How Essential Were the Spin-Offs?

Slash Man
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May 14th, 2018, 2:52 am #1

From a fan's perspective, we all love the variety that the spin-offs brought to the series, but how many had actual staying power and really moved the series forward?

Not to sound overly critical, but it seems like most of the success of the spinoffs were based on trends. The 90s were all about gritty and extreme re-imaginings - voila, Mega Man X. The early 2000s saw an anime boom brought on by Pokemon, Mega Man Battle Network catered to the same crowd. To me, these stand out as the most popular of the spin-off series', although my evidence is purely anecdotal here. The only for game sales is VGChartz, and their archives are incomplete as well as not fully reliable. Though as it stands, Mega Man X takes the cake as the second most popular series behind the original; the rest aren't complete enough to answer definitively.

As it stands, the trend has mainly been that a new series reinvigorates sales, but each successive sequel begins to drop in numbers. The big exception here is Mega Man 2, but also the Battle Network games, which if the records are to be believed, managed over a million sales with both 3 and 4. Even Mega Man X had a huge drop into 2 and 3, but sort of had a revival on the PlayStation.

It's interesting to note regional differences as well. The Battle Network games were huge in Japan, but seemingly only sold a fraction of that in other territories.
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Gauntlet101010
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May 14th, 2018, 3:04 am #2

Did X have THAT much staying power, though? Because it died off after several rushed games and the Zero series took it's place. X did bank on trends too. He just uses different treads. He's the post-apocalyptic Megaman. The Megaman for teenagers who are "too cool" for the classic Megaman.

I suppose X just might be the second most popular Megaman, but that doesn't mean he's the second most successful. As popular as it is, I just don't think it's all it's cracked up to be.

Edit: As for complete, the BN series had an actual ending. X didn't so much. Even the intended end - X5 - left the Wily subplot just hanging. Not to mention completely ceding the ground to Zero.
Last edited by Gauntlet101010 on May 14th, 2018, 3:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
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May 15th, 2018, 1:02 am #3

Mega Man probably wouldn't have had spinoffs, period if Mega Man X wasn't the smash hit that it was. Though it probably would've fallen into the same stagnation as the main series if X4 didn't revive it on the PlayStation. By that point, the classic and X series was successfully coexisting, but I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Mega Man 7 beat Mega Man X to the punch on the Super Nintendo. I think 7's poor sales can mainly be attributed to being a later release in the SNES cycle. I often forget that it was only less than two years between 7 and 8 and that huge shift to the PlayStation. It also seemed like difficulty was setting the X series apart in addition to its other mechanics. The original series was "easier" and more accessible, while the X series was the next step up.

Now you bring up the shortcomings in plot, which is definitely a thing. Fans had just accepted by now that the original series would perpetually stay in the same place to make way for future games. But the X series took a step back and tried to create a feasible plot. It soon degraded into the same kind of stories that set up a series instead of stories that moved the characters forward. I can accept having the original series going on with no end in sight, but when done with the X series, it just feels a little sloppy when more series' are created (and some are bookended).

As for my thoughts on the other series' - Mega Man Legends was an ambitious change of pace for the series, but a flop nonetheless that was out of the public's mind within five years. The core gameplay wasn't strong enough to support a series. The Zero series basically tried to apply the Mega Man X formula to the 2000s making things more serious and gritty, and seemingly targeting an older crowd. This one was also a clear case of strong sales for the initial game leading to a few obligatory sequels of lessening success before they finally lost the spark. ZX didn't seem to reignite much of that, but this is a case of a game faring much better in Japan. The Pokemon-inspired game bubble had already burst with the conclusion of the Battle Network series, and that was reflected by the lukewarm response to Star Force across the board.
Last edited by Slash Man on May 15th, 2018, 2:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Gauntlet101010
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May 15th, 2018, 4:13 am #4

I never argued that X wasn't successful. Just that it was overrated and not as successful as BN.

