Mega Man 25th Anniversary Interview: Finding Equilibrium With Capcom USA

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Capcom’s Senior Community Manager, Brett Elston, is one of the company’s more vocal proponents of Mega Man, and like their Senior Vice-Presdent, Christian Svensson, he has a lot to say about the series. We got in touch with Elston to talk about Capcom’s ongoing Mega Man 25th anniversary celebration and what the future might hold.

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One of the things we’re obviously going to see for the 25th anniversary is the re-release of older games. What are the chances we could see a “3D Classics” version of one of the Mega Man titles, similar to what Nintendo have done?


Brett Elston, Senior Community Manager: A great idea, and one I’ve brought up before… it’s just something both Capcom Japan and Nintendo would have to collaborate on. Never say never, but no official word at the moment.


You recently said that there are some hurdles involved in getting the NES Mega Man games onto the Nintendo eShop in North America. Can you talk about what those were?


Now that we’ve announced the release date of these titles (starting with MM1 on 12/27), we’ll come clean and say most of those “hurdles” were getting everything lined up for the anniversary period. We wanted to have MM1 arrive as close to 12/17 as possible, which required close coordination with Nintendo.


How is the anniversary celebration being handled between Capcom USA and Japan? You said at one point that the two divisions were going to be doing different things, but will there be any events or game releases that are common to both?


Both sides are aware of what the other is doing, and we’re trying to replicate things as much as possible. That said, much of Japan’s celebrations were leading up to December, while ours begins in December and will continue throughout all of 2013.


[Christian Svensson] said that he was personally of the opinion that Mega Man had branched out a little too much at one point, and that there were too many sub-series that were competing with each other. If you could go back in time and streamline the brand a little bit, how would you do it?


This was before my time, but I agree with Christian that there was perhaps too much happening all at once. As a journalist (and avid Mega Man follower) it was hard to find time to cover and play all of the different SKUs, so I and many of my friends had to “settle” with one version of the character at the expense of the others.


Some chose Zero/ZX, some chose Battle Network/Star Force, while I veered toward Powered Up, Maverick Hunter X and Mega Man 9. All are viable options and have great mechanics. But looking back, perhaps they could have been spread out more, or more clearly messaged as to why each was bringing something unique to the table. Flash to today and we don’t have nearly enough; 2013 is a time to find equilibrium.


There have obviously been discussions about Mega Man’s future, internally at Capcom, during which the involved parties provide their input regarding the future of the brand. Can you say what kind of input you’ve provided or what you’ve gleaned from your understanding of Mega Man’s target market?


We can’t give any specifics on that, but it’s true we’re talking about this brand and this character a lot. But, part of the problem is the prior question above—each of those Mega Man spin-offs targets a similar, but not identical audience. No matter what we do, there are other types of fans that are not addressed. It’s a huge challenge.


Do you think retail is still a viable space for new Mega Man games?


It’s entirely possible we’ll find an idea or concept that warrants a full disc release, but for the immediate future, digital feels like the right way to experience Mega Man. What form it takes, and which platform(s) it appears on, would need to suit the game and the intended audience. That said, the perceived quality of a digital title should be quite strong these days; just because something arrives via download and not in a box doesn’t mean it’s “lesser” in some way.


You have a lot of experience interacting with passionate fans like the Mega Man crowd on the Internet. What have you learned over the years, and if you were talking to a new Capcom community manager, what advice would you give them?


Coming from a journalism background, I’m intensely familiar with internet comments and how negativity can very quickly outweigh positive and even neutral discussion. It’s fair to say we won’t please everyone all the time, but I sincerely try to read as many comments and threads as possible, pull out exemplary criticism (an all-caps rant isn’t as useful as a measured, thoughtful response) and pass it along.


Most people just want to be heard, and while we can’t act on every comment and address every complaint, we are paying more attention to the community now than ever before. Hopefully that becomes more apparent throughout 2013, which I am happy to say has more cool surprises planned.

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Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.