A few days ago, Hal posted an article regarding the "non-erasable saves" features of Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. The move has drawn a good deal of criticism from across the web, prompting a member of the Capcom team, posting under the name "Snow," to address the issue in the official forums:
Hi everyone. I know there are a lot of questions about the save data for Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, and we'll try to answer as best as we can.
First, here's the official statement:
'In Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, all mission progress is saved directly to the Nintendo 3DS cartridge, where it cannot be reset. The nature of the game invites high levels of replayability, encouraging fans to improve mission scores. The save mechanic ensures that both original and unlocked game content will be available to all users. Secondhand game sales were not a factor in this development decision, and we hope that all our consumers will be able to enjoy the entirety of the survival-action experiences that the game does offer. '
Second, here's the gist:
There was no intention of lessening the experience of the game. Essentially, RE Mercs was treated like an arcade fighting game. You unlock characters, levels, etc and they just stay unlocked as they would in an arcade machine. There was no hidden motive to prevent buying used copies. It's not some secret form of DRM. It's simply the way we designed the save system to work with the arcade type of gameplay.
I'll agree with Snow on one point: Using a non-erasable save system doesn't point to a "hidden motive;" if anything, it's a rather bald-faced one. I understand that this is one of those obnoxious "bottom line" considerations, and that Capcom is free to act however they please, as to what limitations they put on their games. It does not, however, endear gamers to the company. It's not much of a stretch to say that the video game industry, as a whole, doesn't care for the used games market. Providing a lower price tag than new games, coupled with the fact that game companies make approximately zilch from used titles, it's an understandable annoyance. Still, it's an annoyance that has been tolerated since as long as I can remember, and for those us us who aren't exactly awash in a sea of riches, used games are a great way to expand one's library.
More madcap ramblings after the jump!
So why make a fuss about all this?
For one thing, it's dishonest. Saying that "Secondhand game sales were not a factor in this development decision" simply does not ring true to the skeptical reader, particularly when the scant amount of evidence required to form such a conclusion -- the fact that the appeal of a game like Mercenaries, such as unlocking "characters, levels, etc," are rendered largely null for used copies, due to the save system -- is far more convincing than the implicit "Trust us, we wouldn't lie to you" in Capcom's official line. Secondly, it's just disappointing. The company has clearly gone out of its way to do this; as GamePro's Pete Davison notes, "3DS game cards are internally very similar to DS game cards, which use either flash memory or EEPROM chips to save data -- and the defining characteristic of both of these storage solutions are that they're erasable -- one of the "E"s in EEPROM even stands for "erasable." So we're left with a rather cynical move which, by any standard, has been done purely for the sake of profit maximization. Lastly, it sets a troubling precedent. On can easily fathom that this is the sort of thing that game companies wish would become the norm -- it is, after all, in their best financial interest -- but dare not attempt, for fear of drawing the ire of gamers, such as yours truly, who will accuse them of using swinish tactics to punish those who buy used games.
Perhaps the critics and I are blowing this out of proportion, and at the end of the day, we will find that nothing has changed. Still, I can't help but think that the self-evidently cynical approach with Mercenaries - going out of their way to makes used copies less appealing than new - is essentially Capcom's way of gingerly dipping its toe into the pond of d*ckishness to test the waters. In any event, I believe it warrants some discussion.