Wolves Did It: Why Capcom’s PC Versions Are Late

By Alec Meer on February 20th, 2012 at 12:13 pm.

It's a metaphor

Protest as we might, PC versions of big-name console games arriving later than their disc-bound cousins increasingly seems to be a fact of gaming life. We’ve heard all manner of excuses in the past, from polish to piracy, but Capcom have just offered their own reasoning for why we see the likes of Resi and Street Fighter amble onto PC weeks later than their console kin.

Short answer: “Quite often, PC development starts when the console development finishes or nearly finishes.”

My obvious reply: “Er, why not start it earlier then?”

Capcom’s unwritten counter-response that I’m entirely guessing about and thus fabricating: “Because our devs don’t have big enough teams.”

My hugely presumptuous counter-counter-response to imagined counter-response: “But this does mean that you’ve not designed PC versions with the PC in mind from day-one, right? You’re just hurriedly adapting what’s already been completed for console, yes?”

Capcom’s made-up (by me) riposte: “Look, you’ve just invented this entire conversation (apart from the first line) so there’s no way you’re not going to set us up to look bad, is there?”

My anxious response: “Er. But if your words are just a figure of my imagination, how come I’m the one who’s ended up looking like a twonk? I must really hate myself :(“

So yeah, that’s my fabricated bullpoo. Let’s get back to real words now. Capcom’s longer explanation, as spoken by senior vice-president Christian Svensson in this forum thread: “Unless we start sitting on the console code and not releasing it until the PC development is complete (which we can’t do from a business planning perspective), there’s going to continue to be some small gaps, unfortunately.”

They note that there have been plenty of simultaneous PC releases, however: Dark Void, Bionic Commando, BCR, MotoGP, Dead Rising 2, Dead Rising 2:OTR. The Street Fighters and Resis seem to be the main losers in this regard, and that remains the case with Street Fighter x Tekken and Resident Evil 6.

I suppose I’m not surprised, as console is very much the main audience for those franchises, but it does seem a shame that they can’t add a few more people to the dev teams so we can all share in the joy at the same time.

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51 Comments »

  1. Jumwa says:

    You look at games like Skyrim, and I think you can see that if you treat PC gamers at all well we gobble it up. A simultaneous PC launch, and a decent port job with some PC support seems to be all it takes.

    Consumers seem eager to prove that they are willing to throw their cash at any half-decent product as long as it’s given to them in not a totally assbackwards manner.

    • sassy says:

      You can’t just say Skyrim proves it. Skyrim was going to sell no matter if it were delayed on PC by a year and they forgot that people use a mouse nowadays. Really no one has conclusive proof either way that a delay on PC affects overall PC sales, nor does anyone have any proof that a bad (not a terrible, simply a bad) port affects sales either. One would assume the latter does but throwing out assumptions like that helps nothing.

    • Jumwa says:

      Skyrim was just the most recent example I could think of. I also wasn’t arguing that simultaneous releases were the key.

      I ended stressing that any effort at all seems to garner you lots of sales. Despite purposely trying to get people not to buy it by saddling it with GFWL and a heft of other problems, launching long after the console versions, Arkham City still sold in droves for PC.

      Skyrim, however, is a case where the game launched simultaneously, the PC version got at least as much affection as the others polish wise, and had a bit of extra affection in the form of mod support, and it paid off well.

      My point being: you can sell PC gamers titles even if you half-ass it, but if you go the extra mile it seems to pay off.

    • sassy says:

      and my point was that due to the very few amount of examples of this we can’t draw any type of conclusion. Most cases I can think of the game itself was genuinely good, so you can’t account the sales to the quality of the port. Too many different variables exist to draw any conclusions from such a small sample size.

      As much as I hate to say it, I personally don’t think it matters much to overall sales figures. A games audience is not just made up of those who know a lot about gaming and games, in fact that can that often be a small part of the audience. People buy all the time because a game is in their fave genre and a picture or video looks interesting, they don’t look up DRM or quality of the port.

