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Is Mega Man Dead?

Feature; Jul. 27, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Ryan Goodman
Subtypes: Opinion
Have we seen the last of a video game legend?

A gaming icon might be gone for good.

The week of July 17 could be one of the darkest in history for many gamers, as it might be the end one of the industry's founding fathers -- Mega Man (called Rock Man in Japan). Recently, Mega Man’s parent company, Capcom, decided to cancel the blue bomber’s latest planned adventure, Mega Man Legends 3. While this cancellation put a dagger in the hearts of thousands of gamers worldwide (many have waited upward of 10 years for a Legends sequel), this is just the tip of the iceberg of what could be the demise of one of the most popular video game characters over the last 25 years.

Quick Man's Stage from Mega Man 2

Over the last year, Capcom, which has been the home base for every one of Mega Man’s adventures, including the first in 1987, has been quietly leaving the blue bomber on the sidelines. It began last February, when he was mysteriously absent from Marvel vs. Capcom 3. While there were characters from the Mega Man franchise in that game (Tron Bonne from, ironically enough, Mega Man Legends and Zero, from the Mega Man X series), the blue bomber himself was not present. It continued a little over a month later, when Mega Man Universe, which was supposed to be the game that took the old school, classic 2-D formula into this generation, was canceled. Capcom cited “various circumstances” as to why the game had been scrapped. Then, finally, the news that broke the hearts of many: Mega Man Legends 3 was officially scrapped because it “didn’t meet the required standards” for a game that far in the development.

The story of what led to this turn of events goes back to October 2010, when the man credited with creating the Mega Man series, Kenji Inafune, left Capcom due to what seemed to be creative differences. He said in his personal blog, “there’s nowhere higher for me to go,” and that he “wanted to start his life over.” He had been with Capcom for 23 years, involved in all of Capcom’s biggest franchises from Mega Man to Street Fighter to Dead Rising. Inafune has since created his own video game company, Comcept.

Concept art from Mega Man Legends 3

In an interview that can be read on Capcom’s community website, officials said the cancellation of MML3 had “nothing to do” with Inafune’s departure. It went on to say that “Mega Man is still an important franchise with Capcom’s portfolio” and that it “will continue to pursue opportunities to create new titles in the series.” Unfortunately, it’s hard to believe anything Capcom is saying because, quite frankly, the writing is on the wall.

Before Inafune’s departure, the Mega Man franchise was undergoing a renaissance. In 2008, seemingly out of nowhere, Inafune, along with a group of ex-Capcom staffers (who formed the company IntiCreates in 1996), joined together to bring the series back to its roots by making a true, classic 8-bit Mega Man sequel. Mega Man 9 would end up being one of the most popular downloadable games of that year, and Capcom officials were quoted as saying they were “very happy” with its sales numbers. This was followed up almost two years later, when Mega Man 10 was released. Again, the hardcore fans and new fans alike ate it up, and Capcom reaped the benefits. So, going into this year, there was no reason for Capcom to even doubt its mascot’s popularity.

Mega Man 9 title screen

Even after Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was released without its mascot, the blue bomber’s popularity could clearly be seen. Capcom Unity held a poll not long after its release, asking which characters fans would like to see be added to the game’s roster as DLC. Overwhelmingly, Mega Man X won the poll on the Capcom side, garnering a vote from one out of three people who participated. Other polls around the world also had X in their top 3 most wanted. However, when an updated version of the game, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, was announced at Comic Con 2011, 12 new characters were revealed. And to the surprise of few, the one character who has essentially been Capcom’s mascot for 25 years was missing yet again. UMvC 3 developers were asked at Comic Con why Mega Man was again left out. They responded by saying there wasn’t enough interest in including another Mega Man character. Now, obviously some one was not listening to the fans, as evident by all the polls conducted for the first game, even on Capcom's own community website.

Results of a character poll for MvC 3

Possibly the biggest heart breaker about MML3’s cancellation is that the fans' input was going to greatly influence how the game came out. All fans were invited to post their drawings, ideas, etc. on the MML3 devroom page on Capcom Unity. All of the ideas posted were being directly shared with MML3’s developers. Capcom even went so far as to promise a “prototype” version that fans could download onto their Nintendo 3DSs to try out. Capcom would then take the feedback from the demo and use it to fine tune the final version of the game. Not long after MML3’s cancellation, Capcom Europe’s Twitter account posted a statement that surely angered thousands of fans. They said “It’s a shame the fans didn’t want to get more involved. If we saw there was an audience for MML3, people might change minds.” Given the absolute outrage seen all over the Internet, it’s fair to say that statement felt like a slap in the face to millions of gamers. While not everybody posted something in the devroom website, thousands of others would have at least downloaded and tried out the prototype version (many of which would have even paid money to do so). In fact, thousands of other people were anticipating the purchase of a 3DS just for MML3. The ripple effect from this decision could even have affected Nintendo's hardware sales.

It’s pretty clear Capcom is not keeping Mega Man out of the spotlight due to lack of interest or lack of revenue. The only reasoning that makes sense whatsoever is that the company is holding some sort of grudge against Kenji Inafune for leaving. What Capcom needs to realize, however, is that Inafune isn’t the one being punished here; it’s the fans and ultimately, the company itself. At the moment, millions of gamers are feeling betrayed that a beloved character seemingly now has one foot in the grave. But in the end, the one who may end up hurting the most is Capcom when fans turn their backs in droves. With every rehash of Street Fighter IV that’s being released every 4-5 months, hundreds of gamers are more and more tired of re-buying the same game. At some point, that is going to catch up. Mega Man Legends 3 was one of those games that could have prevented that from happening. Capcom is starting to establish itself as a company that wants to just “cash-in,” instead of giving enough variety and quality to its fans. The Mega Man franchise would have been a big part of shedding that image.

Mega Man 1 ending scene

It’s a dark time for Mega Man fans and classic gamers alike, but the blue bomber himself would not give up He, like his millions of fans, will continue to fight for everlasting peace.

Comments

GizmoDuck

GizmoDuck - Jul. 30, 2011 at 7:29:10am

Leaving the little guy out of UMvsC3 is going to be the last straw for some people I feel but then again what can they do about it?

I dont think they will ever forget about him in the long run.

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