A year after Yoshinori Ono lamented the impossibility of finding funding sufficient to produce a fifth iteration of Street Fighter, Sony and Capcom have gone and announced (or almost announced, anyway) Street Fighter V. And it'll be a PlayStation 4 exclusive, with a Steam release also happening because apparently that doesn't count as a competitor to consoles for some reason.
Mike speculates — and I agree — that console exclusives may be the only way for expensive-but-somewhat-niche third-party games to find funding as we travel into the future of video games. The subtext, of course, is that this exclusivity comes in exchange for funding from the platform holder who benefits from the presence of that game. It's a strange inversion of last generation's big trend of everything becoming multiplatform; evidently publishing for every console under the sun doesn't bring in enough cash for a game like Street Fighter, so instead it's up to first parties — in this case Sony — to cough up the dough to make these games possible.
It's an unexpected turn of events, and an unsettling one. Not only does it turn fandom into a crapshoot (which platform should you own if you want to follow your favorite series? You never know until the exclusivity deal is announced!) it also suggests that video games in general have grown so costly that they no longer represent a sustainable business.
But let's put aside those grim tidings for a moment and think positive. What could the up side of this trend be? Well, it means we could, potentially, see the return of long-forgotten or presumed dead franchises. If classics can only stay alive by latching onto first parties, well, we can think of a few pairings we'd like to see...
Nintendo: Mega Man
Of any combination on this list, the Nintendo/Mega Man connection doesn't just seem possible — it seems practically inevitable. The Big N has more or less taken Mega Man in off the streets as its own personal charity case. They put him in Smash Bros., making him relevant to kids for the first time since anyone cared about Battle Network/NT Warrior. Wii U and 3DS Virtual Console are basically Mega Man machines, stuffed to bursting with almost every Mega Man title ever made for a classic Nintendo platform. We're still down some GBA titles, but they put Battle Chip Challenge on there, of all damn things. Mega Man Zero 3 can't be too far behind. And then as the tasty little cherry to top off this sundae of true-blue inexorability, Mega Man is the one and only non-Nintendo-published series to have its own 3DS Street Pass puzzle. I mean, you can practically hear the gears of fate grinding their way to a hot-sclusive Mega Man for Wii U announcement at E3 2015.
The potential fly in this ointment? Well, there's speculation that Capcom has distanced itself from Mega Man due to some sort of rights issue with departed executive Keiji Inafune. But who knows. Fat stacks of Nintendough seem like they could mend an awful lot of hurt feelings.
At this point, I think Mega Man fans would be happy to have any kind of announcement. Cosmic justice would be served most properly if Nintendo triaged Mega Man Legends 3, a title that was to be one of the original high-profile exclusives for 3DS and for which a pretty good prototype already exists. But we'd take a retro-style Mega Man 11. Or some kind of way-too-serious-for-its-own-good Mega Man X sequel. Or, heck, we'd probably settle for Mega Man Star Force 4 at this point. Just... just give us back our Mega Man, OK?
This one seems a little too obvious, too. Besides the fact that Shenmue II was an exclusive title for the original Xbox, the idea carries a touch of poetry: Microsoft slipped into the empty space Sega left behind when it departed the first-party race. And while Shenmue wasn't the only factor that sent Sega spiraling away from manufacturer status, its insane-at-the-time development costs and poor performance certainly didn't help the struggling company right itself.
Of course, all of this sounds like a good argument not to bankroll a new Shenmue game, but I think a sequel or even a reboot would have a lot working in its favor these days. The name has a huge amount of cachet these days thanks to its semi-legendary status and the demands of fanatical devotees who pester Sega for a sequel on a daily basis. But more than that, the ideas that Shenmue introduced have become industry standards at this point; the world may not have been ready for a slice-of-life open-world adventure game with Quick-Time Event elements in 2000, but that's pretty much the baseline of AAA games today. No, the real challenge would be getting Sega and estranged Shenmue visionary Yu Suzuki to collaborate on the project.
The Suikoden games have had their ups and downs, but the brilliance of Suikoden II alone — which probably stands as the single most demanded title for PSN's PlayStation Classics format — merits consideration. As with Mega Man and Shenmue, the creative minds who envisioned the series in the first place have long since departed from Konami, but there have been rumors for years that they plotted Suikoden as a grand, ten-part epic. Surely Yoshitaka Murayama and Junko Kawano would love to return and see their grand vision to its conclusion!
It's a safe bet that more Suikoden won't happen without a little outside help, as Konami is focused almost entirely on Pro Evolution and Metal Gear these days. Sony would be the perfect candidate; after all, the company has been waxing nostalgic about the PlayStation's 20th anniversary all week, and what better celebration than by continuing the platform's first great RPG series? (No, Beyond the Beyond fans, I don't want to hear about it.)
Another seemingly dead Konami franchise, the corpse isn't even cool on this one yet... though it's safe to say that the disastrous Lords of Shadow 2 buried the series all the same. But what a great chance for Nintendo to step in. After all, aside from Toru Hagihara's Dracula X duology — Rondo of Blood and Symphony of the Night — the most beloved Castlevania games have always been on Nintendo platforms. Let's put things right. We hear long-time series supervisor Koji Igarashi would like to make a new game... he probably wouldn't want to return to Konami, but maybe he'd be more amenable to working at Nintendo.
Also, Nintendo is super overdue for a Metroid sequel, so why not use this as an opportunity to create a crossover between two spiritually similar classic franchises? They could call it, I dunno... Metroidvania, maybe?
Ultima has long been one of gaming's greatest horror stories, the kind of tale parents tell their children at night to prevent them from working at massive corporate conglomerations. Electronic Arts bought Origin Systems and with it the rights to the oldest role-playing franchise in video games... and then promptly destroyed the brand. Ultima Online II died a pathetic death. As did Ultima X. And recent attempts to resurrect the brand as a social/mobile concept haven't fared any better.
So let Microsoft step in and resuscitate Ultima. The Xbox platform is no stranger to great RPGs, and allowing the Ultima brand a return to form — a big, open-world RPG with an emphasis less on combat than on story and personal morality — would be a welcome site for new and old gamers alike. The ethical underpinnings of Ultima remain unique to this day, and Microsoft has a pocketbook big enough to do it up right: Modernize the series while remaining true to its essence.
When we finished Squaresoft's wild PlayStation epic back in 1998, we were surprised when the credits rolled and the game did a Star Wars on us: This wasn't the beginning of a grand tale, but rather the fifth of six episodes in a grand saga! But then we never saw any other chapter of that tale. The Xenosaga series was meant as a sort of second attempt at conveying Xenogears' overarching mythos, but due to budget constraints it ended up being truncated from six planned episodes to three very rushed ones.
Well, here we go. Now is the time for Sony to offer Tetsuya Takahashi and Soraya Saga the chance to make good on their original vision: Remake Xenogears, but only after producing the first five parts of the series. It's a massive, monumental undertaking, no doubt, but if Sony can afford to bankroll the heartbreakingly absent The Last Guardian for the better part of a decade, this should be chump change.
Seriously, guys, just make Half-Life 3 already.