    • Jumwa says:

      I agree with you there. Most gamers do not follow gaming news, and are not aware of the intricacies of these things. Not everyone values their time weighted towards keeping up on gaming news.

      However, most people seem to make purchases based on three things: word of mouth, past experiences with the series/publisher/maker/etc., and availability. Availability comes into play on the time the game is launched, and the other two are influenced by things like quality of the port, though in a less refined manner than us who follow the nitty gritty details of might.

      Skyrim in this case is a valid example, because the previous games in the series have a similar record in the gamer conscious. The existence of mods keeping the titles alive in the realm of word of mouth, and how this is a “PC game to own”.

      Which is why Ubisoft trying to launch single titles without DRM as experiments kinda confused me. Most people will just remember that Ubisoft is a company to avoid, not be picking through the haystack of news to try and find out what particular titles have which particular headaches attached (which even the gaming media can’t manage to decipher at times).

      So yeah, it’s not a strict relationship of: these things have direct and immediate results of making all the consumers aware of it. But it does filter through to consumer behaviour, if only indirectly.

    • Wut The Melon says:

      Skyrim was a pretty shoddy port, though. If not for mod support it would have been one of the best examples of how NOT to do a PC port, so I can’t really agree with you there.

    • Jumwa says:

      That’s just pure hyperbole.

      The PC version of the game ran as well, if not better, than the two console versions. The bug reports for the console versions appear more lengthy and certainly more severe than the PC counterparts.

      That’s not to say it’s a perfect port, and the UI was a big issue and blah blah blah. Any real issue (aside from the UI) is not a problem with the porting job, but Skyrim itself. None of that is on the topic of what I said though, which was never about “making a perfect port”. My point all along has been that it doesn’t take a lot to garner PC sales. Not even a great port job.

      Mostly it just takes not making your game crappier on purpose with ridiculous DRM and putting in some minimum effort to make it playable and available.

    • sassy says:

      Skyrim doesn’t really count because of earlier titles success. It was the highly anticipated lead up to a highly successful series. It is also in a genre which has traditionally been very popular among the PC crowd but also a genre which gets few big releases now (even including hybrids like Mass Effect it still doesn’t get many). Hence why I said it was going to sell, sure right now it is probably still getting a high volume of sales based on word of mouth. Really we can’t come to any conclusion on that game until we see how sales figures compare to consoles (or have we?), even then many other variables as I’ve already mentioned come into play.

      I had a specific point I wanted to bring up but spent too much time trying (and failing) to get my thoughts on Skyrim down in a clear way, so whatever my point was it’s gone. Anyway I’m probably not going to see any more replies, it was interesting reading your replies and counter points, so rare to see that on the internet.

    • Jumwa says:

      I understand what you’re trying to say, though the reasons why you think it doesn’t count, are the reasons why I think it’s an ideal example. It’s known by gamers to be an “adequate” (whatever that means) PC port, that doesn’t use “excessive” (whatever that means) DRM, and it launches simultaneously across all platforms. They even got that one little mile of adding some extra mod compatibility for PC users.

      That’s why I think it’s a great example of how just a few bits of effort for PC gamers can garner you a lot of sales and interest, and you needn’t even breach the barrier of “adequate port” to do so. Though I certainly wouldn’t expect Skyrim levels of success on a first outing, as we discussed, gamer consciousness takes time to develop through a general word of mouth. Game companies need to think long term in this respect, that each game isn’t an island unto itself, but each another stepping stone to increased sales of a series of games in the long run (either a series of connected games such as Elder Scrolls, or just a series of disconnected games by the same makers or with the same brand).

      If that makes sense. Thanks for indulging me.

    • DK says:

      “Really no one has conclusive proof either way that a delay on PC affects overall PC sales, nor does anyone have any proof that a bad (not a terrible, simply a bad) port affects sales either. One would assume the latter does but throwing out assumptions like that helps nothing. ”

      Yes we do actually. Call of Duty 1/2 were PC first, console second – still sold very, very, very well on console. Gears of War was a great port, that arrived way too late – it sold ludicrously well on console and absolutely bombed on PC. Look at any number of recent games to see how a bad port released more or less simultaneously does (it sells much worse than an okayish port would) but is still profitable.

