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This past Tuesday the world was struck with the King of Iron Fist Street Brawling Tournament known to us all as Street Fighter X Tekken. This game was first announced at the 2010 San Diego Comicon by Street Fighter Producer Yoshinori Ono. The first bits of game play featured Ryu squaring off against Kazuya. As the demo progressed Ken and Nina joined the fray. The game looked very Street Fighter IV-ish with the Tekken characters getting a fresh look to match the art style. The crowd, to say the least, went absolutely nuts over this mash-up since the cross-over thing has been a main stay of the Capcom fighting world since X-Men vs. Street Fighter back in 1996.
Fans freaked, I freaked, every fighting game fan freaked over this long-time-dreamt-of beat-down-fest. After a lot of anxious waiting with a year and a half between the official unveiling and its release date Street Fighter X Tekken has finally hit the shelves. And… wait… everyone is pissed off about it? How can this be? After the wait, the character teases, the fan hype, the preview builds, Cole being added to the PS3 version, Poison being playable for the first time ever, after all this fan service and details of bringing the Tekken feel and world into the Street Fighter world the fans are still angry. Well, let’s talk about why the fans are angry at Capcom and why Street Fighter X Tekken, despite being one of the best ideas ever to me, may have a long road ahead of it and why Capcom may have to tuck its tail between its legs to save face.
Many of you are probably wondering what the heck I am even referring too. Well here’s the skinny… about a week before the console release of the game Capcom announced that the PSVita version would be receiving twelve exclusive characters (yes, you read that properly, 12!!!). Many of these characters are fan favorites and have been requested since the game was announced to be included. On the Street Fighter side we have: Sakura, Blanka, Cody, Guy, Dudley, and Elena; while on the Tekken side: Bryan Fury, Jack X, Lei, Christie, Lars, and Alisa B. As you can see that is quite the exclusive! Fans weren’t too happy about this since the Vita version isn’t set to launch until sometime this fall forcing us all to wait to test drive them and practically ensuring a re-release of the current console version to account for the twelve that are presently absent. That in and of itself made us all cringe. This literally ensured a Super or Ultimate version of the game in six months. Everyone cried foul at Capcom for creating twelve characters that many wanted and placing them in the hand held version of the game only. Anger ensued, but that wasn’t the end of it… and here’s where things get really ugly.
Capcom released early copies to selected media outlets for review and so on. Some early copies of the Xbox 360 version were given out and some less than discrete folks started probing the code of the game to see what all was included on the disk besides what we all immediately saw. Come to find out that the twelve characters, all the alternative costumes, additional gems, prologues, endings, sounds, and everything else you need for the code to run properly is already included on the disk from day one launch. This led to tons of videos surfacing on Youtube of players using hacked 360’s to access these twelve characters in their completed states and showing their intact move sets and animations. Some even demonstrated many of the nutty paid down loadable content (DLC) costumes that should be coming soon. Oh, also the Sony “exclusive” characters Bad Box Art Mega Man and Pac Man were seen being used in their completed states on the 360 version of the game. What the heck? These characters (along with Cole from Infamous) are even noted on the box art of the PS3 version of the game as being exclusive to the PS3!
Now this may not sound all that questionable or may even seem confusing for the level of fan rage this has garnered, but to those who are not quite familiar with DLC and Capcom’s questionable use of it over the past several years allow me to explain beginning with Street Fight IV.
Street Fighter IV launched onto the US console scene on February 17, 2009. This console version varied from the arcade version, which was only out in Japan mind you, by adding several characters as unlockables and making Seth and Gouken playable for the first time. The original arcade roster featured 17 playable fighters while the console upped it to 25. Fans dug it, I dug it, you dug it, and we all dug it! The roster update when coming to consoles was noteworthy since fighters like Gen, Sakura, Cammy, and Dan were added much to the delight of everyone who loved Street Fighter.
Capcom continued to support the game post release while the tournament scene embraced the game forming a whole new world of fighting acolytes who worshipped at the shrine of Street Fighter once again. Capcom seeing the success and fan demand for the fighter began developing a new update for the game which would be released on April 27, 2010 aptly titled Super Street Fighter IV. SSFIV added ten additional fighters to the roster and boasted a number of tweaks and balances. These balances were largely decided upon by the top players in the tournament world who knew the game and its technology better than many of us know anything. Capcom basically used the tournament world to balance the game which was a rather smart idea if you ask me. The price point of this new and improved SF was discounted and sold for a retail of $39.99. Many felt that making a full retail copy of the game was a little much feeling how the update could have been released as DLC for people who already owned the “vanilla” version of SFIV. Capcom responded to this claiming the addition of ten new fighters, new fighting backgrounds, re-balancing all the fighters, plus the other host of additions would garner far too large of a download feeling the consumer benefited from simply buying the newest version in physical media form. Fans didn’t really love the idea but the game sold in droves.
