Well, after the.. ahem… ‘bombshell’ of Monster Hunter XX for Switch, and the $2.2 billion financial boon that brought to Nintendo’s share price (and you thought Monster Hunter wasn’t important…) comes another ‘bombshell’ rumour – Sony appears to want Monster Hunter 5. On the PlayStation 4. Exclusively. All to itself!
I’m not even going to touch the notional ethics of buying exclusivity in a market where Nintendo and Microsoft have already vocally ruled such financial burdens out – Sony really should be trying to save some cash too, mostly because it’s gotta get to work on that PlayStation 5 and there’s a whole bunch of things in the Switch for Sony to potentially rip off – I’m kidding Sony fanboys, I’m kidding… well, half kidding. Sort of. If Sony wants to keep buying exclusivity and Capcom keeps bending over and taking that credit card through their butt-crack, then there’s nothing you or I can really do about that. It’s a business transaction and both companies are putting out for the other so… bow-chika-wow-wow and all that stuff.
That said, this is a dumb idea and I hope, for both companies sakes, this rumour is false.
Firstly, sure, Monster Hunter is huge in Japan. So too is mobile hardware. That’s why the 3DS versions sell strongly, and it’s why the Switch announcement was a huge deal for Monster Hunter XX. Yay, Monster Hunter on a portable with a screen big enough so you no longer have to squint to make out what’s going on in the distance – please, no Asian jokes there – and on what is arguably one of the hottest systems in Japan right now? The Switch sold 46,978 units last week in Japan compared to the PlayStation 4’s 19,914 – yup, less than half. Hell, even the 3DS outsold the PS4 by shifting 22,397 units – and typically, that’s kind of how it is in Japan. Nintendo’s handhelds have been outperforming home console hardware for years now – hence why Sony wants Monster Hunter 5, I guess, to see if it can drive sales to the PlayStation 4 in arguably one of its weakest markets. Thing is… if it’s huge in Japan because Japan has a thing for mobile hardware… do you imagine Monster Hunter 5 will stand up to sales of Monster Hunter XX on Switch?
We’re also not big on it in the West, so early talk is Sony and Capcom might “dumb down” the game for its Western shot at the crown. I mean, “feature gameplay redesigned to be more accessible to Western players“.
Do I need to explain why this is a bad idea? Okay, it’s not huge here in the West but it has a market and there are reasons people like it. I got into Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate on the Wii U, and I liked its weird style, I liked the hunts, I liked the sweeping events but I most loved having to work towards a goal. Monster Hunter is not often a forgiving game – and I like that, it’s about hunting dinosaurs and monsters sometimes many, many, MANY times your own actual size. It’s not Devil May Cry, or Dragon Age 2, and that’s got a charm and appeal all of its own. Dumb it down to cater to a “market” that doesn’t normally buy it and you alienate the market your product already has – whilst arguably also pissing off your Japanese market who seems to like the series just how it is. I mean, at that point, why not just do a whole new IP? Why bring down a successful one and shun a market you already made?
Also… sorry, are PlayStation 4 owners really thought of as this stupid? I mean, jeez, I know the relationship between fanboys and their console of choice can be abusive at the best of times, but there aren’t many instances where a rumour like this outright declares the game is being dumbed down for an audience, insinuating that Capcom and Sony think its audience is stupid, or a Western audience is stupid. I mean, if this is the level of faith Sony and Capcom have in the PlayStation faithful, that’s a really bad sign of things to come. Though admittedly not much worse than what its executives were saying back in the early days of the PlayStation 3.
Then there’s the elephant in the room.
Capcom and Sony already have a game exclusively on the PlayStation 4 – and that game is… Street Fighter 5. Now, this isn’t to say that you can’t have multiple platform exclusivity deals (other than the fact it looks kind of greedy), but Street Fighter 5 already proves a very salient point – releasing exclusively on the most successful platform of the generation does not guarantee any degree of success. Take away all the complaints that users have of Street Fighter 5, strip away your opinions of the actual game and focus on the sales figures – which after a year on sale reached 1.5 million units, and most of those were in the opening month – taking the figures as reported, in a nine-month stretch, this titan of the fighting game scene managed to shift a paltry 100,000 units.
Of course, sliding back in our particular gripes about the game, there are plenty of good reasons why Street Fighter 5 flopped like a ten-ton magikarp. But you mean to tell me Sony, after shelling out for platform exclusivity for this game, seeing those sales figures and seeing Capcom as it currently stands, would throw money at Capcom to effectively steal a franchise from a platform that it has been successful on for the last six years – and then to insinuate that they change it radically for an audience that may not even exist?