I think you're selling BN VERY short. It was tremendously successful. In some ways, it was the most successful of the MM branches. Not even the classic series can boast of a long running TV show or a consistent toyline, although it tried. Sure, it catered to the Pokémon / Digimon crowd. But, considering it's success, I can't say that was a bad thing. And, unlike every other franchise, it has a definitive end. Maybe in the circles you run now it's getting a lot of flak, but that just wasn't the case in it's heyday.

As for Starforce, sometimes when you end something you don't transfer the same fans. It happened to ZX too. I guess Capcom assumed the same fans would just carry over. But they didn't. That was a blunder on Capcom's part, but doesn't reflect on the strength of the previous series.

Legends. I'm not one of those fans who's in love with it. I think their idea for connecting it to the main timeline reeks of desperation. Capcom should have never assumed they'd get a sequel because now the MM legacy ends with being trapped on the moon.

I'm glad X has initial success, but X4 must have flopped hard since X effectively ended there. Ditto 8. X5 was supposed to be it's end, but the game was so successful it spawned more ... unfortunately because X6 and 7 were the weakest in the X series. X8, I hear, was good, but it seemed to have been too late.

I think you also have to contend the way the market was. When BN was around it replaced Classic MM as the kid-friendly MM while Zero replaced X. SF and ZX tried to continue with the same fanbases, but it didn't work. At all. But this is a failure of Capcom's, not those series.

BN, right now, is just over. And, honestly? That's okay. But, overall, I think it was Capcom's most successful spinoff and, maybe, even more successful than Classic. I love Classic. Classic is the best known. But it hasn't enjoyed consistent, mainstream appeal in years. And, even in the NES days, it just never broke through like BN did.

On to why I dislike the X series - X's shortcoming in plot go deeper than just the plot. it's main character - X - is completely overshadowed by Zero. This is a huge flaw in a series called "Mega man X." What's worse is just how incomprehensible X's storyline got. And Sigma - he was interesting in X1. But, by X5, he was just reprogrammed by Wily, of all people.

I mean ... how many games can we say just hit it out of the park for the X series? X1-4 + X8? I think that's the consensus, even if I didn't find X3 very fun myself.
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May 15th, 2018, 5:20 pm #5

I would say that the spin-offs were useful for appealing to a wider variety of people without cluttering up Classic. Kinda like TSR's numerous D&D sub-series (Spelljammer, Mystara, Dark Sun, etc.) back in the day--each with their own atmosphere and "feeling".

wrt: X, two of the major problems I have with its writing are that 1) important information isn't conveyed in the games themselves, and 2) other things are left ambiguous when they should've been made more concrete. X's identity somehow managed to be both--Inafune said that he wasn't the same character as Megaman in an old, pre-X1 interview, then Capcom acted all coy about it in the series proper.

An example of the first issue that's become the first thing to come to mind whenever I need one: back in 2012 or so when were were puzzling over Project X Zone previews, specifically trying to determine why Iris was alive and present, one fellow said "what people fail to realize is that Iris was human" and had, like, twenty people accuse him of trolling.

Except, his reasoning had been done in good faith, and based entirely on what he directly observed in-game (Iris was unusually fragile, she needed a Ride Armour to fight Zero, she couldn't be repaired afterward despite seeming in one piece). We'd kinda forgotten that the explanation for what Iris and Colonel are is only provided in source books.

(The fact that said source books weren't officially translated also made fan-debates a real slog; that's one thing about the MM fandom I don't miss)

That's on top of the writing not being that great to begin with. That was a real bummer of a realization, given how much effort I'd put into analyzing, interpreting, and sometimes defending MMX's plot(s).
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Gauntlet101010
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May 15th, 2018, 5:58 pm #6

Holy crap, how could I have forgotten about the sourcebooks?

Yeah, the fact that X relied so heavily on them sucked. If information can't be relayed effectively int he game than just leave it out. I shouldn't need a book to understand a game series I like.
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Slash Man
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May 15th, 2018, 11:02 pm #7

Oh I agree that Battle Network was a commercial and critical success. It's just fallen out of the public's eye, and perhaps a rare example of Capcom knowing when to pull the plug at the right time. Once sales started to go down with 5, they had a clean ending with 6.

