There was plenty of excitement among the fighting game community and Dragon Ball fans when Arc System Works announced they were working on the Bandai Namco-published Dragon Ball FighterZ. It was the kind of Dragon Ball game plenty of them wanted for years, perhaps decades, but it was also nice that another developer was taking a stab at the Marvel vs. Capcom-style formula by making a 3-on-3 tag team fighter. It actually resembled the MvC games more than recent installment Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite gameplay-wise.
One tag team fighter wasn’t enough for them, though. They also announced Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle, a 2-on-2 tag team crossover title that combined the casts of the Blazblue series, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY. The game is heavily reusing assets from three of those games, with only RWBY’s being original, outside slight modifications being made to the UNIB sprites. But that didn’t deter the excitement thanks to how fun it looked to play. It looked like a fitting game for the newly-established Arc System Works USA to publish as their first big title.
So, it was strange to see Arc System Works so emphatically make an announcement that tanked the levels of excitement surrounding it.
They confirmed the initial roster will only have 20 characters, considerably lower than expected. There are several sprites at their disposal between three of the four franchises involved, since each of them received at least one sequel. Throwing them all in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 style at the start sounded like a good idea, even though it would have been trouble to balance. But 20 initial characters is even lower than what the aforementioned Dragon Ball FighterZ had at the start, despite that game having entirely original character models, and only the RWBY characters needed new sprites. An unbalanced game with a big roster would have been preferable compared to a character-deprived one.
It’s also alarming that the initial roster won’t even have all four of the main RWBY girls. The franchise’s Blake Belladonna was announced as the first DLC character, a headscratcher of a decision given the potential this game has (or had?) to lure in the significant RWBY audience.
That’s “initial roster” because another 20 characters are planned as downloadable content, and will be released in several packs of three shortly after the game releases. Arc System Works likes releasing DLC for their fighters, and can charge a little too much for them — see how some Blazblue and Guilty Gear Xrd characters were $7-$8 each. But Cross Tag Battle’s scheme is a new level, like they wanted to see how far they could take this before even their most dedicated fans threw in the towel. They found their answer here, as this announcement was enough to kill much of the excitement built up until now, and several are waiting until it receives a price drop.
While the base game will be lower than what’s considered the average price for a new game in Japan at 5,800 yen, compared to a game like FighterZ at 7,800 yen, it’s still higher than a title like Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition was at 5,389 yen. The price isn’t low enough to make fans forgive the DLC plans.
This is why they’re potentially doing damage control after announcing that the DLC plans won’t be quite as bad as expected. The game was confirmed to be part of the main lineup at Evo 2018 over MvC Infinite, a title entrenched in its own unique fiasco. Alongside that, Arc System Works confirmed that both the other two main RWBY heroines, Blake Belladonna and Yang Xiao Long, will be free DLC. There’s still upset about all four of them not being there from the start, but they agree this is a better alternative to paying for them.
But was this always the plan? There’s reason to suspect it wasn’t. When the original announcement was made, there was no indication that any characters would be distributed for free. When publishers plan to release something for no charge, they tend to proudly announce that immediately instead of mentioning it down the line. There’s a good chance they saw the heap of backlash they were getting and made immediate changes. This is nice, but it still means only 22 characters will be free, while 18 will be paid DLC, a significant amount. Don’t be surprise if this isn’t the last “Examples of Damage Control in Gaming” post about this.
All 20 of the initial characters for Cross Tag Battle have been announced, along with two of the DLC characters. More of the DLC roster will be announced on a Japanese stream on Thursday, though they didn’t specify whether the entire roster will be confirmed there. We might know who all the characters are before the game releases for PS4, Switch, and PC via Steam in Japan on May 31st, and in America on June 5th. Since Arc System Works doesn’t have a European publishing house (yet), they’ll have to team up with another publisher to distribute it there, though it may not release simultaneously. Hopefully it does, for their sake.