That’s my issue with these rumours. They’re predicated on some of the worst logic I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense Sony would willingly throw money for another exclusive so soon after their last investment bottomed out. It doesn’t make sense that, after the Switch XX reveal added $2.2 billion to Nintendo’s share price and the Monster Hunter XX Limited Edition Switch units sold out within hours, that Capcom would take one of its few remaining guaranteed big-hitters and not only shift platform but also shift the tone and the gameplay at Sony’s behest. It doesn’t make sense that neither Sony nor Capcom would have so little faith in the PlayStation audience that they’d take a successful series and alter it – I mean, if you’re Sony and you’re after a big-hitting Japanese success story to try and kick up some additional sales over in that lovely country, why would you then change it and risk alienating the massive fanbase it already has?
It doesn’t make sense that Sony, in a difficult year thanks to PlayStation VR and the PS4 “Pro” landing on the market with all the force of a chicken nugget, would throw money away this recklessly. Nor that Capcom, who we’re told is still in financial dire straits after multiple games failed to meet expectations, would jettison an established audience and guaranteed sales blowout for such a potentially risky endeavour which, as we saw with Street Fighter 5, could go spectacularly wrong.
It doesn’t make sense that Sony would want to risk pissing off Nintendo at all – the Switch is doing great right now, and if Sony ever wants to follow in those footsteps with a hybrid machine of its own – particularly in Japan – probably a good idea to not piss people off, least of all Nintendo whose dominance in Japan could make things very difficult, or nVidia who probably have quite a lot of proprietary hardware rights. Or that Capcom would risk pissing its fans off either – even a temporary blip could negatively impact sales, giving it a massive financial kick in the balls.
That’s before we bring up that the value of buying Monster Hunter exclusivity for Sony would not be for the benefit of a Western market – a market that, let’s be honest about this for a moment, Sony doesn’t exactly need nor crave any additional help with. PlayStation is massive here in the West. Why would a big but still to us relatively obscure oddity like Monster Hunter be anything resembling a big deal?
No, the value of Monster Hunter is not in our interests in Europe or the USA – it’s to gain leverage in the market in which it currently has the most traction, that being Japan. With PlayStation 4 being successful but not a stand-out in that market, Monster Hunter is an enticing little carrot to shore up some additional Japanese sales in the next year or so, presumably whilst Sony considers winding down the PlayStation 4 as a whole for a new console. The value proposition of exclusivity -is- for the sake of the Japanese market. Taking a franchise of this kind of success in that market and changing it for the sake of a platforms other successful market seems like a contradiction in terms. Who, ultimately, is it for? What value does it hold – why not just do a Nioh, and make a new IP?
Not one element of this rumour makes the slightest bit of sense.
Would I like to see Monster Hunter on the PlayStation? Sure. Why not? I’m not averse to Capcom having a multiplatform approach. Heck, Sony fans may be amazed to hear Monster Hunter -is- on the PlayStation 4, in the form of Frontier Z – which hasn’t been ported to the West, despite early promises to the contrary. I mean, it’s not mainline Monster Hunter but it exists! I mean, in the West, we’ve been arguing for years that we’d much rather play it on a bigger screen than the 3DS allows – which to me also means the Switch version of Monster Hunter XX might have a better shot of success over here.
I get that some Sony fans have been crying out for a Monster Hunter of their very own in recent years – Toukiden isn’t scratching that itch, I get that. But if Sony wanted to throw money at it, one could argue the best time for that was when the PS Vita was struggling and needed a big game to keep its name in lights. Sony and Capcom dropped the ball there. That’s their problem, not ours.
Deconstruct the rumour and the whole thing falls apart in your hands. It’s predicated on some pretty outrageous statements and some misleading comments. It comes off as a cruel joke, not a ringing endorsement. It suggests Sony will throw money at anything that could be a hit in the West (when it doesn’t exactly need Monster Hunter to do that in the coming year), that Capcom would wilfully flip the bird at an already established and profitable fanbase, and that both companies have no real faith in a Western market to understand or appreciate Monster Hunter as it is, which begs the question why bother at all in that case?
Sad to say, many of these rumours have turned out to be true in recent months. This may turn out to be equally true, or it might just be a cruel prank. I’m hoping it is the latter – if Monster Hunter is to appear on the PlayStation, I’d much rather it was as a true celebration and continuation of a successful franchise and not a cynical attempt to take a brand and make it appeal to a completely different audience.
And deep down, I think even the most ardent of PlayStation fanatics would agree with me – if neither Sony nor Capcom think that the game as it stands will appeal as it is to a market that already exists, the idea that either company would throw boatloads of cash at trying to make it fit into some vague pre-defined Western mould lacks anything tangibly intelligible. If they don’t believe the market will accept a successful franchise for whatever reason, why on earth would you stake enough money to buy a farm on it?
This rumour leaves a bad taste in the mouth. At the end of the day, it just suggests stupidity across the board. We’re too dumb in the West for the game as it currently is. Japan is dumb for liking it the way it is. Sony is dumb, or rather, has more money than sense. And Capcom is dumb for contemplating alienating one fanbase in pursuit of one that we’ve no evidence even really exists.
I don’t believe any of that.
… so why am I afraid that this is going to be real?