It’s crazy to think that in 2019, Capcom may be one of the most successful developers and publishers out there.
Once on a downward trend in terms of most all of its properties’ quality and sustainability, the industry veteran has turned things around in recent years with several back-to-back hits.
The most recent of these have been the Resident Evil 2 Remake, which saw rapid commercial and critical acclaim, and Devil May Cry 5, which has already made waves as a triumphant return to form for the long-dormant series.
And that’s only their most recent success stories. Resident Evil 7 wowed gamers in 2017 with its whole-hearted embrace of VR and brought back older fans with its larger emphasis on horror.
Likewise, 2018 saw Monster Hunter World capture the attention of the wider gaming community and becoming the best selling individual game in Capcom’s history, while Mega Man 11 saw the triumphant return of the Blue Bomber after years of disuse.
Needless to say, it shows just how much Capcom is killing it, and that the company has entered a hot streak the likes of which they haven’t seen in decades.
How they did it, though, speaks to something so many other developers are lacking in the current gaming landscape; that being an understanding of their long-running properties’ identities, and when and how to tweak them.
For years now, the genres and identities of long-running series have been blurred in the name of making games more accessible to a wider audience.
Sometimes, it has been for the best. The most recent God of War saw a departure from the over the top, violent hack and slash action for a more tactical, subdued experience in both story and gameplay, much to the pleasure of those who played it.
Other times, this spelled disdain or even disaster for the series that tried it. Games like Dead Space 3 and Metal Gear Survive saw their core series’ identity warped in order to capitalize on current trends like action, survival sims and open world gameplay.
As a result, they became related to their core series in name only, putting off their established fanbases and newcomers alike with how unnatural the new gameplay felt compared to past entries.
It’s a fine line to walk, and more often than not developers have failed to find the balance needed between changing a series and embracing what made it special.
Capcom knows this better than anyone. During the worst years of its downward trend, it saw some of its flagship franchises changed into shadows of their former selves.
Resident Evil 6 and DmC: Devil May Cry both marked some of the company’s lowest points, nearly dragging their respective flagship series into obscurity with their poor quality or reception to their changes.
And yet, Capcom now has the firmest grasp on how to strike this balance; namely, by saving drastic changes for the game’s mechanics and technical aspects instead of the gameplay.
The Resident Evil 2 Remake is still just as terrifying as its original entry even with its new camera positioning, controls and graphics, while Devil May Cry 5’s gameplay was refined and remained in line with the rest of the series.
The same could be said of Monster Hunter: World and Mega Man 11. While each had new elements like online multiplayer events and new in-game abilities respectively, their core identities remained largely untouched.
It’s a promising show of faith in and understanding of what they’ve created, and it’s led to no small amount of support from the fans that have come to love these franchises over the years.
To that end, more companies need to follow Capcom’s example.
Their practices are by no means unreplicable, and given the poor reception to some drastically different series over the years, slowing down to make sure the changes made are necessary and balanced can save developers plenty of headaches in the short and long term.
Granted, there will be challenges. Between financial goals, pleasing investors and ensuring consistent player bases, there are plenty of outside elements that can override a company’s wishes to stick to what works and make changes gradually.
Likewise, not all change is bad. Capcom’s own Resident Evil 7 shows how making drastic and meaningful changes at the right place and time can pay off wonderfully, and revitalize an otherwise flagging franchise.
Given how well it’s worked out for Capcom though, there’s little question it could lead to great things for players, developers and publishers alike.