After holding a seminar at a Japanese university recently, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune shared some rather interesting information about his former company, Capcom. He claimed that Capcom were only interested in producing sequels and they had a mantra whereby 70-80 percent of all games they made had to come under that umbrella. This was backed up with the revelation that Dead Rising and Lost Planet were initially rejected by Capcom as viable projects.
Ever the curious, we have put his claim to the test by looking at the vast majority of Capcom's games produced this generation for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.
Probably the best example of Inafune's claim is ironically his own child, Mega Man. It's by far the most exploited IP by Capcom, primarily on the handheld systems, but Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 did also release on the big three - if only as downloadable titles. The Mega Man: Star Force spin-off franchise also released two versions per release (ala Pokémon). In fact, the handheld consoles are absolutely diabolical with regards to risk taking. There have been barely any new titles brought into existence on the DS and PSP, aside from Phoenix Wright and Ghost Trick.
As shown by the above graph over 80 percent of the games appearing on the Nintendo DS were based off of an existing property, while over 90 percent on the PSP fell into the same bracket. Phoenix Wright did come into existence on the DS, but since then it has seen numerous sequels and spin-offs including Miles Edgeworthy and Apollo Justice. Monster Hunter has, likewise, been a massive hit for Capcom on the PSP and there are five games on the system as a result. But why could such a large company not also come up with new concepts - especially on the PSP. Instead over 50 percent of the games are either Monster Hunter or Mega Man and the projects they do create, like Last Ranker, don't even release outside of Japan.
The Nintendo 3DS doesn't fair much better either with all five of the currently known games being based off an existing property. The only one that's slightly different is Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney.
When it comes to the home consoles, things do get a little bit better, but they don't stray too far from Inafune's claim. The majority of games appearing on the Nintendo Wii seem like after-thoughts, with ports like Dead Rising: Chop Till You Drop, Okami and Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition. There's also the obligatory Monster Hunter games too, which Capcom produced for the Wii because it was the best selling console at the time. Zack and Wiki is the stand-out original title though, because Spyborgs and We Love Golf! hardly broke the mould.
Moving on to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, the standard of the new IPs lifts slightly, but not by much. You've got Dead Rising, Lost Planet and Dark Void. Everything else Capcom has produced has been based off an existing IP, and ironically, Dead Rising has been one of the most exploited.
As you can see from the graph above, new IPs only account for around 20-30 percent of the games on each platform. And that's even when including games like Asura's Wrath, Dragon's Dogma and Street Fighter X Tekken, which is generously not being put under the Versus banner. But they seem to be up to their old tricks again with Street Fighter, as we're just about to see our fourth version of Street Fighter IV in as many years (include the 3DS port).
Capcom don't even seem that inclined to take risks in the downloadable market either, with the same percentages being thrown around again. You've got remakes like Bionic Commando Rearmed and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD remix and sequels in the form of Mega Man 9/10 and the Dead Rising expansions.
Factoring in all of Capcom's releases on the major consoles and even those games which are coming out, it's clear to see that their strategy does indeed lie with exploiting their existing franchises as much as possible. It's a shame really, as while franchises like Resident Evil, Monster Hunter, Phoenix Wright, Mega Man and Street Fighter are household names, without an initial investment at the time we wouldn't have had those either.
And it's sad to think that if concepts like Dead Rising didn't even make it through Capcom's approval process, how many other great ideas just fall by the wayside in favour of pumping out another Street Fighter or Mega Man game.