      You even have a very complete picture of how the situation is for indies (it’s somewhat different from the AAA situation). The ones that come out on PC sell like hotcakes. The ones that come out on console and a year later on PC still outsell the console by orders of magnitude within days.

    • Jumwa says:

      Well pub-logic would dictate that launching a game outside the media storm of advertisements that accompanies its initial release, and all the buzz of consumer interest, would lead to less sales in the long run. That delaying a game, i.e. making it unavailable for purchase for a longer period of time, will inevitably result in fewer sales, perhaps marginally fewer, but fewer none the less.

      If a game isn’t for sale when a consumer wants it, maybe they will pick it up when it finally does launch. But there will always be some who’ve lost interest or forgotten by the time it does, decreasing potential sales, I say.

      You can’t buy something that’s not for sale.

    • NightKid says:

      Don’t take this the wrong way, but the fact that Alan Wake recouped its costs within 48 hours of sale on PC after being released a year or so late pretty much refutes your claim of decreased sales potential over time. SF4 and its cousins must’ve also did quite well for Capcom to consider producing a PC version for SFxT.

      Regarding good PC ports that don’t sell well, I don’t have specific examples in mind but I’m pretty sure if you look them up you’d find a dime a dozen.

      The point being, all assumptions are way too speculative to be absolutely proven.

  2. sneetch says:

    I must say, I quite like imaginary Capcom’s imaginary honesty here.

    • 2late2die says:

      I concur. In fact, I’d love to see more articles with imaginary conversations between interviewers and interviewees – those are much more fun anyway.

  3. Lewie Procter says:

    All those ones which got simultaneous releases were externally developed, so it seems like it’s just Capcom’s internal studios that have trouble with PC releases.

  4. Red_Avatar says:

    The problem with this kind of attitude, is that, as you said, the game is never designed with the PC in mind at all. It’s an afterthought and game mechanics that would have worked much better on PC, are often dropped for consoles or simplified instead of just being different on PC instead.

    • Gnarf says:

      Eh. I really don’t want a Street Fighter designed with the PC in mind. Same as I don’t want a Street Fighter designed with consoles in mind. I want Street Fighter designed with arcade stick+6 buttons in mind, and that’s what they’re doing, so it’s like cool. I don’t want it dumbed down for keyboard or console controller or something.

      • Vercinger says:

        Well I want a Street Fighter (or just any good fighting game, really) designed with keyboards in mind! There’s no reason it couldn’t work, and would not require any sort of dumbing down, just a change in the concept of the controls. There’s no reason for me and many other gamers to be denied an entire genre because we don’t own specific devices.

    • TaroYamada says:

      @Gnarf, yup, 100% agree with you.

    • Red_Avatar says:

      How about not focussing on one single game? Resident Evil 4 anyone? Remember what happened there?

  5. pakoito says:

    As long as they land I don’t care. I have even managed to put up with SSFIV:AE having GFWL and that bad netcode.

  6. jmscrft says:

    I’m pretty sure companies have “sat on” pc code while they waited to finish the console version of games..

  7. fuggles says:

    Does anyone know why we are not getting Marvel Vs Capcom? It’s much more interesting to me than SF Vs Tekken, what with not having a console to attach myself to tekken but having eyes to read comics.

    • Kdansky says:

      It’s not actually that great of a game, sadly. There are way too many ways to combo, and pretty much every game comes down to about two converted hits (or just one with a bit of meter) to kill a character. It was a gigantic disappointment to me.

    • TaroYamada says:

      Yeah, but he has a point. MvC would likely do better on PC than SFvTekken would, it seems like they are short changing themselves on sales. My guess would be Capcom intends to do a third iteration of MvC before a PC port. Like how they skipped SSFIV.

    • pakoito says:

      The deal with Marvel didn’t allow for PC port, easy as that. Namco was ok with it.

