Shooting Star Rockman 3 is set to release in Japan in two months. That's coming up quick. Now I ask, what specifically has Capcom done to hype it's release? A website/blog, a new manga adaption, Wave Command Cards and a lone event giving away measly pieces of merchandise. That's it.
In the past, Capcom of Japan has branched out to other multiple forms of media to hype and milk these upcoming EXE/Shooting Star styled games, specifically with toys/merchandise and an annual animated television show aimed at youngsters. This marketing tactic proved incredibly successful for the past six or seven years, attracting multiple newcomers to the franchise.
Strangely, CoJ isn't following this pattern this year.
SSR3 will be released without the aid of merchandise (primarily Takara-Tomy toys) or an animated adaption (usually supplied by Xebec Inc.). To make things ever more stranger, Capcom of Japan did not outline their RM marketing strategy in their annual report. Like at all. Instead, Capcom made it apparent they shall heavily invest in the Monster Hunter series.
Has Capcom of Japan cut its partnership with Takara-Tomy, Xebec Animation and TV Tokyo after so many years?
Sure, we've still got a months worth of announcements, but usually, these marketing plans are announced mid summer. We're past that point now.
So, what's going on? Simple: The Shooting Star series is a financial failure.
Let's break it down:
-Each entry in the series has sold below expectations: SSR1 sold around 500,00 units (combined total of all three versions), Capcom had hoped to reach 700,000. (a number that was previously met by EXE series entries.)
SSR2 sold around 300,00 (both versions combined). Capcom had hoped to ship at least 600,000.
-The ten minute animated series (broadcasted on Coro Coro Comic's 'Oha! Coliseum') saw a 25% ratings drop* compared to EXE animated adaptions. Season two ('Tribe') was canceled prematurely at episode 21. (*number based upon weekly Japanese TV ratings website. Site no longer shows records of SSR ratings)
-Because the anime has done so poorly, Capcom has yet to give rights out to release either seasons on Region 2 DVD.
-I've been told Takara-Tomy lost a hefty sum of cash on SSR merchandise. In fact, it was previously reported that SSR toys were being pulled from store shelves and placed into bargain bins months after their release (Info courtesy of old PRC correspondent "Link")
When you look at the statistics all together, the SSR series isn't doing so well compared to it's predecessor. So, what has Capcom done from here? Cut back on spending.
Instead of wasting money on toys and TV shows, Capcom has invested in small methods to hype SSR3's release in hopes of gaining some sort of profit:
-Continue production of the Shooting Star manga in Coro Coro Comics. Current artists is being replaced by fan favortie artist, Ryo Takamisaki of EXE manga fame. (set to debut December)
-Continue production of the "popular" Wave Command Cards
-Produce a central hub that collects all SSR3 related news and other nooks and crannie's.
-Invest in an animated commercial produced by Production I.G (as mentioned in a SSR3 info pamphlet)
-Finally, promote Black Ace and Red Joker at the Rockman Summer Festival.
Now, it seems we've returned to the pre-EXE 4 era, the time when there were few pieces of EXE merchandise and no animated adaption. Still, Capcom did profit.
It's sad to admit we've hit a low point in Rockman's popularity in Japan...mainstream wise.
"Mainstream" refers to the group of consumers who purchase the hobby style Rockman games and related merchandise (primarily elementary school children). The mainstream (example below) doesn't give two hoots about the Original, X, DASH, Zero and ZX series. These are the folks Capcom has been catering to since the debut of the EXE series.
Upon the end of the EXE series and the debut of the SSR series, this audience began to dissipate. Slowly but surely, this audience will continue to dissipate until there are none left.
It is EXTREMELY important Capcom does not loose this audience. It's because of these new, younger fans this franchise is alive today. Without the EXE series' profits, Rockman would have become a thing of the past.
The traditional Rockman games and characters are slowly moving toward "cult" status, enjoyed only by long time fans and the hardcore. In order to keep Rockman's name in the public eye (the mainstream), Capcom must continue to support the hobby style games. I don't know how they'll do it, but they must continue to support this audience. Whether it be through the revival of the successful EXE series or the birth of a new one, Capcom cannot abandon ship.
Interestingly, the future holds a possible paradigm shift.
Rockman 9 has not only indicated fans want new entries in elder series, but also brought veteran fans back to the franchise; fans who've abandoned it because of the hobby style Rockman games.
If Capcom can successfully create new entries in older series that are accessible (possibly through download) and affordable, they can profit off of the hardcore/veteran fans once again. Who knows, if the traditional styled games become popular again, we may witness the birth of a whole new generation of fans.
Who knows what the future holds...
Sales credit: VGChartz and Capcom IR