The Definition Of Insanity: Capcom’s Non-SFV Fighters

Some bad guy in some old game once defined insanity as ‘doing the exact same fucking thing over and over again expecting shit to change’. For the team at Capcom, however, it looks like they’re expecting a different result from their same old reluctance to bank on their non-Street Fighter fighting franchises, despite the runaway success of Street Fighter doyen Yoshinori Ono’s labour of love.

It’s this sort of hesitance that was given to the Darkstalkers franchise, which after the success of Street Fighter 4 and years of hyping up from Ono himself, was eventually given a new title: Darkstalkers Resurrection, a compilation re-release of the old 2D catalogue after the same fashion as SF3 Third Strike: Online Edition. After so much momentum being built towards what Darkstalkers fans assumed would be a new game, what audience a new Darkstalkers title would have had was left underwhelmed, and Resurrection tanked. Capcom’s executives saw this as a sign that a triple-A take on the beloved fighter franchise would similarly flop, and Ono’s dreams were trampled.

“Secretly, we believed that a silent majority wanted a Darkstalkers sequel,” Ono lamented recently in an article for Playboy, of all publications.

Capcom are well within their rights to be reticent in splurging their dough on a risky venture like a fighting game that doesn’t start with the words Street Fighter, make no mistake, but when that same hesitation spills over into other franchises, it makes a revival in the vein of Street Fighter itself much less likely.

“People are asking for new Rival Schools or Capcom vs SNK 3 and these people have a very loud voice,” Ono continued. “I would do the exact same thing again to gauge interest to see whether or not people actually care.”

Yeeeeeeah, I’m not convinced that’s the wisest move.

If Ono’s speaking straight here, and would gauge interest in a new Rival Schools or Capcom vs SNK title simply by rereleasing old games, it’s a safe expectation that they’ll be just as disappointed as they were by Darkstalkers Resurrection. The simple reason for that is they haven’t quite realised what the fans actually want: the fans don’t want the same games they played decades ago, they want something new. A repackaged PS2-era or PS1-era game might get some fans on-side, but that’s the tip of a very hungry iceberg, eager to sink their teeth into a complete re-envisioning of a loved franchise.

Of course, that sort of work is expensive, even prohibitively so. Ultimately Capcom does still need to test the waters. So if a new title won’t cut it, how can Capcom gauge interest in these titles without spending too much money? If you ask me, the answer’s right in front of them.

Street Fighter V's character select screen

Over the next couple of years, we could see anyone appear on this screen.

Street Fighter V is Capcom’s golden goose, the fighting game equivalent of a too-big-to-fail bank. It’s also a game that Capcom intends to keep alive for the next decade, by way of regular character introductions every two months after launch. While we know the names of the next six characters to see us through to 2017, after that is a whole new ball game. Adding a character or two from the Rival Schools roster, or even powers willing an SNK character, into the Street Fighter V mix would serve as an introduction to a whole new dimension of the Capcom universe to a lot of new players, while giving those already familiar with the characters a fresh experience, all at a minimal financial risk.

Street Fighter itself is already a series that assimilates other Capcom brands into its own canon. Street Fighter Alpha first assimilated roaming brawler Final Fight, including first Guy and Sodom, before adding in Cody and Rolento in updates to Alpha, man mountain Hugo in Street Fighter 3, and most recently Poison in Ultra Street Fighter 4. And that goes without mentioning Street Fighter’s own schoolgirl Sakura appearing in Rival Schools itself.

It’s not as if other franchises aren’t getting on board this practice either. The first Dead Or Alive game was arguably a vehicle to diversify the portfolio of a certain Ryu Hayabusa and his Ninja Gaiden franchise, and even today features guest characters from Sega’s Virtua Fighter brand. Tekken 7 will be the first mainline title in the series to feature a guest character from a ‘rival’ fighting game, namely Street Fighter’s Akuma. SNK’s King Of Fighters franchise is an amalgamation of a plethora of old Neo Geo franchises, including Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, Ikari Warriors, Psychic Soldier and more. Even KOF itself has leased out its big names to Tencent’s fighting games venture, Xuandou Zhiwang. The point is, this is the furthest thing from a new practice imaginable.

If Capcom intends to gauge interest in new content for a beloved franchise by bundling up a fistful of old content and expecting everyone to jump on board, they’re setting themselves up to fail. Taking the resources that would be put into that, and using them to develop content with a new flavour for its existing killer app would, at least to me, give Capcom a much clearer impression of just how desired a new title would be. The way forward for them is to give the people a taste of new blood and see how many people want more.

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Posted on January 24, 2016, in FGC and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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