Capcom wasn't in a great place as 2016 came to a close. That year was meant to be Street Fighter's triumphant current-generation debut, but sales were sluggish and hardcore fans were pissed at its multitude of technical problems. Elsewhere, Mega Man was dead, Resident Evil was still struggling to recover from the disastrous Resident Evil 6, and Dead Rising 4 and Umbrella Corps were being hammered by critics. It had been that kind of generation.
Since then, though, Capcom has started to turn things around. Monster Hunter: World, Capcom's bestselling game of all time, is celebrating its first anniversary and should remain strong through Iceborne's release this fall. Resident Evil 2 is enjoying critical acclaim and strong sales. Devil May Cry 5 launches in March, marking the return of another fan-favorite franchise.
After a rough start to the PS4/Xbox One era, it feels like Capcom is finally back on track. So what's changed? The answer is pretty simple: classic franchises.
Up until recently, Capcom has struggled to capitalize on its best-known characters. Monster Hunter was a reliable moneymaker from 2010 onward, but it wasn't able to find more than a cult audience outside of Japan. Outside of Monster Hunter, Capcom mostly relied on smaller releases like Ace Attorney 6 and Resident Evil: Revelations 2 to pad its bottomline.
Mike wrote of Capcom's struggles in 2017, "Capcom needs to find the classic Capcom within and perhaps get its expectations in check. The company has a strong portfolio of classic games and brands it can rely on. In the short-term, ports and remasters can help the bottom line, but in the long-term, Capcom development needs to remember why its games were loved in the first place. Otherwise, Capcom will follow the other classic Japanese company that left gamers behind."
Fast-forward to 2019, and it seems Capcom is finally doing just that. Resident Evil 2 and Monster Hunter: World are big hits, and Devil May Cry 5 is looking promising. Even Mega Man has managed to get a little love after a decade in the wilderness.
It began with Resident Evil 7. While its sales were ultimately just okay, Resident Evil 7 earned critical acclaim and appeared on many best of lists for 2017. It reversed Resident Evil's decline and put it back on mainstream gaming's radar.
Almost exactly a year later, Monster Hunter broke through outside of Japan for the first time. Capcom managed an impressive feat with Monster Hunter: World—it made the series accessible to newcomers without angering longtime fans too much. It also made the series into a reliable long-term online platform, now the holy grail for many large publishers.
Monster Hunter: World and Resident Evil 2 are two high-quality tentpole releases; something Capcom has been lacking for basically the entire console generation. They're the sort of games that Capcom can use as a launching pad back into gaming's highest echelon. When combined with its sudden willingness to revisit classic franchises like Devil May Cry, it seems as if Capcom finally has a winning strategy.
Capcom still has plenty of work to do, of course. Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was a huge miss, struggling to sell even a million units worldwide while failing to appear at Evo 2018. Capcom Vancouver was shuttered in 2018, reportedly taking Dead Rising 5 with it.
Over on Glassdoor, you'll still find complaints that the workplace is toxic, the management is out-of-touch, and communication is poor. Talking with a handful of Capcom employees last year, I found the sort of wry, self-deprecating humor one expects from workers who are deeply frustrated with their company. From what I can tell, Capcom hasn't been the happiest place to work over the past several years.
Still, this is probably the most optimistic I've felt about Capcom's prospects since Street Fighter 4 sparked the fighting game revival in 2009. With Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, Devil May Cry 5, and the rest of its classic franchises, Capcom seemingly has a path forward into the next generation and beyond. Other companies should be so lucky.
Major Game Releases This Week: January 28 to February 1
Here are the major releases for the week of January 28 to February 1. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2019.
- Kingdom Hearts 3 [January 29, PC, PS4, Xbox One]: Close to fifteen years after the release of Kingdom Hearts 2, Square Enix is finally bringing the Xehanort Saga to a close with Kingdom Hearts 3. Screw that, though, all I really want to do is go and hang out with Remy in Ratatouille land.
- Wargroove [February 1, PC, Switch, Xbox One]: Fans hoping for an Advance Wars revival will finally get their wish this week. Wargroove is basically Advance Wars reimagined for a fantasy setting, complete with trebuchets, dragons, and battlepups (yep). Even better, it'll be on the Switch, where its turn-based tactical gameplay and sweet anime art style will fit in perfectly.
- Nintendo announced late last week that it was rebooting Metroid Prime 4. The news was met with obvious disappointment, but no real backlash. Why does Nintendo get a free pass on matters like these? Well, a strong track record of quality and a lot of accumulated good will certainly helps.
- Elsewhere, BioWare had to apologize for a rocky weekend of server problems and other issues during the Anthem Live Demo. It's fair to say that BioWare will be cut a bit less slack if these problems persist into launch.
- All that said, Anthem makes a pretty good first impression. It has some gorgeous graphics, and charging into packs of enemies is a constant delight. As for whether it has legs... well... I have my doubts, actually. Look forward to further thoughts later this week.
- With Resident Evil 2 earning critical plaudits, Mike makes the case that not every blockbuster needs to be a hundred hours and change to be successful (you hear that, Rockstar?)
- In what is rapidly becoming an industry epidemic, Ring of Elysium was accused last week of using an Instagram star's likeness without her permission. This is on top of various issues with Fortnite stealing dances for its emotes. It seems that if you're on the internet (which is basically everyone now), game developers think you're fair game.
- I'm personally a fan of the term "Oakemon."
- The Super Bowl is this week, and for the 43rd consecutive year, my team isn't taking part (sigh). Madden has the Rams winning, but I think I'm going to defy the video game gods and pick the Patriots to win their sixth championship. It's tough for me to go against Bill Belichick and Tom Brady when they're not playing again Eli Manning.
- Axe of the Blood God: Having looked back on the history of Kingdom Hearts, it's time to talk about the newest game in the series: Kingdom Hearts 3! Caty, Kat, and Nadia get together to talk about how well it wraps up the story; the updates to the battle system, and its notable lack of Final Fantasy. Plus, Kat shares her thoughts on Anthem, and wonders if BioWare might have botched a key part of its appeal. Subscribe here for the full podcast!