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Capcom projects big sales for Resident Evil 6, DmC, and Dragon’s Dogma but risks repeating past failures

You know the tune, so sing along. Capcom’s GOT… high hopes! It’s got… hiiiigh hopes. While every other major Japanese game publisher like Konami and Square-Enix are beating the drum of social and mobile games, Capcom is committed to its upcoming slate of console games, convinced its big titles will help it recover from losses in the last fiscal year.

In an investor briefing held on Thursday, Capcom said it expects to sell 7 million copies of Resident Evil 6 worldwide this year, 2 million copies of DmC: Devil May Cry, 1.5 million copies of new action RPG Dragon’s Dogma, and 1.4 million copies of Spark Unlimited’s Lost Planet 3.

The company’s got a whole lot of other software on its slate, including new editions of Monster Hunter for PlayStation Vita, Ace Attorney 5 for Nintendo 3DS, and a number others but these Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC titles will be the games that fuel the company’s return to profitability in the next twelve months. Capcom expects these and others will rake in a cool $1 billion in sales, compared to the just $250 million in sales the company did in the past fiscal year.

Big sales, big numbers of games, etc. Who cares? Why is it worthwhile to look at investor briefings rather than just talk about the games themselves? These projections, and how they stack up to actual sales performance next year, will dictate what games get made and by whom and that should trouble any Capcom fans out there.

Capcom is notorious for over-projecting sales of its console games, which has led to some brutal years for the company. Consider fiscal 2010: Capcom projected 2.2 million sales for Lost Planet 2. It was a sequel to a moderately popular game but was very different in that it pushed multiplayer over single-player. It was also made by a Western studio rather than the original’s team. Why an external team? Because outsourcing development is cheaper for Capcom. That game performed so badly that Capcom was forced to downgrade its six-month profit forecast by 41% at the end of 2010. What was the ultimate result of this chain of events? Capcom decided to spend even less on Lost Planet 3, contracting C-list studio Spark Unlimited, and yet it’s still over-promising to investors on how the game will sell.

This is an old routine. In the year before Lost Planet 2, Capcom pegged Bionic Commando and Dark Void, both contracted out to Western developers, as bringing in 1.5 million and 2 million in respective sales. Both games tanked miserably, selling a respective 700,000 and 520,000 copies, with Capcom afterward saying that they would only farm out development of established franchises to Western developers from there on out.

Capcom would be wise to tread carefully. The more investors it disappoints, the less capital it will have to actually make games, let alone take risks on new properties.