Capcom wasn’t done yet with SSFIV though. A newer re-tweaked version launched in Japan arcades known as Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and featured the addition of yet four more characters bringing the total roster to 39. Capcom explicitly noted that these four characters would not be coming to US consoles and wouldn’t be seen outside of Japanese arcades. Well, fans weren’t having this… they (well we… you know, me too that is) demanded this content be released everywhere since some of the characters added were long time fan favorites from Street Fighter III, Yun specifically. Capcom obliged and released the Arcade Edition digitally on the PSN and Xbox LIVE on June 7, 2011 with a price point of $14.99. A physical media version was released on June 28, 2011 to accommodate those who did not have Internet connections at a price point of $39.99. This though, was not acceptable to the fans. Although Capcom went out of their way to release the Arcade update to the US there were still dissenters claiming that constantly re-releasing the same game was just a money grab by the company despite the fans being the ones who demanded it.
I am not trying to paint Capcom as the holy, fan minded game company that they may seem based on the last several paragraphs, but I wanted to demonstrate where this current business model may have grown from. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was the next big entry in Capcom’s fighting game series that had picked up considerable amounts of momentum thanks to Street Fighter IV and its subsequent re-releases. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 was released on February 15, 2011 to critical praise and fighting fan delight despite there being some suspiciously absent fighters such as the exclusion of Mega Man and Venom. It did feature 38 fighters in total, 36 out of the box and two of which were DLC released later in March. The two DLC characters were priced at $4.99 a piece or were free to download for those who purchased the collectors addition which sold at a ten dollar mark up compared to the regular addition so no one really got a better deal for buying earlier. These characters were discovered by hackers to already be on the disc at launch, but in an incomplete state meaning that some of the commands did not input properly and sounds bites were missing. Upon the official release in March, the download size for each character was only 100Kb (remember this it’ll be important later) along with a mandatory update when you booted the game whether you bought the new fighters or not.
The game hit the tournament scene hard, breeding the same types of dynamic, insane players that obsessed over MvC2 ten years prior. Again, Capcom would use the scene to balance the game. Just a few months later an Ultimate version of the game was announced with highly mixed feelings from the community. The addition of twelve new fighters was announced, new fight backgrounds which were basically variants on the existing ones, and the newly rebalanced roster making everyone and not just Wesker, deadly. Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 released on November 15, 2011 at the discounted price of, you guessed it, $39.99.
While UmvC3 was touted as being the ULTIMATE and FINAL and COMPLETE version of the game, it still featured paid DLC costumes on the online marketplaces. Even more suspicious was the file size for the downloads. When referring to the online stores I will be referencing the PSN from hence forth since it is the one I used while playing these games. The file size was around 100Kb for four or five costumes upon purchasing. Now 100Kb is also the typical size for something like an online pass or unlock key for a downloaded trial version upon purchase. This means that the file I downloaded was not actually the data for the costumes but rather a key to unlock the data that was stored elsewhere which is this case was on the disc. More evidence that these costumes were already on the disc exists in looking at the pre-order bonuses from various retailers. Each of the major retailers out there offered “exclusive” costumes packs which were available for download on launch day. Since they varied at each place and each pack never contained the same fighters, this content must have been on the disc from the start since typically DLC is developed after the game has gone gold making it impossible for the costumes to have been included on launch day if they were treated as traditional DLC (note:we are not talking about day 1 DLC either, more on that in another article). As of March 6, 2012 all the costumes have been released for UmvC3. Taking this into account, Capcom took four months to release all the content that we all have technically had right under our noses since the game’s launch date of November 15, 2011.
All this means is that the copy of Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 I purchased (at $39.99 mind you) did in fact include the costumes that were later slatted for DLC with price points ranging from $2.99 to $4.99 per pack. With a total of 47 additional costumes to download one could easily spend nearly an additional $30 just to get the costumes that were technically already on the disc for the COMPLETE version of a game I technically already bought eight months earlier. This is where things became questionable to me. It wasn’t the two re-releases of Street fighter IV or the paid DLC costumes for SFIV but rather that all the content in UMvC3 was already on the disc and locked out to me until I paid for the unlock key. This is about the point that the term DLC evolved from “Down-Loadable Content” to “Disc-Locked-Content” in regards to Capcom for me personally.
As I mentioned earlier, the entirety of this planned DLC to support the release of SFXT is all included in its complete state from launch day on the disc and has been proven to work unlike the DLC that supported Street Fighter IV and unlike the data which supported “vanilla” Marvel vs. Capcom 3. UMvC3 started the trend while SFXT takes it to the next level. From a business standpoint this makes a lot sense but looks rather bad to the consumers since it appears Capcom is blatantly rubbing our noses in our own wallets. Sony secured five exclusive characters for its version of SFXT which is a trick Microsoft used to be known for before they put all their money into the Kinect (delayed release dates for CoD map packs to the PSN was something Microsoft was known for securing). The Sony exclusive characters include: the Japanese Sony mascots Kuro and Toro, Bad Box Art Mega Man, Pac Man, and Cole MacGrath from Infamous. Three of those characters are mentioned on the cover of the case while it is even noted on the back of the box that the PS3 version has five additional fighters bringing the roster to 43 at launch. Well sort of, the roster at launch is really only 41 since Mega Man and Pac Man are not selectable until March 13, 2012 via a free download (another unlock key) for reasons unknown. Why the two characters that got some of the most hype prior to launch and were marketed on the box to be included were actually excluded for the first week is beyond me. Did I mention their portraits are both present on the character selection screen but remain unplayable until Capcom says we can? This is the first, of many, missteps this game has taken thus far. Locking out promised and advertised content for those who bought the game on launch day is totally unacceptable.