I'm not saying it was too derivative of Pokemon/Digimon/Yu-Gi-Oh!/etc., but it wouldn't have been the success it was without that environment. The legacy of Battle Network may not be one of the crown jewels of the GBA, but an enjoyable classic. I forget if Nintendo Power ranked it amongst the the best on the system - I think the Zero series made the cut.

It's funny that with the jump to the next spinoffs, ZX was well-received for its similarities to its predecessor, while Starforce was hurt because of it. It did seem like a good balance to have both series' coexisting, but the sales weren't having it in the DS era. Capcom likes to play it safe if you can't tell, and

Despite where the series was seemingly headed, X4 was a bestseller after the last two games flopped. I can't tell you what their thought process was, but that was something that no doubt extended X's run as a sidescroller.
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Gauntlet101010
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May 16th, 2018, 4:02 am #8

wrote:Oh I agree that Battle Network was a commercial and critical success. It's just fallen out of the public's eye, and perhaps a rare example of Capcom knowing when to pull the plug at the right time. Once sales started to go down with 5, they had a clean ending with 6.
...
it wouldn't have been the success it was without that environment.
Well ... then we agree, then. I mean the entire point of these games is to make money, not to be a never ending story. I mean, all games are dependant on their environment. Different times call for different stories and games. I don't see this as a flaw in BN at all. But if you want me to concede that it's dated, well, okay. The idea of little internet helpers delivering your e-mail just isn't as awesome now.

I have no idea what sales numbers are and have no desire to look it up, lol. I just know that after 8 and X4 both series just stopped. Somethign had to have gone wrong there.
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May 18th, 2018, 2:20 am #9

wrote:Well ... then we agree, then.
I'm not trying to argue or anything. The very discussion of which series' are essentially better than others means its going to include a lot of subjectivity.
wrote:I mean the entire point of these games is to make money, not to be a never ending story.
The point I was getting at was that these went hand in hand, especially when Mega Man was known as Capcom's golden goose. Ending a series or shaking things up was unthinkable when following the formula was profitable enough.
wrote:I have no idea what sales numbers are and have no desire to look it up, lol. I just know that after 8 and X4 both series just stopped. Somethign had to have gone wrong there.
Without going in depth, I know that Mega Man 8 and X4 were Greatest Hits titles, which meant more than 250,000 sales. In short, these games were successful, and my only immediate explanation for cutting off the Mega Man series in the midst of new hits was Capcom's decision to focus on other properties. Which I'm not well-versed enough in Capcom's other releases at the time to know what may have inspired that.
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Gauntlet101010
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May 18th, 2018, 4:32 pm #10

wrote:The point I was getting at was that these went hand in hand, especially when Mega Man was known as Capcom's golden goose.
I can't agree with this statement. Capcom sees Megaman differently than we do. They see it as an overarching brand. The overall brand of Megaman is the cash cow, not any particular series.

Maybe Capcom felt MM8 and X4 were the endpoints for those series at the time, but didn't bother to treat them as real endings. It just seems like an odd place to end if they really did all they were supposed to.
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May 22nd, 2018, 1:19 am #11

Seeing you all wondering about the sales data of the BN series. As far as we know, BN4 is the best selling one of the series and in fact the 2nd best selling Mega Man title of all time. Given the poor reception and the questionable quality of the game, I guess it could be argued that game was what contributed to the downfall of the series' sales post-BN4.

EDIT: if you all want, I can try to compile as much game sales data of the BN series as I can, hopefully same to Classic and X but the NES/SNES generation of gaming is much harder to get ahold of sales for due to lack of perservation
Last edited by Naoshi on May 22nd, 2018, 1:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Slash Man
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July 24th, 2018, 10:58 pm #12

Interesting data, though I'm not sure of the connection to the downfall of the series. I don't remember BN4 really being banned. Though I guess it did fall off slightly from the last game.
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