the Playstation RE games for the Wii. With the RE 2 scenario being strangely absent from Re:Umbrella Chronicles, it's the most likely canidate for a remake. This would be a very wise move, as RE2 was the biggest selling game in the series (not counting the multiple times the first RE sold in it's various ports and remakes), and would please RE fans already owning a Wii, fans of the movies that never played the games (and don't get what RE4 has to do with the movies), and also RE fans who have not yet bought the Wii, waiting for a true RE game to hit the system.
Mega Man game for the Wii
An online poll recently showed higher demand for a Mega Man game on the Wii than on any other console, and Keiji has stated he's interested. The Wii is unquestionably the choice of the home of the old school gamer, and Mega Man games (the 2D ones anyway) have always sold well on Nintendo Consoles. A new Mega Man game featuring one or more of the many versions of the character that have graced consoles through out the years, with gameplay (sorry again, Lemon) that's a cross between Mario Galaxy and RE4, now that would make Mega Man a legitimates force in gaming again. But it can't be half assed like every home console Mega Man game of the last ten years. It would need to look and play as good as Mario Galaxy. That's what people expect from the Wii now, and that's what true fans have always expected from Mega Man. Mega Man used to be just as good, if not better than Mario. It's time for that to be true once again.
Stop milking the past and make some good, new IP's
Zack and Wiki, Capcom's latest attempt at a new IP, can pretty much considered a financial failure at this point. It was the darling of the critics, yet it still flopped. Want to know why? Because as good as it was, it wasn't the type of game that most human beings on planet earth actually want to play. Not only is it a new IP that has no pre-installed fan base, but it's the type of game that has no pre-installed fan base, meaning most people don't ever play games like Zack and Wiki. That means no one knows if they are actually going to like Zack adn Wiki before they buy it, and therefore don't want to drop $40 on it when they can go for something safe instead like Lego Star Wars. What the hell was Capcom thinking? Maybe Zack and Wiki would have had a chance on the DS, but the Wii? Well, hopefully they learned their lesson because that kind of nonsense has to stop.
Capcom needs to get back to what made them great. New IP's in established genres that give the players unprecedented level of control over their game experience, crafted with the highest level of excellence, and NO MORE MILKING.
Those are my thoughts. But more importantly, what do you guys think. After all, an analyst is YOU!