Street Fighter X Mega Man just came out, and it is amazing. It’s jam-packed with classic Mega Man gameplay and a thousand and one Street Fighter references dripping with nostalgia. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, go do it now! It’s free for the PC and you can get it at http://www.capcom-unity.com/mega_man.
However, I’m not here to rant about how awesome Street Fighter X Mega Man is; I’m here to talk about how awesome the idea behind the game is. It’s a rare example of a developer looking at a fan project that blatantly uses several of its IPs and saying, “Yes, this is an awesome idea and it should be made.”
It’s no big secret that we are more than a bit lawsuit-happy in the gaming community. Developers everywhere are quick to issue a cease-and-desist order to any fan that has decided to take it upon themselves to continue a franchise’s legacy when the developer would not. Look no further than Chrono Resurrection, the fan project that was looking to completely redo Chrono Trigger in a brilliant 3D graphical style. Square Enix looked at that, said “Nope,” and shut it down for good, issuing a stern cease-and-desist order. The same has been done to countless fan projects and fan translations all across the web.
To be fair, developers do have a right to protect their IP, and if fan developers are using an established IP and distributing their projects for free, gamers may turn to the fan-made project rather than official products made by the original developer. Of course, this costs the developer money, which is why cease-and-desist orders go out so quickly.
Then again, any fan-made game good enough to be a threat to a major developer should be seen as a sign that its creator has a lot of talent. The best case scenario should see these developers hiring these unofficial fan programmers and allowing them to finish their work. Then they can actually charge for the game and make some money off of it. Valve actually does this all the time (just look at Counter-Strike and Team Fortress as examples). Unfortunately, this generally doesn’t happen in the console arena, as it is much easier to issue a cease-and-desist order and deprive the world of an otherwise awesome project.
However, Capcom approached the Street Fighter X Mega Man situation somewhat differently. The game was originally a fan project by Singaporean gamer Seow Zong Hui. When Capcom became aware of this, they stamped their seal of approval on it. So the slow development of Hui’s fan game suddenly sped up, with Capcom’s resources and support behind it.
Of course, Capcom got something out of this deal. First of all, they have their name on the project. The title screen has Capcom copyrights plastered all over it. The beginning of the game has the classic Capcom splash screen. Capcom wanted us all to know that this was made from their IPs and that they own this game, and while some fans complain about that, it’s actually a fair deal. Hui couldn’t really make money off of a game that used another company’s IP so exclusively anyway. In a way, this game is only fun because both the Street Fighter and Mega Man names are on it, and that means that it couldn’t be done without Capcom.
Capcom also gets a brand new Mega Man product to give to its fans during Mega Man’s 25th anniversary. After the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 and Mega Man Universe, it was looking as though Mega Man’s 25th was simply going to go by unnoticed. However, the adoption of Street Fighter X Mega Man has turned a disappointing show for the blue bomber into one of the most awesome Mega Man releases we have seen in current days. (Personally, I think this game is much better than Mega Man 9.)
However, Capcom exceeded all expectations by doing one thing I never thought a developer of their magnitude would: They distributed the game for free on the PC, the exact way Hui originally planned to distribute it. However, instead of letting Hui be in control of distribution, they actually made it available on Capcom-Unity, their official fan page. Now every Capcom fan is aware of Hui’s work.
Note that Capcom didn’t need to do this. They could have made the game available over, say, PSN or Xbox LIVE, and they would have made a killing. However, they instead decided to simply support Hui in the spirit of his original project.
And guess what happened? Fan response was huge! Fans everywhere are demanding that this game be released on the PSN or Xbox LIVE, practically shouting, “Shut up and take my money!” This is partially because some fans just don’t want to have to deal with getting the game to run on PC. Heck, most fans probably don’t even have a PC controller. Capcom hasn’t announced plans to bring the game to console platforms, but if they do, they are poised to make quite a bit of cash.
This was all done simply by letting a fan go about his business and complete a game he was already working on. That’s it. Capcom choked down the paranoia and is now profiting from their open policy on fan works, if not in money than easily in fan support. Let this be a lesson to all developers out there: If a fan project is popular enough to cause you worry over lost sales, it’s also probably popular enough to be your next big hit.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: December 20, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*