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A Lesson in How Not to Cancel a Video Game

Mega Man Legends 3 could have changed the industry. Instead, fans are virtually rioting.

See you later, space cowboy.
See you later, space cowboy.

You have to wonder who at Capcom figured this week, the start of Comic-Con, was the right time to announce the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3. It was a game crafted not only for fans, players who have been waiting 11 years, but by fans, as well.

It's not like Comic-Con is, you know, an entire convention dedicated to the fandom of geek entertainment.

"We are thinking about having all of you help by participating in the development of this game in a variety of different ways," said Mega Man Legends 3 director Masakazu Eguchi when the project was announced last October. "Your efforts will help us launch the rocket we are building to rescue Mega Man! Once the rocket is launched and successfully lands on Elysium, the game all of you have been working will be complete, and will usher in the release of Mega Man Legends 3!"

An early shot from Mega Man Legends 3. The prototype content was never made clear.
An early shot from Mega Man Legends 3. The prototype content was never made clear.

Comic-Con jokes aside, Capcom shouldn't be surprised by the bitter comments and ugliness after inviting fans on day one, asking them to be part of the development process. While there was always the chance that Capcom would decide to cancel the project, nothing like this had been attempted before. It was bold. Incorporating fan feedback is one thing, but to actively solicit their ideas and build them in midstream is another.

When the project was announced, Capcom made it sound like, "Hey, this is happening! Rejoice!" At the point that you're ready charge gamers to play a prototype version of the game on eShop, expectations are set.

And yet, Capcom fell back on the "oh, development" excuse when explaining the cancellation. It rang hollow--so fans pounced.

"From the outset the MML3 Project was intended to give gamers across the world insight and input into the development process," said the company this week. "Part of this process includes an assessment of whether the title will go into full production, and is based on a number of criteria with input from different sectors of the company. Unfortunately it was not felt that the Mega Man Legends 3 Project met the required criteria, and it is with regret that we must announce that the Mega Man Legends 3 Project has been cancelled, meaning that Capcom will not be releasing the Prototype or the full game."

"Assessment [is based] on a number of criteria." "Not felt [it] met the required criteria." Those are vague explanations that are understandably infuriating for fans who had invested their own personal time into this project.

The outrage has even extended to Comic-Con, which kicked off yesterday. There were rumors floating around that Capcom wasn't allowing Mega Man cosplayers into its booth, actively kicking out anyone who violated this rumored corporate policy.

"We welcome all cosplayers to our booth at Comic-Con," the company said. "Anything else you've heard is outright false."

This is...probably not the right way to respond to fans who are feeling burned.
This is...probably not the right way to respond to fans who are feeling burned.

Adding insult to injury were the bizarre explanations from Capcom Europe's Twitter account, which insinuated the fans had not put enough enthusiasm behind the project, resulting in the decision.

"We weren't asking people to do much but response to dev rooms was cool at best," said an update last night. "It's a shame the fans didn't want to get more involved :-( if we saw there was an audience for MML3 people might change minds."

Naturally, people were pissed off. This prompted Capcom Europe to quickly roll out a more nuanced explanation.

"Seems I upset some of our friends across the pond," said the retraction. "Sorry. We're not blaming anyone. Especially those that worked so hard on the Dev room. The original comment was in relation to the interaction in the Dev rooms NOT the fans who have been nothing but supportive. [...] That was a flippant answer, it was a shame lots of people didn't get involved in Dev room to devleop [sp] the game was my point."

Here's the problem with that, though. Capcom told fans they didn't have to get involved in order to show their support for Mega Man Legends 3. The evidence is found within Capcom's own videos (scrub over to 1:55):

Oh, okay! Except that's not true at all, if you believe Capcom Europe's line about Mega Man Legends 3.
Oh, okay! Except that's not true at all, if you believe Capcom Europe's line about Mega Man Legends 3.

Of course, the president of Capcom is not managing Capcom Europe's Twitter--it's the community team. The hyperbolic response and ensuing dogpile was a reaction to Capcom's unsatisfactory answers for why the game would never see the light of day.

Confusion over how to respond to Mega Man fans spilled over to Capcom USA, too, with vice president of strategic planning and business development Christian Svensson taking to the Capcom Unity message boards, unable to explain what happened on the Capcom Europe Twitter account.

"As far as the Capcom Europe thing, I'm not sure what that's about," said Svensson. "I do know that the European fanbase for MM [Mega Man] in general is far smaller than NA [North America] or Japan."

Capcom USA's Twitter account never referenced the comments by Capcom Europe. In fact, it never mentioned Mega Man Legend 3's cancellation at all.

Mega Man Universe, aka LittleBigMegaMan, was shown at Tokyo Game Show, then cancelled.
Mega Man Universe, aka LittleBigMegaMan, was shown at Tokyo Game Show, then cancelled.

Svensson seemed to be grasping at straws to provide fans with hope regarding Capcom's plans, as the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3 comes not long after the cancellation of Mega Man Universe.

"I wish I had some other nugget of MM news to share for you guys to get excited about (we had Legends to focus on when we cancelled Universe) but I'm really at a loss," he continued. "I've got nothing I can share right now. I know it seems difficult to believe (and I expect loads of neg[ative] comments after this because of that lack of information) but MM is still really important to the company as a brand."

The official line from Capcom offered little to cling to.

"Mega Man is still an important franchise within Capcom’s portfolio and we will continue to pursue opportunities to create new titles in the series," said the company.

Svensson did confirm the fan and media anger had been vocalized to Capcom Japan during his most recent weekly meeting with higher-ups, but Svensson did not indicate what, if any, kind of response he'd gotten.

Bummer feelings extended to the development community, too. Skullgirls developer Reverge Labs poked fun at Capcom Europe's insinuations regarding fan interaction and the vocal disappointment the game would never come to fruition.

"They’ll never get to play Mega Man Legends 3 because, you know, the fans didn’t make enough art or program enough of the engine," cracked the studio on its blog. "Stupid fans--here’s some art to make you feel bad for what you didn’t do."

And, lo, a single tear did run down Mega Man's cheek, upon hearing the cancellation news.
And, lo, a single tear did run down Mega Man's cheek, upon hearing the cancellation news.

Even series co-creator Keiji Inafune couldn't help but chime in on the cancellation of the game. Mega Man Legends 3 is a game Inafune had been pushing for at Capcom for years. Inafune left the company in late October, just weeks after the initial reveal.

"The decision for the cancelation was out of my sphere, but as someone who took part in the development," he said on his personal blog, translated by Andriasang, "I'd like to convey something to the staff: I'm sorry that I couldn't be of assistance."

Inafune launched his new company, Comcept, in December of last year.

"I'm truly sorry I couldn't take part through the end," he added. "I didn't buy a 3DS for this project, but at the very least I'd like to have played the demo."

Players probably would love that, too, but Capcom has already said no.

Mega Man 10 was the last major Mega Man release. Mega Man Online, an online MMO not being developed internally at Capcom, is scheduled for sometime this year. It has not been confirmed for release outside Korea.

If you'd like to show your support, there's a Facebook group called "100,000 Strong for Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3" that's well on its way to passing 10,000 likes on the social network.

Patrick Klepek on Google+