  8. TaroYamada says:

    I am surprised anybody cares, I prefer Japanese games over Western games and I don’t even care. It gets here when it gets here, why’s everybody so impatient? It’s only a few months extra to wait for a PC port and most of us likely have a backlog of games to work on whilst we wait. I am more happy that Japanese games are coming to PC at all.

    Furthermore, not designed with PC in mind? If we are talking about fighters they aren’t designed with PC in mind, but why does that matter? Just plug in a gamepad or arcade stick, keyboard would be an awful means of control for a 2D fighter, that’s one of the pro’s of the PC platform, versatility in input methods. Just give me a console port that runs reliably, allows gamepad use out of the box, maybe some anti-aliasing, and I am set.

    If Capcom had seen more money come in on those externally developed titles where they released at the same time on consoles as PC, they’d do the same with their internally developed games. The free market spoke, and it told Capcom that delaying the PC version was the plan that was most financially beneficial for them, otherwise they’d be prioritizing PC releases. So be it, as long as I can still buy it on PC within a reasonable amount of time afterwards.

  9. equatorian says:

    This is actually sensible for Capcom, considering the state of the PC market in Japan. It’s kind of like the platform nobody makes games for except super-niche strategy games, porn and indie titles.

    ….and the indie titles are still being mailed out, with downloads being available two years later. (On the average.)

    Note : I prefer Japanese games to Western and actually play them in their original language. These are gripes out of love! Japanese doujin circles why do you not want my money if I don’t have a local bank account for money transfers sob.

  10. Tuco says:

    Despise this little issue with late ports with Capcom, I like Chistian Svensson.
    He’s a true fellow PC gamer.

  11. vodka and cookies says:

    At least Capcom eventually release on the PC Sega and Konami are two who rarely ever release their Japanese developed games. They would need it too, look at Binary Domain made by the excellent Yakuza guys is coming out and barely got any attention at all but it’s quite good, same goes for stuff by Suda 51 or Atals and Katherine and so on.

  12. Llewyn says:

    Wolves did it, eh? No wonder Mick McCarthy had to go. #foot-to-ball

  13. V. Profane says:

    I don’t really care if PC versions come out a bit later, or why, as long as they’re good. I’ve bought both Street Fighter IV’s, Dead Rising 2, and Resident Evil 5 and they’re all good games and good ports.

  14. JBantha says:

    Alec should find new ways to reach the 2000 words goal.

  15. MuscleHorse says:

    WOLVES DID IT. IT HAPPENED IN AUSTRALIA.

  16. AKBell says:

    And what do they do with those few extra devs when the pc version is finished?

    And the few other devs that these extra devs have taken work from once the console version is finished?

  17. janggoman says:

    meh capcom is gamcist a.k.a racist for gamer, they dont like their games on pc to be played by gamers from poor countries and whose to blame ? GFWL !!

  18. sassy says:

    Why would Capcom consider PC in higher regard? They are a long time developer of console games, it wasn’t until recently they started porting titles.

    To add to that they are also from a country where consoles have (and always had) complete domination of the market. I don’t have any recent figures but they probably also have a quite high percentage of games sold in their home country.

    The fact they even bother to port titles should be applauded. Sure we get them a little later and often with filth like GFWL but if you ignore that, the majority of their ports have been fantastic. They did have some incredibly shoddy early ports like RE4 and DMC3 but now they are among the best.

  19. PC-GAMER-4LIFE says:

    Later is better than never. Most other Japanese publishers do not understand the PC market at all so just ignore it totally.

    Capcom USA are the ones to thank as they pushed it in the beginning when Christian Svensson arrived & nowadays most of their games come to PC within a few months but as least they use the same tech teams for PC (they love the platform as well apparently) so everytime the PC version is far superior to the console SKU.

  20. engion3 says:

    Being the biggest RE fan here and the only reason I bought any consoles in the past I have NO problem with a game coming out months later. IM HAPPY THEY ARE COMING OUT AT ALL. Resident Evil 5 on PC worked great and even had a benchmark.

    I think PC gamers expect too much sometimes, I just look at it as spending time refining it and they catch any bugs that got released with v1.0 console game.

