Capcom has been an easy target for mockery as of late. Between shipping Street Fighter V in an incomplete state, their mishandling of legacy franchises such as Mega Man, and daring detractors to take shots at them the moment the first screenshots for Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite were released, there’s not as much love for the brand as there was in the past.
This is a far cry from their peak, where the developer was much beloved for their classic titles as well as more underappreciated games that attempted to take risks for the sake of creating unique experiences, such as the Rival Schools and the Power Stone series. It’s to the point where, to this day, old school fans and diehards are chomping at the bit for remakes of games from Capcom’s glory years to stand in contrast to the company’s current state of affairs.
Here's the part where I'll step in and play Devilotte's Advocate: The grass isn't greener on that side.
Modern Gamers Expect More
The issue lies less within Capcom’s inner circle and more with how the gaming landscape has shifted. In the past, games such as Power Stone could get by solely on creative character design and equally innovative gameplay. It was a scene devoid of nearly as much competition and demand for many bells and whistles. There weren’t timely balance changes and bug fixes every few months. If you were salty about Ibuki being broken in Street Fighter III, you’d have to wait for Third Strike to drop almost two years later. Let’s not even get into the argument about netcode, a pipe dream at that point in time.
In today’s landscape, however, a game that was only held to the standards of the past would be dismissed by the gaming community of today. Game breaking bugs, like the Spider-Man infinite combo found in MvC:I, are held under a magnifying glass if they aren’t patched out as soon as possible. Robust online modes and an active online scene are a requirement for a game to be considered adequate, and tutorials and training modes are, more or less, required to have better tools and more functionality to help players learn and master the game. These are all considerations that developers didn’t have to consider a generation ago, and due to lack of precedence and hardware limitations couldn’t even imagine adding to a game. Today’s developers don’t get that same liberty.
This isn’t to say that the greater expectations are a bad thing - rather, it’s the natural and rapid progression of both technology and gamers; a Moore’s Law of Shoryukens, if you will.
This Capcom Racket Isn't Anything New
Beyond that, many of the things about Capcom’s current business model that draw the ire of gamers today (DLC excluded, the bane of the present though it is) were present in the blue & gold brand’s beloved classics. Take the somewhat maligned Fight Money system in Street Fighter V. In simple terms, players must grind out matches over time to build up enough virtual currency to buy characters, stages, outfits, and colors if they don’t want to pay proper money for them. This is nothing new: in fact, it’s a carbon copy of the system found in home console releases of Marvel vs Capcom 2, where extra characters, colors, and more were locked behind a virtual currency paywall. Of note, this was 17 years ago.
I make those points to state this: While game developers do deserve criticism for a number of poor decisions, and while the business does rear its ugly head at times (looking at you, DLC rollouts, loot boxes, and overpriced deluxe edition “easter eggs”), we live in a time when the average consumer wants more from the $60 they put down for entertainment, and companies have a bigger task in satisfying those needs. Yearning for a return to the good old days isn’t going to cure what ails you.
It’ll only show you that, much like Paul Newman suggested, you’d be going out for hamburgers when you had steak at home.