This year marks Capcom’s 30th year in the video game industry, and it’s naturally in a contemplative mood. Games like Trojan, Commando, and others in the Capcom Arcade Cabinet released for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, were the titles that gave Capcom its start, but they weren’t the ones that established it as a core part of the Nintendo Entertainment System empire in the late-‘80s and early-‘90s. It was Mega Man and others like the newly resurrected Ducktales that made Capcom’s logo an icon. Street Fighter II, Resident Evil and the others that followed cemented that reputation as a major publisher, but it was those early games targeted at kids that made Capcom successful.
In a return to its roots, Capcom announced a new initiative on Tuesday morning to fund a large number of new projects aimed at kids. Right now, Capcom’s children’s content initiative is focused on the Japanese market, and it’s partnered with manga companies like V Jump and Saikyo Jump, as well as anime companies like Pierrot, and toymakers like Bandai to make games based on their respective lines of children’s properties. The first game in the works is Gaist Crusher, a Mega Man-style action game made for Nintendo 3DS that will also release a manga, an anime, and a series of toys.
In the past decade, Capcom has drifted further and further from its roots of making games for younger players. Even the cartoon-backed Mega Man: Battle Network series has disappeared. Those players that grew up with Capcom’s games know that the company was a ruthless merchandiser even back in the 1980s, so it’s no surprise that Capcom is unsentimental about the reasons for its new push. “The important theme of the new project is the creation of new Capcom content for children. Elementary school age boys are the primary target of the project,” explains Capcom, “With emphasis on armors, transformations and collections, the project will utilize the cooperation of companies in a broad range of fields such as games, comics (manga), anime, music and toys.”
From a business perspective, it shows Capcom is trying to retake territory that most game makers have abandoned. While Ubisoft, Nintendo, and Activision push a number of popular kids games on handhelds and consoles like Just Dance, Super Mario Bros., and Skylanders respectively, many other publishers have abandoned making kids games on those devices in favor of the powerful mobile market. The NPD Group’s documented extensively the decline in family/children’s game spending on handhelds and console.
It will be interesting to see if Capcom can recapture the hearts of kids in Japan, and whether they’ll try to replicate that success around the world.