  21. Lemming says:

    I’ve actually long suspected that Valve have been toying with the idea of Steam: the console.

  22. Ruffian says:

    I wonder if the thought ever crossed their minds that they might see better pc sales if they did indeed release the good titles (aka RE and SF) simultaneous, with the crapboxes. BTW engion3, I totally challenge your claim, and would like to assert that I, sir, am the biggest RE fan here! Seriously though, more RE on pc, please.

  23. Frans Coehoorn says:

    Mr. Meer, you’re not too far off from the truth – they really don’t have that big of a team. The port is actually made by QLOC from Warszawa, good ol’ Poland. I know this because I worked there last year on SSFIV Arcade Edition (or, of course, you could check the credits, but who does that anyway huh? ;). In other words, it’s not done by Capcom themselves, but QLOC are bound to their will, rules and whatnot. However, I think the port was well made, as well as other ports that they have done in the past. And yeah, what they are doing is basically adapting what has been made for the X360. So I reckon GFWL can be expected again.

  24. Baines says:

    And while the article puts aside piracy as an issue, Capcom has previously used piracy as an excuse for late/no PC versions of console games.

    PC releases might be late because they don’t have enough developers to work on PC versions concurrent with console versions, but they don’t have enough developers because they don’t put any priority on PC releases.

  25. zestybrick says:

    With fighting games you have to go where the community is, and for now there are just more players on consoles (when it comes to SSF4). Although nothing beats an arcade.

  26. Milky1985 says:

    So despite having a MULTIPLATFORM engine with the MT engine that a fair few of there games are based on, yiou still start specifically the PC development once the console is done?

    I call BS on this, maybe for street fighter 4 as its not MT engine but the rest of them?

  27. porps says:

    you deserve at least i can i can’t for the league of gentlemen reference, if not a precious thing.

  28. Miltrivd says:

    It’s funny how the industry uses “PC development” as opposed to the more honest “PC Porting”. I don’t remember the last time a game with multiple platform release had, on the PC version, things made for PC, like higher res textures, improved optimization and menus thought for mouse and keyboard. I think Dragon Age:Origins partially did this, can’t recall any other title in years.

  29. Wisq says:

    I’m probably going to take some heat for this opinion, but I can actually totally see where they’re coming from.

    I’m not a games dev, but I am a developer. And I can definitely see how developing for multiple platforms would be a challenge. Sure, the core game code can be the same, but if you’re doing it right (and not just slapping some keyboard controls on, or not even that), you’re working on interface bits, tutorial bits, maybe tech bits, simultaneously, across multiple platforms. If something comes up that requires a major change to any of that, it’s now several times the effort to rip it out and replace it. If one of your platforms lags behind the other and is holding things up, you now either have idle devs, or devs working on platforms they’re not as familiar with. An agile company can deal; a big “traditional” company, maybe not so much.

    Really, it makes good business sense to have your core team focus on the platform(s) you deem critical, and farm your other platforms out to other companies once that’s done. In much the same way that it makes sense to finish a game and then do all the localisation as short term contract work, rather than full time incremental work.

    Some companies do simultaneous releases across multiple platforms and languages, but I would tend to believe that’s because they consider all those platforms to be critical, or they’re just efficient enough to do the porting / localisation during QA, or cautious enough to have an extended QA, or they announced the date well ahead of time and are just sitting on it until then.

    For the rest, the problem is not that they aren’t working on critical and non-critical platforms simultaneously; the problem is that they don’t consider the PC to be critical. And considering the issues of popularity, piracy, and maybe even competition from indies, it’s not hard to see why. Especially when you have a small but extremely vocal part of your would-be fan base that has an overblown sense of entitlement and is all too eagar to have any excuse to criticise your “shoddy” port, launch large petitions/boycotts, pirate it, or all of the above.

    Don’t get me wrong — I love the PC, and it’s my only gaming system. But when I hear about a PC port of something I want to play, I’m grateful that I get to play it, not dismayed that I’ll have to wait a little longer. Because I can sorta see where they’re coming from, even if I think they may be arriving at the wrong conclusions and priorities.

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