(originally posted: August 12, 2011)
Actually, I am only a third of the blame.
You look confused – let me fill you in.
Lets go through a little bit of a backstory first – just before the summer of ’92, Capcom unveiled their home port of the wildly successful arcade fighting game, Street Fighter II. I had only previously played this brawler once on a school trip to the Rocking Horse Ranch in ’91. While everyone else was jumping into pools, riding horses and eating cheeseburgers, I used the $20 my parents gave me solely for the arcade room. I only got to play twice that day (damn teenagers hogging it all up) but ever since then, I couldn’t stop thinking about the next time I could get some more playtime with it. So when I finally saw it in person that the famed FAO Schwartz toy store, the elation I experienced was incomparable at that time. The price tag back then in FAO Schwatz was an absurd $82 or so before tax, and being the only place in New York City with it in stock, it was either beg and plead for my parents to purchase it for me, or do the rational thing and wait for the local game shops to receive a new batch in, and a much less inflated price point.
Naturally, the 11 year old me begged and pleaded until I got it.
At that time, I had no idea that Capcom had released a “Championship Edition” in the arcades, which enabled the four boss characters to be selectable combatants, along with other tweaks here and there. What I did learn soon after was that Capcom was about to release Street Fighter II: Turbo in the next year. Since Championship Edition never made its way to the Super Nintendo, I was completely stoked that I could finally get an upgraded version of the video game that my parents had spent $82+ for months ago! No more having to fiddle with Game Genie codes that let me play as bosses on Street Fighter II, all the while making the game completely unstable and virtually unplayable for even short periods of time. Not only would I get playable boss characters, but some of my favorite characters would get a new move or two, as well as a ten star turbo speed setting! Whoever passed this one up would be laughed at for months to come! So during the summer of ’93, I once again begged and pleaded for my parents to purchase Street Fighter II: Turbo for me, to which they replied “didn’t we spent nearly $100 on this for you already?” Persistence paid off as I once again I got the latest Capcom fighting game in the palms of my hands.
A few months later, I saw a preview for a brand new installment to the Street Fighter II series, called Super Street Fighter II. Four brand new characters? Even more tweaks to my favorite existing combatants? Sign me up for this one too! The following summer, I performed the same ol’ song and dance, and heard the same question asked by my parents, but I still got my copy of Super Street Fighter II!
A couple of days after I acquired the latest Street Fighter game, I looked through the contents of the box. Remember all of those useless papers and explanations that amounted out to mostly nothing? Well, remember those postcard sized questionnaires that companies would also insert into each game box? I had stumbled upon it and took a good look at it. Around the early to mid 90′s I was into comic books in a big way. Nearly all of my weekly allowance would be plunked down on comics at my local comic shop. At that time, I was rereading the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, which chronicled the demigod Thanos and his rise to omnipotence with the gathering of the six Infinity Gems. Whoever possesses all six of these gems would be gifted an unlimited power, being able to control anything, do anything and mold the universe to their liking.
As I was filling out that questionnaire for the hell of it, I noticed a “suggestion” section at the very bottom. Being that I was beyond enthralled with the Street Fighter II series, I made the suggestion that Capcom mold a brand new fighting game around the Infinity Gauntlet miniseries, complete with Infinity Gems giving a plethora of powers, and so on. A day later, I mailed the sucker in, and just as quickly as I sent it in, I completely forgot about it.
Nine months later, I see an ad for a new Capcom title called Marvel Superheroes. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the game had something to do with the Infinity Gauntlet series. I quickly remembered that questionnaire card I had sent in, and was blown away – did Capcom really take what I said to heart? My young mind was completely swimming in ecstasy! I waited and waited for a Super Nintendo port, all the while plunking down quarters at a local pool hall that I discovered, which housed my dream fighter.
It wouldn’t be until a day after my 17th birthday that I would encounter a home port of Marvel Superheroes – on the Sony PlayStation. Sure, the load times were abysmal, and it experienced slow down at a near constant level, but good Lord I ate it all up! Even though I finally had my own hard copy of the game, I couldn’t help but to think about Capcom’s latest game, X-Men vs Street Fighter. Utilizing a brand new tag mechanic and extending the over-the-top combos and super moves, I now had X-Men characters battling many of the Street Fighter cast members! I would try and weasel my way into getting paid for my high school internship when I wasn’t supposed to, and use the money afterwards to play X-Men vs Street Fighter in the same pool hall that I spend countless hours in with Marvel Superheroes. I couldn’t wait to get this one home as well! Unfortunately for me, the PlayStation version eliminated the tag mechanic, due to the limited amount of RAM within the unit. That didn’t stop me from buying it anyway, although it was a mere shell of its former self. But before I could even think about the home version, another arcade brawler was slated for release – Marvel Superheroes vs Street Fighter, which was very similar to X-Men vs Street Fighter, but with a slightly different cast of characters!
Okay, I can go all day with this, but I want to begin to elaborate on a few vital points I am trying to make here.
