Following the success of Resident Evil Revelations, the superb 3DS survival horror title that had the chops (and HD assets) to survive on home consoles, the news of a sequel was music to our ears. Revelations 2 will star Claire Redfield and Barry Burton's daughter in an all-new adventure, promising to focus on gruelling and tense survival in a mysterious island facility.
However, Capcom have now announced an interesting little wrinkle. The game will eventually be available on a single disc costing approximately £25, but it will initially release in four weekly downloadable episodes at $5.99 a pop, with the option of a season pass with an extra discount.
Our take? This is ruddy brilliant.
Not just because we've got more choice over how to buy it, but because Capcom have finally woken up to what went wrong with Resident Evil 5 and 6.
Consider Resi 6. I actually enjoyed it on its own merits as an action game, but the fact that it was an action game threw the spotlight on an uncomfortable truth about AAA publishing and Capcom's timid top brass. Developing fully-fledged disc-based AAA titles with the graphical sheen and polish we expect, especially for a major brand, is exceptionally expensive... and Capcom were clearly terrified that survival horror was too 'niche' a genre to recoup their costs. As they threw 600 developers at the project to try and make it as shiny as possible, they sadly took the decision to infuse the game with action elements to try and pull in a 'wider audience.'
We all know how that turned out. A fun action game, but a title that absolutely wasn't what fans expected or even wanted from a numerical Resident Evil sequel.
Innovation is perceived as being risky, as is developing for a perceived niche audience, but it can be done. To do so, you need to keep production budgets aggressive and tight, employing relatively small numbers of exceptionally talented devs rather than splurging on massed legions of coders and artists, prioritising art direction and atmosphere over raw graphics, while keeping costs low enough to ensure that you can make a modest return by selling it directly to the people who want to buy it.
Revelations 2 is doing just that.
I actually made this point in an ancient podcast, which you can watch below or skip to the relevant section by clicking this link right here. Yes, I called it. Instead of deploying hundreds upon hundreds of developers on a great big glutted diluted monster, Capcom have clearly developed and priced Revelations 2 as a budget game -- costing somewhere around £20 -- and released primarily as an episodic downloadable title.
Freed from the fear of titanic losses if they don't pander to imaginary 'wider appeal,' they're able to focus on what actually matters, the survival horror aspect, rather than shoehorning loads of inappropriate bumf into the package. It'll likely be tight and lean, able to deliver what we believe to be a Resident Evil experience. With lower overheads comes a lower price for us consumers, but more importantly, the ability to better cater for a smaller yet more dedicated audience with a game they want to play. This tightly-focused digigal-centric form of development has served any number of survival horror well over the last few years, just look at the likes of Amnesia and Outlast, which trim the fat to get right down to the business of scaring us shiftless.
It's about time too.
Of course, I should probably mention the benefit to us gamers. Choice is good, and Revelations 2 shows that Capcom are aware of that too. We can buy the first episode at $6 (please, please, let the Exchange Rate Gods smile upon us Europeans!) and simply decide to stop paying out if it's not our cup of tea. Fans can get involved each week as a gaming event at a low cost, eagerly discussing each cliffhanger on forums. Savvier consumers, meanwhile, can wait until all the episodes have released and then read the reviews before deciding whether to buy the whole lot, either with the season pass discount or the disc version with resale value. Brilliant.
That said, all of this relies on Revelations 2 actually being a good game, and Capcom not pulling... well, a Capcom. We'll have to wait until "early 2015" to see what comes of this, but personally, I couldn't be happier. Let us know what you make of it in the comments!