Fighting Games Friday: Marvel vs. Capcom was Far from Infinite

The fighting game community was watching their TVs and monitors in anticipation to see which games would be centerpieces at Evolution 2018, commonly known as “Evo,” the world’s biggest fighting game tournament. It was partly about the overall lineup that would be confirmed, but one big question loomed over the announcements: Would Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite make it?

A Marvel vs. Capcom game could always be counted on as a centerpiece for Evo in the last several years, which included Marvel vs. Capcom 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. But the chances were less certain for Infinite thanks to the reception it garnered before and after its release, which doomed its sales chances and lowered the potential player base for online play and at tournaments. But it seemed like Infinite’s would be included regardless thanks to tradition, and how Capcom tends to be a big sponsor at the event, and they’ve only increased that amount with the perpetually rising popularity of eSports.

There will be eight main games at EVO this year. Games like Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 are being included to no surprise, since each title is either overwhelmingly popular or is still receiving new content — or both. Injustice 2’s inclusion was slightly more surprising, since its tournament player base isn’t as large as the other titles. But it’s very popular among the general public, and some great-looking new content is coming soon. Super Smash Bros. Melee was also a surprise, since it has an even smaller player base, though it’s extremely popular with that niche crowd.

Among the titles included, the biggest shock was Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle, which won’t release until two months before Evo occurs from August 3rd to the 5th. This means Arc System Works will have three games they’ve developed among the main eight titles, meaning no one can say they aren’t being taken seriously these days. It’s also a risky inclusion, given criticism being lobbied at the game; it’s heavily reusing assets from older titles, and the DLC scheme where half the cast is coming after the release drew serious heat. We’ll see if it works out well for them.

Of course, the biggest overall surprise is that Infinite was indeed left out. The surprise was dulled when Capcom announced the kickoff of the Capcom Pro Tour hours before the Evo titles were confirmed, and curiously made no mention of the title. But it’s still a shock to see an MvC game out of the main lineup for Evo. You could say it’s receiving the Street Fighter x Tekken treatment, but Infinite’s actually getting hit harder. SFxTk at least made it to Evo, though the crowd was only moderately interested in the game whenever it was played. Evo spokesman Mark “MarkMan” Julio also hinted at how some licensing issues may be involved, but it’s tough to imagine that its reception wasn’t part of the reason why it’s not here.

The landscape has changed for Infinite compared to prior MvC games due to multiple factors, which made it easy for Dragon Ball FighterZ (whose core 3-on-3 systems were inspired by the old MvC titles) to overshadow it.

As mentioned above, Infinite was doomed before it released due to the level of backlash it received. It contained significant asset reuse, as 24 of its 30 initial characters were lifted right out the MvC3 titles, with the same character models and similar techniques. This became considerably worse when six more characters new to the MvC series were reserved for DLC after players purchased a $30 Season Pass, in addition to the $60+ they paid for the main game. Even with the DLC, the overall cast was as small as MvC3’s initial roster, but for a higher cost. There was also dissatisfaction with the graphics, where the developers wanted the game to look realistic (perhaps due to Marvel and Disney’s demands) on a budget, which wasn’t a good mix.

Infinite’s sales looked inadequate from the outset after an anemic launch on Steam, though it placed ostensibly well on sales charts in America. But numbers from Capcom’s recent financial briefing confirmed that it didn’t take off. It’s sold one million copies worldwide thus far, well below the 2 million they were expecting by the end of the fiscal year on March 31st, a number that will be difficult to reach by the end of next month. The tournament scene for Infinite will still thrive in local venues, but it’s clear the game will be mostly forgotten among the general audience going forward.

Given Infinite’s performance and how hesitant Marvel and Disney are to making licensing deals, and rumors that Capcom’s execs rushed its development, I’ll be surprised if this isn’t the end of the line for the Marvel vs. Capcom series. It had a good run.

It doesn’t have to be the end for the Capcom vs. fighting series, though. Capcom could team up with another gaming company that would be easier to work with regarding licensing and gameplay features, like SNK again, or companies like Nintendo, Bandai Namco, or Sony for crossovers fans have wanted to see for years. Perhaps they could go through with an Arc System Works vs. Capcom crossover promised years ago, when Arc was still part of Sammy Corporation. There’s also an all Capcom game they could consider, which would wash the bland taste of Capcom Fighting Jam/Evolution out of everyone’s mouths. It would be a great treat for the company’s 40th anniversary next year.

They could also go with another Tatsunoko vs. Capcom title, assuming licensing issues won’t get in the way. It’s likely Capcom will go forward by teaming with a company or property with more worldwide appeal, if they team up with one.

This, overall, is assuming Capcom doesn’t want to scale down their fighting game development after Infinite. But given how Capcom Chairman and CEO Kenzo Tsujimoto claimed the company wants to “promote eSports with the full force of [their] organization” in his recent message, I’ll assume that’s not the case.

The Marvel vs. Capcom brand will likely have a sad end here due to poor decisions from every company involved, but never forget the good times. Hopefully Capcom provides some kind of replacement that isn’t rushed to completion in the near future.

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