In the big family of the old japanese companies, Capcom is the youngest and it’s impressive how many games has developed in such a short amount of time.
Before Capcom there was I.R.M. founded on May 30th, 1979, 40 years ago by Kenzo Tsujimoto, then president of Irem. The real Capcom is the daughter of I.R.M. and the subsidiary Japan Capsule Computers Co., Ltd.: both of the companies underwent a name change in September 1981 and Capsule Computers (shortened as CapCom) was established on June 11th, 1983, beginning to develop games only in 1984. A full list of Capcom games is very hard to compile and frankly it would be too much for this post but if you want to understand why it’s one of the greatest companies in the world check out this list.
Their fist video game was the modest Vulgus, for the arcade market, but already in 1984 they got their first big success, the scrolling shooter 1942. The game got a great number of sequels and a huge amount of ports, one of which, the one on the NES, gave birth to the sodalice with Nintendo and showed Capcom that the home entertainment was the future.
In 1985 Capcom was already a big name in the industry. That year they developed 5 iconic arcade games, all ported on the NES and on other platforms that are still in the collective imagination: Section Z, Commando, Exed Exes, Gun.Smoke and Ghosts and Goblins, still pleasure and pain for thousand of gamers of the third millennium.
After a “calm” 1986 with Trojan being the only known game among the four released, 1987 saw the release of one of their most loved games and official mascotte of the company, Mega Man (a.k.a. Rock Man in Japan) that revolutionized the world of action platformers and is today the 4th best selling franchise of the company with 34 millions of games sold. Always in 1987 in the general indifference Capcom created a beat ’em up that nobody considered and was basically overlooked whose legacy would change the gaming world forever: Street Fighter, a game that will pave the way for the company future success in the genre. To complete their year of games there are to cite the arcade game Avengers, the more successful Bionic Commando and Capcom first “sequel”, 1943, second chapter of the 19XX saga.
1988 was another year of sequels and ports for Capcom, but aside the release of Mega Man 2 and the port of Bionic Commando on the NES, they developed a new game, Forgotten World, of which I remember the Master System port and, always for the humble 8-bit console, Ghouls and Ghosts, underpowered version of the game released the year before. In 1989 the company started to invest more in self-developed games and aside from being the publisher for U.S. Gold game Strider, they made in house Willow for the NES and Final Fight that will debut on the NES only the year after.
The new decade opens with the release of Mercs on the Master System, the third Mega Man game on the NES, and always on the Nintendo console the weird Street Fighter 2010: The Final Fight. The years from 1991 till 1993 saw the company consolidating their IPs by releasing successful sequels: Super Ghouls and Ghosts on the SNES and Mega Man 4 on the NES in 1991, Street Fighter II: Champions Edition Mega Man 5 and Gargoyle’s Quest II on the NES in 1992 and Mighty Final Fight, Final Fight II, Mega Man 6 and Super street Fighter 2 in 1993. Of course they didn’t forget to innovate: brand new games were released in these years such as Captain Commando (1991), Bionic Commando (1992), Breath of Fire and Aladdin (1993) and the magnificient Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, a game unfortunatelyleft in the arcades. Always in 1993 Capcom released the first chapter of the first Mega Man sub-series, Mega Man X.
The debut of Sony PlayStation has been a key moment in the 90s but Capcom remained quite loyal to Nintendo for which developed other two Mega Man titles (X2 and X3), Final Fight 3 and the great Demon’s Crest. 1996 has been a great leap forward for Capcom with the release of the first Resident Evil on PlayStation, a game that created a genre, defined a console and made Capcom one of the best selling companies of the time. From 1996 RE has been the most profitable game for Capcom, and the other games were almost only sequels (especially of the series Mega Man and Street Fighter). Among the various Resident Evil Director’s Cut, 2 and 3: Nemesis is difficult to find another game with its own “personality” until 1999 Dino Crisis that, however, pays homage to the Resi series. Other interesting games Capcom produced were the crossover beat ’em up like Marvel Vs. Capcom and Marvel Vs. Capcom.
From the beginning of the third millennium Capcom became a company focused almost exclusively on three franchises: Street Fighter, Mega Man and Resident Evil, with the last one always topping the others in terms of sales. The period of their biggest success “flattened” their production and the company started to innovate always less. The only new IP of the early Noughties was Devil May Cry that, however, was born as a Resident Evil 4 project and Onimusha.
Today Capcom is surely one of the most important developers in the world, with an estimated 500 millions € of revenue and different subsidiaries but I think some of you will agree with me that they lost their “magic touch”. They have transformed into “one of the bunch” of companies in the entertaiment indusry and they lost their momentum as they had in the past. Probably (nay, mainly) because this last decade saw the video games industry rivaling at par with movies and music as a form of entertainment, the software houses started to care more about their income than about their genius (and this is something that Capcom has in common with other companies) and this is something that probably will hurt their reputation in the future.
But we don’t have to be negative about it, we always have the old games to rely on…