Recently, Capcom announced a new browser game that is in development and will be available this summer. In their words it will be a “Sengoku simulation RPG” where “[e]ach player is a daimyo (feudal lord) of one of the warring states. Players use their powers to achieve the growth of their respective states and train military commanders as they fight with other players.” The name of this game? Onimusha Soul. Onimusha, for those that aren’t familiar with it, is a largely action oriented (there was one turn based strategy game in the series) franchise that has not seen any iterations since 2006. The game they are describing sounds nothing like an Onimusha game. Why is Capcom choosing to stretch an existing IP so much to fit it into a new game type instead of making something completely new for a concept that sounds fairly interesting?
It is not just Capcom either. We only need to look at the recent XCOM fiasco or the release of the Syndicate remake to see more evidence of companies trying to bank on the goodwill of an existing IP in order to make money. Capcom has some history of this, as some of their biggest games have managed to break the genre barrier. Mega Man has showed up in fighting games, soccer games, and even had RPG spin offs for the GBA and PS2 (Megaman Battle Netwark and Megaman Legends respectively). The Resident Evil series is arguably the largest game franchise to ever do this, and has expanded from its survival horror beginnings to its more action based shooters now, with stops along the way in the light gun and squad based shooter categories, as well as its characters appearing in Capcom fighting games. I will leave it to others to determine whether or not these were successful forays into other genres or not, but the point is that these at least seemed either natural (as in a Resident Evil light gun game) or completely goofy and not serious (Resident evil character’s in fighting games). It seems that in this instance Capcom choose Onimusha simply because it has samurai in it. If this game is a good concept (and it at least seems interesting at first glance), then fully develop it, including original content, rather than make the same game anyway and slap an Onimusha title on it in order to drum up interest. I’m not even sure how much boost a game that hasn’t had an iteration since 2006 will get you anyway.
I know Capcom has had a rough year, and its sales are down by 29%, but this calls for more innovation, not less. Developing and creating a new IP that is exclusive to this browser game can lay the groundwork for future releases that are not constrained by the association with the Onimusha franchise. At the very least, Capcom can avoid confusing, or worse, angering, fans of Onimusha games by creating something that may bear little resemblance to the series as a whole. And maybe we can start moving towards more new and original IPs, instead of recycling old ones in such unsatisfying ways.