Due to all the fuss over the discovery of the twelve on disc characters, as well as the Sony exclusives on the 360 version of the game, some lame hackers uploaded the entire game to torrents sites in an attempt to get back at Capcom for “stealing our money.” This is the wrong way to respond to Capcom over this issue. Just because you feel wronged by Capcom doesn’t give you the right to turn around and wrong them by breaking copyright laws and risking your own freedom like a moron. Uploading the game was a stupid move and will only help to push the paid content DLC bonanza down honest paying costumer’s throats. These hackers are not Robin Hoods for uploading the game but rather something less noble. Whatever point they were trying to make has been made in a big way… that Capcom makes such desirable content that people are willing to risk their freedom and lively hood to have early, and free, access to it. You sure showed them. It should also be noted that the entire file size for the game is approximately 7.5 Gb which includes all 55 fighters and all costumes.
Technically Capcom has the right to handle their media in such a manner despite every consumer hating it. Capcom released what they promised to release and nothing more. The twelve characters would not have been known about until much later had the code not been delved into by curious gamers with access to early copies. I suppose Capcom should have known the code would have been found and perhaps they did, but did they think that they could just maybe pull a fast one on us? I really don’t think so. Capcom is a huge company with decades of gaming business experience so to be so naïve to think that they did not realize this was going to be a controversy is a little crazy. Maybe they were looking for free publicity? Who knows? I mean they have me writing about it right now! What I do know is that Capcom despite their many years in the industry cannot spell Revelations to save their lives.
Anyway, Capcom did release an official statement on the matter noting that there were networking issues with SFIV due to some people purchasing downloaded content while others did not. Capcom claims that the inclusion of all the data on the disc from the start bypasses these issues altogether since all the data is always present and not needed to be updated through patches. As I mentioned earlier when talking about MvC3 and its DLC characters Jill and Shuma Gorath; although the download keys were only 100Kb, a sizable patch was released on the same day which I’m sure contained the extra data missing from those characters’ on disc content to ensure seamless online compatibility since not everyone bought them.
Now, all this wouldn’t be all that big of an issue if it weren’t for the fact that the fighters which are currently locked out in SFXT weren’t already complete and ready for play at the time of launch. I understand Capcom is trying to keep the game fresh for as long as possible but this is not the way to do it. If the content was developed prior to the game going gold then why is it locked out for the first six months I own the game? Why is Capcom hiding its labors in plain sight? Twelve characters are no slouch to develop and had they purely been DLC then the file sizes would have been considerable, necessitating the release of a super or ultimate version which Capcom has explicitly denied having plans to do. Well they don’t need to plan to do this because they already have when you think about it. If you bought Street Fighter X Tekken then you basically own Super Street Fighter X Tekken considering what “would have been” included is already included on your disc but locked away until Capcom says you can have it. They certainly have a release schedule for all this content but aren’t sharing those dates with the rest of us right now. Some theories are floating around that Sony paid Capcom loads of money to hide this content until after the PSVita’s launch to help drives sales of the new hardware. If that is the case then why the heck are Pac Man and Mega Man, Sony’s exclusive console fighters featured on the freaking front and back covers, locked until a week after release despite them being advertised on their own months prior to launch? The conspiracy theory that Sony paid to have the characters removed and locked away until a later date is totally unfounded at the time of this posting and is merely speculation by the good folks on the internet, but is worth noting because it seems possible based on the cross compatibility between the PSVita and PS3 as seen with UMvC3. Perhaps they were going for something similar with SFXT, who knows?
There are far too many questions involved in this scenario that me as an independent fan and gamer could never know the complete answers to. All I can do is speculate at this stage and offer my take on the whole thing by taking into consideration how Capcom has handled its fighting games in the past several years as well as look at how the market responded to those choices. I don’t hate Capcom and I don’t think they hate me, but I cannot help but wonder why they worked so hard on such a huge game to play keep away with 25% of its content. We can all debate and hate over this issue and at the end of the day the ones who lose are you and I, the gamers. We miss out on using some of our favorite fighters because a suit who most likely has no vested interest in the game outside of the money it may make said we couldn’t. I remember there was a time when you could unlock fighters and costumes through conditional game play, now it seems the only condition I have to meet is having money. Capcom I want to defend you, but sometimes it is very challenging to do.