Is Arc System Works Becoming the New Capcom? Should We Worry?

Arc System Works has been on a roll for the last decade or so. Blazblue and Guilty Gear have been selling gangbusters. They have a new crossover game with Blazblue Cross Tag Battle. They bought back their first fighting game hit with Guilty Gear with great acclaim. But are they copying Capcom’s fate?

Capcom started in 1979 and mainly made arcade games in the beginning. Arc System Works came around about 9 years later as a contract developer at first, until 1998 when the first Guilty Gear was made. This became a cult classic fighting game that spawned sequels and what I would call a “light” version of the game, Blazblue, which again exploded and turned the “anime fighter” into what it is now. Capcom revolutionized the fighting game genre itself about 10 years before Guilty Gear with the Street Fighter series, albeit more of the traditional sense. Street Fighter II and its many forms still are thriving today.

In the 1990s, both Arc System Works and Capcom were the big dogs in the fighting game department, even with Capcom having more games, Guilty Gear was still one of the top fighting games of its time. Capcom had a few other fighters in the 90s in their belts, like Rival Schools, and Darkstalkers, and Power Stone, but their main fighter back then was Street Fighter. Both Capcom and Arc System Works saw success in this genre well into the 2000s, when Arc System Works would bring more competition with Blazblue in 2009. Around that time, Capcom had hit a bit of a bump in the road with fighting games, and hit a resurgence with Street Fighter 4. These games don’t compare well, except it started Arc System Works’ rise to fame and Capcom’s resurgence into popularity.

It was about this time that Arc System Works decided to do more creative things with the fighting game genre. They started with a game called Battle Fantasia in Japanese arcades in 2007 with eventual console releases two years later. This was an interesting foray into fighting games that Arc System Works wasn’t known for before. This game fits most with Capcom’s Red Earth game. Both of these games are outliers of their genres and has their own fans but they have their detractors as well.

Battle Fantasia definitely showed Arc System Works changeover to different tastes in the fighting game market. This led to the creation of the Blazblue series. This was a new creation by Arc System Works that definitely fit the “anime fighter” genre and propelled it to the levels of mainstream success it has today. Blazblue Continuum Shift came out in 2009 on consoles (2008 in arcades), and it sold well. Capcom however went back to the old drawing board with their fighting games and hoped for a miracle with Street Fighter 4. This also succeeded for them and put them back on the map.

Arc System Works had a few sequels and expansions to the Blazblue series called “Extends” that gave extra content such as characters and stories. This is similar to Capcom’s consistent re-releases of past Street Fighter games. At this time, Capcom continued this trend by releasing Super and Ultra Street Fighter IV. People saw the “Extends” as something positive but the Street Fighter 4 expansions to be negative and a retread to the past that should not have been repeated.

In 2012, Arc System Works decided to go into the licensing sphere of fighting games and create Persona 4 Arena, a fighting game based on a Japanese role playing game by Atlus. This was a very different game, even though they used a lot of basis from Guilty Gear for the fighting game system. Arc System Works actually used things from the game it was licensing that hadn’t really been seen before. This game got a sequel called Persona 4 Arena Ultimax or P4AU which added more story and a couple new characters for the game.
During this time, Capcom had decided to go back to the Vs. Series and decided to bring up something big that some fighting game fans had been waiting for for a long time. Street Fighter X Tekken was a fighting game that people had speculated about since Tekken’s arrival on the fighting game scene in 1994. This was also one of the first times Capcom had crossed over with another fighting game company since Capcom vs SNK 2 or SNK vs Capcom SVC Chaos almost a decade before. Street Fighter x Tekken was also ambitious in its execution, with a story mode all its own and also the implementation of a new Gem system that had caused a bit of a lukewarm reaction for the game as this was called a cash grab as most of the good gems were paid downloadable content. Coupled with on-disc downloadable content and the game really had some negative feedback.
Capcom also decided to revisit some of the old Vs. series in 2012 by releasing Marvel vs Capcom Origins, which had Marvel vs Capcom and Marvel Super Heroes with online for the current generation of consoles (Playstation 3 and Xbox 360). This fared better than Street Fighter x Tekken with very little negative feedback for this game.

In 2014, Arc System Works finally was able to bring back one of its original cash cows, and what got their rise to fame, Guilty Gear Xrd Sign was announced and it brought back many memories for people who had played the Guilty Gear games on arcade and console so many years before. The game was a visual marvel as it had beautiful 3D models made to look like 2D sprites. This is a trend that would continue with its future games. The game had two sequels, Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, which added fan favorite characters and added to the story, much like the Extend expansions of the Blazblue series.

As Arc System Works brought a smash hit back, Capcom was ending one era and starting a new one. Ultra Street Fighter 4, the Ultimate edition of Street Fighter 4, was released in the same year. Over the next 2 years, the next numbered Street Fighter would come out.

Around the time that Blazblue’s latest (and possibly final) mainline sequel, Centralfiction came out in 2015, Capcom decided to unveil its new fighting game, Street Fighter V. This started with a beta for the game that anyone who pre-ordered the game (and eventually anyone) could participate in. This got people very excited as they felt like their input was being heard, and they got to play an early version of the game.

Street Fighter V would eventually release in 2016, around the time the first sequel to Guilty Gear, Xrd -REVELATOR- would also release. Some people would have problems with both of these games. SFV had the problems of a small roster and more new characters than old characters that people knew and loved. Revelator only had a few characters as its main selling point, even though they were fan favorites, some really had no justifications for buying the game.

2017 would prove really interesting for both of these companies. Arc System Works would have its second sequel for Guilty Gear, Xrd Rev 2 release to lukewarm audiences. People were hyped for it, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Capcom, on the other hand, decided to hit back on the Vs. Series door again. This time adding a new game to the Marvel vs Capcom series, releasing Marvel vs Capcom Infinite. This game really had a roller coaster of a time before and after release. The public relations were very sporadic and the information we got were either lackluster or previously known before the information was given, making some people distraught. Then at E3 2017, Arc System Works pulled a bomb out of their repertoire that no one was expecting. Dragon Ball FighterZ was announced there. It was another licensed game that featured characters from a popular anime that would almost tear the fighting game community apart by its seams. This game would come out in 2018, but the hype for it lasted throughout the life (or lack thereof) of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, even though Marvel came out in September 2017, and Dragon Ball FighterZ would not release until February 2018. Capcom would try to save face by releasing Ultra Street Fighter 2 for Nintendo Switch, announce Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection and save Street Fighter V by releasing Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition to most people’s happiness.

Arc System Works delivered one more interesting entry into this by announcing Blazblue Cross Tag Battle,which is a crossover with two of Arc System Works’ past successful games, Blazblue and Persona 4 Arena, and one other fighting game and an (American) anime, Under Night In Birth, and RWBY. Some of the old mistakes Capcom had made with older games are seen in this one. Lots of downloadable content issues exist with this game, as half the roster is paid content. Also a lot of the roster was copy pasted from their original games, which a lot of Marvel games were berated for by Capcom games in games such as Marvel vs Capcom 2 and Infinite. This game is currently the only Arc System Works fighting game to not be released yet as of the writing of this article, so we’ll have to see if this game has any more issues or problems upon release.

Now, with so many successful fighting games under Arc System Works umbrella (there are a few more games I neglected to mention), will we see them make some of the mistakes that Capcom has in the past or present? Only time will tell.

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