Capcom ditches on-disc DLC and promises change

Capcom ditches on-disc DLC and promises change

Capcom appears to have heard the growing clamour over its controversial approach to digital distribution, saying it is doing away with on-disc DLC and promising a host of changes to the widely criticised Street Fighter X Tekken, which it admits has sold poorly.

The publisher's fighting game crossover caused a storm when, shortly after its release in March, hackers discovered a host of content, planned for release as DLC, stored on the game disc. The biggest cause of gamer ire was the discovery of 12 all-new fighters that would not be made available until after the release of the Vita version of the game, currently scheduled for autumn.

Street Fighter series producer Yoshinori Ono attempted to justify Capcom's policy, pointing out that it would be less demanding in terms of hard drive space and save those who opt against buying character costume packs from hefty, mandatory downloads. The publisher was later forced to defend itself to the Better Business Bureau, saying there was "no distinction" between DLC that was stored on a disc or offered as a download.

That appeared to be the end of it until this week, when two Capcom representatives – one from the west, one from the east – signalled a significant change in the company's thinking. The first comes from Chris Svensson, corporate officer and SVP of Capcom USA, who in a post on Capcom's community forums reveals the publisher is moving on from on-disc DLC.

"We would like to assure you that we have been listening to your comments," he writes, "and as such have begun the process of re-evaluating how additional game content is delivered in the future.

"As this process has only just commenced in the past month or so, there will be some titles, where development began some time ago and that are scheduled for release in the coming months, for which we are unable to make changes to the way some of their post-release content is delivered."

One such title is Dragon's Dogma, the expansive RPG which launches on May 25. Svensson explains that "some" planned DLC was created early on in the game's development, and is stored on the disc. "You are being heard," he assures fans in closing.

In Japan, Street Fighter X Tekken producer Tomoaki Ayano has responded to a laundry list of complaints from players. Despite the game's obvious qualities as outlined in our Street Fighter X Tekken review, the company's post-launch DLC has done much to compromise the game's balance, with the stat-boosting gems proving particularly divisive.

A patch fixing a handful of balance issues and infinite combos is due next week, but Ayano's answers, translated by fighting game website Eventhubs, suggest Capcom is prepared to go much further.

He says his team is "considering making big changes" to the game, adding: "before we develop new gems, we'll balance the current ones." Capcom is also looking into changing the game clock – timeouts have been a problem ever since release – and Ayano even hints at changes to the air combo system, one of the game's key mechanics.

But most striking of all is Ayano's answer to a question about the 12 DLC characters. "We are considering changing the release of the 12 characters," he admits. "We also want to make this game strong enough to battle its way through the summer rush of fighting games."

It's quite the shift in thinking, one which David Gibson, analyst at Macquarie Securities in Tokyo, says is commendably typical of the company. "It looks like they are learning," he tells us. "I would say that's the one thing they do tend to do when they get it wrong: admit it, and learn from it."

That's one view: the other is that Capcom realises it's dropped the ball, as evidenced by comments from a Q&A session following the publication of its annual financial results. Sales and profits were down by 16 and 13 per cent respectively, and Capcom admitted to investors that Street Fighter X Tekken hadn't sold to expectations – and that it might have been its own fault for too aggressively seeking to capitalise on the success of Street Fighter IV.

That game has since received two revisions, Super and Arcade Edition, and the company has also released two versions of Marvel Vs Capcom 3, and re-released Street Fighter III Third Strike on the console download services. Other games – Blazblue, King Of Fighters XIII, Mortal Kombat, Soul Calibur, Skullgirls – have followed as Capcom's peers also sought to capitalise on the rebirth of the genre, resulting in the fighting game marketplace being every bit as crowded as it was during its 1990s peak.

"Sales of Street Fighter X Tekken have fallen short of our plan," an unnamed company spokesman admitted to investors. "We believe one of the causes is cannibalism, because of the large number of other games in this genre that were launched within a short time."

The coming year will be no different – Namco may be a business partner these days, but it will seek to further eat into Capcom's fighting game audience with the upcoming Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Sega has largely watched from the sidelines as fighting games have returned to prominence, but it too will get in on the act this summer, with Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown. Also on the horizon is Persona 4: The Ultimate In Mayonaka Arena, Arc System Works' 2D spinoff from Atlus' beloved JRPG series.

The hardest part may yet be to come. There is a fundamental disconnect between keeping the disc in the tray with extensive post-launch DLC support and Capcom's history of keeping players engaged with a steady flow of new releases. Perhaps, then, things are going to get worse before they get better, but the important thing, as Gibson points out, is that Capcom recognises the need for change.