“Fan”-ning the Flames: “Mega Man” in Street Fighter x Tekken

27 01 2012

I do enjoy a good troll once in a while and the particularly epic series of trolling from Capcom over the still-recent Megaman hullabaloo has been good for several chuckles and shakes of the head. However the latest development in this series of trolling has perhaps gouged a little too deep, even for the amused observer, and unearthed a lot of interesting questions about how companies should handle their own intellectual property.

For those who have not been following the Megaman fallout closely, I will give you a brief, abridged timeline of the key events that lead up to the current debacle:

1987-2009: Megaman, a.k.a. Rockman, is one of the most well known and beloved franchises in the history of video games, selling around 29 million copies over the life of the franchise worldwide. The iconic “blue bomber” has starred in a long running series of games, side series, spinoff games, and even his own animated series. Fans eagerly await the upcoming Megaman Legends 3, the anticipated new entry in a highly popular spinoff series.

2010: Keiji Inafune, lead producer of the Megaman series for over 22 years, announces his departure from Capcom due to what is speculated to be “creative differences.”

2011: Trolling begins. Development on Megaman Legends 3 is suspended indefinitely. The long awaited Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is released, with the iconic Megaman being conspicuously absent from the cast, although his partner Zero is included, as well as Tron Bonne from the Legends line of games.

Late 2011: Despite huge volume of fan requests, Megaman is still absent from the follow up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which introduced 12 new characters to the roster. DLC costumes for various characters are teasing acknowledgements and “tributes” to Megaman.

2012: 25th anniversary of the franchise. Proclaiming that “this is my destiny!”, “Mega Man” is announced for the upcoming crossover fighting game Street Fighter x Tekken and he looks like this:

This is my destiny!

At this point I think it is apparent to anyone what Capcom is up to. Petty revenge certainly comes to mind as a way of getting back at Inafune for bailing on the company by way of mistreating his beloved creation. But it is also a pretty flagrant F U to the fans, who have been clamoring for the inclusion of the classic character in some of the more significant releases by the company which are meant to showcase their “mascot” characters. What is baffling is how a company can blatantly snub one of its most enduring fanbases in such a backhanded way. It makes one wonder who calls the shots in the higher tiers at Capcom and what exactly is going through their mind when they sign off on such things.
The interesting question that ultimately emerges is this: How much respect does a company owe to their own intellectual property? Some companies will often make a mockery of their less successful or unpopular experiments as a way of sweeping them under the rug or “apologizing,” but that is clearly not the case in this instance; Megaman is one of the flagship franchises that put Capcom where it is today, even before the heyday of Street Fighter and the like. What they are doing is effectively holding their own character hostage and further alienating a disenchanted fanbase that represents a sizable amount of their support over the years. Is it permissible? Is it ethical? Is it business smart? We see that you know what you are doing Capcom, but with what end in mind? What will become of the Blue Bomber?

Big questions: If you create a something successful that millions of people love, how beholden are you to the IP and to your fans?


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