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While we nag Capcom for some of their business practices (I'm looking at disc-locked content) one thing no one has ever nagged Capcom for is the quality of their product (except for maybe Street Fighter X Tekken.) For the most part Capcom has been one of the more reliable publishers this gen when it comes to quality over quantity...well, that's about to change.
According to a new annual report from Capcom as articulated by Polygon, the company believes that they can see more profit by doing what Activision and EA does: shortening development time to increase productivity for subsequent titles.
As if the Mass Effect 3 ending debacle wasn't proof enough that a two-year development cycle is a terrible thing to employ for a creative-based industry that relies a lot on both technical engineering prowess and entertainment innovation, it looks like Capcom wants to purposefully dive head-first into the shallow waters of the gaming industry's greed culture.
As stated in the report...
"... We will increase the number of titles released in a single year and expand earnings using a hybrid development model whereby the core portions of the project are developed in-house by Capcom and the process-work is outsourced to outside development companies."
Oh Capcom, you were so close to changing for the better.
If you thought the Street Fighter X Tekken disc-locked content was bad, I can only imagine what they have in store with this new hybrid business model.
Capcom is basically lamenting the need of polish and quality with four to five year development cycles and hoping instead to push out games such as Resident Evil, Dead Rising and Lost Planet out on a more frequent basis. Take note, though, that none of those games or franchises receive criticism for shoddy mechanics, but usually the criticisms are more superficial if not entirely creative-based.
It's actually a good position to be in when people can only nitpick your game for story, characters or the addition (or removal) of some features. However, things can easily turn ugly when your game starts receiving criticisms from the community for broken features, bad porting, poor function implementation or shoddy quality in the overall play mechanics. That is bad and that is something Capcom risks bringing cycles down from four years to two years (e.g., Activision's methodology for Call of Duty).
Let's also not forget that producer Yoshinori Ono already expressed his discontent with the already harsh development cycles for Capcom's games, being pushed to the point of being hospitalized and then asking the community to pressure Capcom to lessen the burden on their employees. The report kind of reinforces what Ono mentioned in the interview, saying...
Among the multitude of major titles held by Capcom, such as “Monster Hunter”, “Street Fighter”, “Resident Evil”, “Devil May Cry”, “Lost Planet”, “Dead Rising” and many others, we will promote shortening of the sales cycle in pursuit of further earnings stabilization and growth.
I understand Capcom's desire to cut costs and increase productivity for sales purposes, but I can only imagine this turning into a nightmare for the poor developers and it's hard to imagine how rushing products out in half the amount of time will equate to a better end-user experience. And while we would probably all like to see more Monster Hunter (and a new game is on the way right now) I doubt a lot of people would want to see a new Monster Hunter at the expense of new features, content, or having a lot of the previous iteration's features removed and re-added as DLC. This release method cheapens the intellectual property.
Even Ubisoft's Alex Hutchinson, the creative director for Assassin's Creed III called the bi-annual production method a "cancerous growth", due to the factory-style approach to trying maximize profits by over-selling the brand. And even though Assassin's Creed games are released annually, the third game has been development for almost five years by a separate team.
Here's hoping Capcom can prove all us doubters wrong and manage to do what Activision and EA have not been able to do using the same business method. Here's also hoping that they don't work their employees to death in the process.