3 years ago, if anyone would’ve told me that Capcom would be making a comeback, I would’ve laughed at them. 3 years later, I’m looking at their sales figures and I’m optimistic about their future. From being one of the most critically panned publisher-developer to one of the most successful in the same decade, it’s been a wild ride for Capcom. Yet this success came in the form of a game that nobody expected to be there.
Monster Hunter is a franchise conceived by Capcom in the early 2000s. Monster Hunter and the following sequels and spin-offs have always been console exclusives. And it wouldn’t be until E3 2017 that we got the news of Monster Hunter finally stepping into the western market and the PC market as well. A Japanese game being introduced into the western market isn’t big news. But when you consider the amount of hype it pulls in Japan and that the Western market is dominated by PC rather than consoles, things tend to get a bit hairy.
Hallowed be thy name
Monster Hunter was never a game meant for PC when it came out. Back in 2004, the industry was filled with fleshed-out single-player games and multiplayer shooters. A classic Action-JRPG with so many cogs and gears would’ve been a bummer with the PC crowd. Yet Monster Hunter did garner quite the underground popularity in the west thanks to the PlayStation 2’s player base.
Thanks to the versatility of the Nintendo 3DS and Wii made Capcom release their further iterations of Monster Hunter on handheld consoles. And boy did they perform so much better than their home console versions, with each sequel outperforming the former in terms of sales. The series spanned for well over a decade on consoles with multiple spin-offs and even an exclusively Chinese free-to-play game on PC. By this time, Monster Hunter was no longer a niche community, it was a blockbuster in its own rights. The game was a giant in Japan with Japanese versions being released almost a year before the Western versions. Capcom could never go wrong with Monster Hunter. And that was all but assured.
Although it seemed fine with one franchise, Capcom was failing otherwise. Capcom’s roster was in shambles, with buggy launches and critically panned games all across the board. They needed saving and they were running out of time. But nobody expected Capcom to pull a rabbit this big out of their hats in E3. Of all places, in front of the biggest and the most public gaming events of all time, Capcom unveiled Monster Hunter: World. The first of its kind, the latest addition to the main series of Monster Hunter, built from the ground up for both PC and next-generation consoles and the first game to be released worldwide. The list of accolades this game has garnered over the years has been impressive.
Yet, even as I watched the trailer being dropped, I was skeptical about its longevity on PC. Over time, the player base on PC has garnered the reputation of being impatient and has leaned towards games that have quick, short blockbuster multiplayer action. A technical RPG such as Monster Hunter World is primed to be a commercial failure even if it is a technical marvel. JRPGs usually take a lot of time and have a steep learning curve which proves very difficult for a lot of players. And in this stage, Capcom could not afford any mistakes.
As the first figures from the consoles came through, it seemed like Capcom had cleared the danger zone. Monster Hunter: World roared and soared into commercial success. The game sold over 5 million copies within 3 days of release. The game sold 1.35 million physical and over 2 million digital copies in Japan alone. Monster Hunter World went on to become Capcom’s biggest selling title of all time, as well as being the highest selling Monster Hunter ever.
Yet the game had to cross its biggest hurdle. Never before had Capcom dared to release Monster Hunter on PC. Never before had they been faced with such a daunting and uphill battle. And somehow it seemed all that easier for Capcom. With the success of the console version being broadcasted all over the internet, PC players flocked in to see what the fuss was. Before release, the hype for Monster Hunter World on PC was feverishly high. Steam reported a record number of pre-orders for MHW, with over a million pre-orders from China alone.
On August 9, 2018, Monster Hunter World broke all records as it soared past every other game on Steam. The game had 240,000 concurrent players on Steam at launch, the largest number for any game launched in 2018. It held over 100,000 players throughout 2018 and went on to become one of the top 10 best sellers of 2018. Monster Hunter: World is the only Japanese game on steam to achieve such heights.
By the end of 2018, Monster Hunter: World had sold 12 million copies across all platforms, making it Capcom’s largest selling entry in their history of 40 years. The game has been awarded a Quadruple Platinum title in Asia. And the list goes on and on.
Securing the future
Capcom had gambled with their biggest IP till date. Undertaking one of their most ambitious projects ever, spanning a developmental cycle of 4 years, Capcom had been making a game from the ground up for a market they never dabbled in. And their gamble had paid off in an explosive fashion.
The success of the series sent Capcom’s shares through the roof. Capcom had made 50% more quarterly profit than last their last fiscal year even before the game launched on PC. Monster Hunter World proved that Japanese games can survive and thrive in the Western market. And that PC players were ready for a new breed of RPGs in an era when Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt were trying to streamline the complexity of RPGs.
It’s 2019 now. Monster Hunter, the series is entering its 15th anniversary. Monster Hunter World has already announced the Iceborne expansion which is almost as big as the main game itself. Capcom has gone on to release back to back blockbusters since August 2018, the latest being Devil May Cry 5, an entry 11 years in the making. Everyone has already been touting this as Capcom’s rebirth. And we can’t help but be happy about it.