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So Capcom or “CapGod” as they’re often nicknamed are doing pretty well nowadays. Multiple critically praised Resident Evil games, getting Monster Hunter to blow up in the west, bringing Devil May Cry back, and even Ace Attorney is doing pretty well. It’s pretty surprising when you remember that prior to 2017, Capcom was one of the most disliked triple-A publishers in the industry.
“Crapcom” as people called them in the late 2000s and early 2010s seemed like they couldn’t do anything right: bad DLC practices, canceling anticipated new games, and a backward policy of appealing to westerners that didn’t really appeal to westerners. So, how did they do it?
The dark age of Crapcom started around 2009 and was primarily caused by three things:
The 7th generation of consoles (Wii, PS3, 360) was not an easy time for developers. Many were still getting used to the much higher cost of developing HD online games and wanted to find ways to squeeze as much profit out of titles as possible. One answer to this was the emergence of DLC and Capcom went all out in the worst way.
The first DLC issue was with Marvel vs Capcom 3 with Jill Valentine and Shuma Gorath being announced DLC characters who were already on the disc. You only paid for a code to unlock them. This became an even bigger controversy with their next fighting game Street Fighter X Tekken. When SFXT launched it was found that an extra 12 fully finished characters were hidden away on the disk who were meant to be released as DLC alongside the Vita version of the game.
The wasn’t exclusive to fighting games. Asura’s Wrath, one of the better games Capcom published during this period actually had its ending hidden away behind a DLC paywall. Many gamers thought Capcom came off as greedy as they were basically sectioning content that was already made just so they can sell it for more cash.
Appeal to The West
The other pain spot for Capcom was their attempted policy of ‘globalization‘ or appealing to the west. This was a movement spearheaded by Keiji Inafune, a long-time producer at the company.
It was found that international audiences were becoming a far bigger market than Japan. According to reports Japan had gone from making up 50 percent of all global video game sales in 2002 to only 10 percent in 2010. According to Eurogamer, Inafune believed that for Capcom to remain profitable, they had to adapt to a more global western market. A large part of this policy included outsourcing projects to smaller western developers so that they would better suit the intended market.
In all fairness, this did lead to some good games like the Dead Rising and Lost Planet series however the majority of these games like ‘Dark Void’ (2010) and the Bionic Commando Remake (2009) were bland, uninspired attempts to recreate western action shooters that lacked the charm of their Japanese counterparts.
This culminated with the highly controversial DMC: Devil May Cry, a reboot of the Devil May Cry series featuring a grungier, douchier, smoking, Dante that was nowhere near as likable as his white-haired predecessor. Alongside more simplistic gameplay and a few snide comments at fans, it’s no surprise that the game bombed hard.
There was one final area that caused trouble for Capcom and that was Mega Man. You don’t see him as much nowadays but in the early 2010s, he was still considered to be Capcom’s mascot.
There were five games planned for Mega Man in 2010: Mega Man Universe, Mega Man Online, Mega Man Legends 3, Mega Man Star Force 4, and Maverick Hunter, and one by one, they were each canceled. And shortly after, this guy appeared in Street Fighter X Tekken:
Nowadays, we know that many of these games were canceled for very different and understandable reasons and the Bad Box Art Mega Man in SFXT just came down to bad timing. At the time though, fans saw these cancelations as an insult and proof that Capcom no longer respected its fans or franchises. It also doesn’t help that Capcom posted a tweet blaming the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 on a lack of fan interest, something that never looks good.
At this point in time (2010) Keiji Inafune, who produced the Mega Man franchise had actually left Capcom and continued a tirade about how “Japan is dead”, how the country produces nothing but bad games, and how Capcom, in particular, was filled with salarymen who refused to take risks. You know, despite the fact that they were acting on policies that he put in place.
He used the Mega Man debacle to further promote his upcoming Kickstarter game Mighty Number Nine, which he described as the Mega Man game that fans always wanted.
From Crapcom to CapGod
Even as early as 2009, Capcom developers already believed that the appeal to the west strategy was not working and their over 70 percent sales drop proved it. After DMC, it seemed Capcom was done. They would now focus primarily on in-house titles.
Now imagine you’re at E3 2017, a new chilling horror title is showcased, and then the title flashes: Resident Evil 7.
That was the turning point for Capcom. From there the hits seemed to keep on coming with Monster Hunter World, their best-selling game of all time. Then Resident Evil 2 Remake, and Devil May cry 5, debooting the franchise back to the original series with the original Dante we all know and love. We even saw the long-awaited return of The Blue Bomber with Mega Man 11.
They turned it around. These games weren’t all perfect but it was a much-needed return to form. Capcom was now on the way to becoming CapGod.
While the shift to working on in-house titles definitely helped keep things organized, it should be noted that Capcom never stopped attempting to appeal to the west. It’s more that they realized what it is westerners liked about their games (ie that they’re Japanese) and combined that with fresh and appealing western inspirations and in-house western input.
Resident Evil 7 goes back to classic survival horror but also makes use of a first-person perspective like many popular indie horror games being made around the time. It is also the first Resident Evil to be written by western narrators at Capcom Vancouver.
Capcom Europe COO Stuart Turner said in regards to Resident Evil 7 “Where we’ve had our best success in recent years is blending classic Japanese game design with a more Western aesthetic, It’s about very much continuing this with future products.”
The Future of Capcom
As I said at the start of this article, Capcom is in a good place and seems set to continue their CapGod winning streak. Street Fighter 6 looks fantastic and the Resident Evil 4 Remake looks surprisingly fresh. They’re even creating new IPs like Pragmata and Exoprimal.
They’ve still had a fair bit of trouble. The Resident Evil 3 Remake was a little too short, and pretty much everything to do with Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite had issues. It would also be great to see some of their old IPs return (new Darkstalkers pls) but overall I can’t complain. The good has far outweighed the bad in my opinion.
In some ways perhaps the Crapcom era was a good thing. It showed Capcom what fans on a global scale liked and didn’t like about their games which likely helped in informing the CapGod renaissance we see today.
And what happened to Keiji “Japan is Dead” Inafune? Well, Mighty Number Nine flopped due to a mishandled Kickstarter and now he’s making NFTs. The CapGod arc started a year after Mighty Number Nine was released in 2016. What Irony.