If 2017 was a bad year for Marvel vs Capcom fans, then 2018 is looking pretty grim. EVO, the world’s biggest fighting game tournament, has announced the lineup for its 2018 event. And… something is missing. While Capcom is still representing at EVO 2018 with Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite, which only came out last year, is not on the list. Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 isn’t even present. Instead, a new BlazBlue that doesn’t come out until June (EVO is in August), and two different versions of Super Smash Bros. are on deck. Obviously that means Infinite is a dud. But what could the greater implications be?
I don’t have any insider information, or some kind of secret portal in Capcom or Disney’s offices. I do have a good grasp on history, however, so that’s the lens I’m looking through. Disney is a monolithic-ass corporate entity that has spent the better part of the decade soaking up IP like a giant sponge made of money. Disney has also dropped people and projects like a sack of bricks with little to no notice if the dough isn’t rolling in like a massive, green avalanche. Look at LucasArts. Look at Disney Infinity. Look at Marvel Heroes.
There’s no such thing as second chances anymore. We only got Marvel vs Capcom 3 because fighting games were cool again. And we only got Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite because Marvel Studios projects were in need of some quick promotion. There was no actual money invested in the game, with the standard rumor being the whole game got a fraction of what was spent on one of Street Fighter V’s DC packages. True or not, you can tell something was off the moment you saw the game in action.
Much of the critical reception (and public perception) of Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite was how dull the game looked. The “Vs” games were always about style. These games are not hardcore competition vehicles, although they still do foster competitive scenes. They’re about being flashy and attractive to more than just the hardcore fighting audience. Instead, Capcom seemed to bank on the mechanics here, hoping that the FGC scene would allow the game to coast into success. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was a reaction to the resources available rather than the plan from the start.
While Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite seemed to utterly flop, Marvel has plenty of other eggs in several, money-shaped baskets. Scores of free-to-play mobile games, from Avengers Academy to Marvel Contest of Champions, have plenty of whales willing to dump tons of dollars in to gacha and stamina systems. Meanwhile, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics are plugging away at “The Avengers Project,” with rumors currently pointing to a “games as service” type of AAA game. This will also bring in tons of cash. Sony’s Spider-Man game will sell another several million PlayStation 4s. Disney, much less Marvel, is not in need of Marvel vs Capcom in the same way it was in the past, when Marvel was out of cash and needed all the licensing it could get. Now it’s all about padding coffers.
It is certainly possible that someone at Disney or Marvel wants to try again and get it right. This could end up being a learning experience for someone who made some bad choices. But accountability is never pointed at the executives in the gaming industry. The creatives and devs are always the ones who take the fall, and Capcom appears to be struggling in some areas, hence layoffs at Capcom Vancouver and steep discounts for Infinite already.
Capcom itself is fine – Monster Hunter: World is killing it and Street Fighter V is earning a lot of good will back. But I do fear for the near future when it comes to Marvel vs Capcom. Perhaps a new crossover could happen, similar to Tatsunoko vs Capcom. But I wouldn’t hold my breath for the O.G.