In our youth, we were more susceptible to falling for these traps than the adults were at that time. Our persistence in begging and pleading was one of the only reasons our parents would even put down some of the insane amounts of money asked for at the time. It’s hard to blame our younger selves for being…young. That shiny new toy that you need to have exists these days as well, though it’s not as easy to just throw down all that money for something (outside of gaming in general, like a new car, vacation, extravagant cosmetic augmentations.) The gaming market was still aimed more towards kids and teens than adults, so companies such as Capcom could get away with releasing their hot arcade titles on home consoles at an alarmingly fast rate. Because the demand has been there for so long, all of these games with the most minute changes kept coming down the line. There was no DLC or any like it (in the US, Japan did have the Satellaview, but that’s a whole other can of worms) so consumers were forced to shell out for some of those outrageously priced games if they wanted to keep up with the latest craze. While a new franchise would come along (Marvel Superheroes, which was the more over-the-top shenanigans that Street Fighter II had lacked), those new franchises would offshoot into something slightly new, which would spawn something with the most meager changes, and so on.
Fast forward to today and we have companies that are continuing this practice. Activision releases a Call of Duty game every year, where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to discern any changes from each new installment over the last. Rather than just releasing a new sports game every few years and paving the way for DLC roster changes, EA Sports and 2K Sports are releasing new sports titles, barely re-skinned, with changes that didn’t really need to exist. For years we even had Guitar Hero and Rock Band releasing new games, DLC packs onto discs and so on, with changes being nearly non existent between each succeeding release. For so many years, SNK milked out its own fighting game series with the King of Fighters franchise. Though Capcom didn’t coin the “milking” phrase entirely (take a look at Hudon Soft’s Bomberman series, though many titles were not released outside of Japan) they are still a contributing factor. What’s another factor?
Your wallet is enabling these companies to release the same game with tweaks that could have been best served as a moderately priced, or even a free DLC (free depending on how much is added). Every single time we open our money cave and purchase these titles, we’re supporting the efforts, or lack thereof, each developer puts into these lazy ports. Hell, Capcom has been at it even to this day. A year after Street Fighter IV was released, Super Street Fighter IV came out, which again, could have been a plausible DLC product. The price was $20 cheaper than SF4 was, but still felt like too much money, so soon after. A year after that, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition is released as both a $15 DLC for existing copies of Super Street Fighter IV, and $40 on disc. The quality of the DLC was an absolute joke; why couldn’t Capcom change the flippin’ title screen to reflect the fact that I paid $15 for this DLC, yet the $40 retail disc has this addition? That’s not even taking into account the lack of challenge mode additions for the new characters, no rival battle convos like the other characters have, etc.
Now we have Mavrel vs Capcom 3, which has been out for just under six months, receiving a new version in what will be 9 months since its release. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 will be adding a dozen new characters, include the $5 a pop Shuma Gorath and Jill DLC from MVC3, add in new backgrounds and “rebalance” current characters, all for $40. They’re even adding in spectator mode, which should have been patched into MVC3 in the first place (though the netcode just couldn’t support it anyway, which seems like a bit of a two-faced decision since Capcom was adamant about adding it in.) Again, this could have been a $20 DLC and would have floated a lot more smoothly, in fact it was planned to be DLC at one point, but it’s only a disc release for double that amount. It’s almost as if Capcom admitted that Marvel vs Capcom 3 was released too soon, and instead of balancing things that need to be adjusted now (Wolverine’s speed and dive kick potency, X-Factor balance issues, the fact that Phoenix exists) they want you to buy tweaks on a whole other disc.
We can send a message to these companies by simply not buying every single milked out release being shoved down our throats. Not just seventeen of us, but as many as humanly possible. We need to show these developers of recycled ideas and the publishers that choose to release them, that we refuse the continuous opening of our wallets in support of their blatant milking practices and treat us, the consumers, with the respect and dignity that we deserve. If we don’t begin to put our foot down now, this will get so far out of hand that it could cripple the industry as a whole. While each game might provide entertainment in some form, the fact that the amount of legitimate new content is dwindling down to nil, is it even worth the price of admission?
While I blame the companies that produce recycled material and lazy upgrading, as well as the gamers that continually support them by a financial means, I have to blame myself for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 existing in the first place. Had I not send that questionnaire out, we probably would be at Street Fighter VII, with only one rehashed “upgrade” in-between each release. We wouldn’t have to be so up in arms over the fact that Capcom is releasing an ”upgrade” less than a year after the initial product was released. Perhaps if I had suggested DC Comics and the Crisis on Infinite Earths instead of Marvel and the Infinity Gauntlet, we would have had DC Superheroes, Justice League vs Street Fighter, DC Universe vs Street Fighter, DC vs Capcom, DC vs Capcom 2, DC vs Capcom 3 and Ultimate DC vs Capcom 3 instead. If I did suggest the DC Universe, would we have Lemon (Justin Wong) as a 6 time DC vs Capcom 2 Evo World Champion with his team of Deathstroke, Doomsday and Guy Gardner? Hindsight is 20/20…but regardless, I do apologize to the gaming community for Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 existing.
Yet I blame you all for financially supporting its journey here.