[Editor’s Note: This article is purely hypothetical, based on Capcom’s announcement in June that it is open to acquisition offers. Capcom may not be bought, or it could even be EA, Sony, or Microsoft that pony up the cash. Or perhaps no-one will. Consider this a possible future, a fun bit of speculation. We hope you enjoy it, and remember – don’t take it too seriously!]
In June 2014, Capcom announced that “if there is any large-scale purchaser of Capcom stock, we will react to make necessary measures within the admissible limits of applicable laws and regulations.” Earlier in the year, Nintendo made a comment that they’d be open for “mergers and acquisitions.”
In January 2015, the move was swift. Reported first by Nikkei, Nintendo made the purchase – just enough of Capcom to have majority stock in the company, and to throw their weight around. Nintendo finally made use of its $14 billion war chest, and Capcom was a surprisingly cheap acquisition.
It’s now January 2016, one year since the acquisition. Is the gaming industry better for it, or did it signal a blow against creativity and competition? Join us as we recap the events which followed.
The Death (and Dearth) of Capcom
Nintendo’s purchase on Wednesday, August 14, 2015 was a surprise to much of the industry. Many involved in both companies didn’t know what awaited them when they returned to work. All parties were very quiet, but fans were outraged.
Almost overnight, all Capcom games were removed from Steam, PSN and Xbox Live. Nintendo’s eShop, though, conveniently started running 30% discounts on all Capcom titles.
Finally, a Nintendo Direct released at the end of the month revealed Nintendo’s plans for Capcom. It started all fun, with Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils-Aime playing as their Miis. Clad in darkness, a new warrior approached the unused GamePad and placed an amiibo on the device, abruptly ending the match. In the traditional Street Fighter font, “HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!” blasted across the screen. The hood was pulled back to reveal Yoshinori Ono and the amiibo was uncovered: “Ryu Fights The Darkness Inside!” A new character-focused trailer ended with the announcement of Street Fighter V, a Wii U exclusive utilising the platform-holder’s amiibo tech. It was revealed that the latest installment in the series would see new fighters regularly added to the game via the release of physical figures.
After the trailer, another figure emerged from the darkness: Keiji Inafune was revealed, holding a Mighty No. 9 amiibo. He asked, “Can I play?”
From there, everyone got down to business:
Alongside the wholesale acquisition of Capcom, Nintendo had also acquired COMCEPT USA and Inti Creates, and would allow both parties to exist in the current form as second-parties. Keiji Inafune had accepted a higher position in Nintendo, overseeing both COMCEPT and Inti Creates.
Nintendo, as is their tradition, apologized for the removal and cancellation of Capcom titles on other platforms, and promised that many of those titles will be made available on Nintendo consoles as soon as possible.
As well as using amiibo figures, Street Fighter V would also add Miis as playable characters, alongside Nintendo-themed costumes for the entire cast. The costumes, for many, made sense, such as Guile as Fox McCloud, Ryu and Ken as the Mario Bros., and even Balrog as Little Mac.
Resident Evil Resurrection was initially believed to be a new title, but turned out to be a month-long eShop event marking the start of GameCube downloads of the entire series for the Wii U Virtual Console. Over the course of October, Nintendo released every game in the series for $19.99 each.
Resident Evil 7, exclusive to Wii U and 3DS, was announced with each version containing separate storylines running parallel to each other. Progress in one version would unlock new content and story scenes in the other for owners of both versions. Luigi was shown in an amusing cameo reprising his role from Luigi’s Mansion. It was announced that he would be playable in a new bonus mode, challenging players to complete the game without any defensive options and featuring re-purposed cutscenes.
In addition, Nintendo announced the Arcade Virtual Console. Any gamer who purchased a title before March 30 would receive a copy of Donkey Kong for free, and Nintendo released each entry in the Street Fighter and Final Fight series in the months that followed.
Nintendo also announced that Dead Rising Trilogy and Mighty No. 9, remastered and with brand new content, would be released exclusively for the Wii U (and 3DS, for the latter) “in the coming months.”
Dead Rising 4 was announced, alongside a 3DS game called Dead Rising 3D – a ground-up remake of the third game exclusively for handheld.
Devil May Cry 5 was formally unveiled, in development by Bayonetta developer Platinum Games and featuring Bayonetta and Samus Aran as playable characters.
In the months that followed, more announcements started to trickle out. Ryu would be a playable fighter in the next Smash Bros. game. Mega Man was to become a playable character in Mario Kart. Onimusha Rebirth was announced, as well as a new Dino Crisis, and rumors began to surface that Breath of Fire was set to become a major addition to Nintendo’s ongoing strategy.
Additionally, and quite abruptly, Archie Comics pulled the Mega Man comic from publication. Nintendo, in an effort to pursue their “get our characters licensed” announcement from early in 2014, combined both Capcom’s licensing success with Nintendo’s IPs. Working with Archie, they launched the “Nintendo Power Comics” brand, Nintendo comics published and produced in America by Archie, under close supervision of their licensing department.
At E3 2015, Nintendo once again went with an exclusive Nintendo Direct presentation instead of an on-stage reveal. There were the expected updates on The Legend of Zelda (releasing Holiday 2016) and other titles shown off in 2014, and Nintendo revealed that Mario Maker would be released later that day for free, with paid DLC for extra assets and designs. Surprises included a New Super Mario Galaxy and Pokemon X2 and Y2, as well as a new Ghouls and Goblins game on 3DS. Special attention was paid to other new games coming from Capcom:
Metroid Hunters (no relation to the DS title), was announced, a new Wii U title that featured Monster Hunter gameplay in the Metroid world. The game was described as taking the Metroid franchise in a new direction, one welcomed by many.
Megaman Generations was announced, running on the Mighty No. 9 engine. Keiji Inafune announced a new line of Mega Man titles, featuring the heroes of the original series, X, and Zero in a time-travel adventure. In anticipation of the game, Nintendo released Mega Man Maker on the Wii U eShop as a free download with paid DLC, like Mario Maker.
Megaman Legends 3 for the Nintendo 3DS was announced as being back in production.
Resident Evil x Devil May Cry was announced, but like Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem (still MIA), there wasn’t much else said about the game.
Bandai Namco announced that it had entered into a 5-year to bring a large number of exclusive games to Nintendo platforms, including a new iteration of Tekken.
Tekken x Street Fighter was finally dated, now as a Wii U and 3DS exclusive.
Inti Creates was tasked with producing a new handheld Metroid title, moving the franchise forward from the last chronologically-released game, Fusion.
So what’s next?
Over a year on from the acquisition, has Nintendo truly turned the course? It’s still being outsold by the PlayStation 4, but the sales gap has been rapidly diminishing. Certainly, with the huge amount of Capcom IP now under its exclusive control, Nintendo has a bright future ahead of it – as demonstrated by record-breaking numbers of Street Fighter V preorders. Can the highest number of console exclusives and beloved franchises be enough to drive sales to the little screen of hope for classic gamers, or will Megaman, Phoenix Wright, Ryu, Dante, Jill, and all others eventually languish in mediocrity?
One thing’s certain, however – with rumors now circulating of the next Nintendo home console (said to ship with a new-generation Wiimote and VR headset), with plenty more properties in Capcom’s back-catalog left to mine and with whispers that Bandai Namco or Square Enix are next in line for acquisition, Nintendo isn’t about to slow down. Now more than ever, the House of Mario has a renewed confidence and the ability to regain its place at the top of the industry food chain.