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Marvel vs. Capcom's disappearance spotlights the downside of a digital future

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 has a rabid cult of fans, and its rerelease on XBLA/PSN along with a full-fledged sequel were high points of the last console generation. Both are still popular in the fighting game community, but soon those games will be unreachable through any digital means. Capcom announced that both games (along with their DLC) will soon disappear from Microsoft's and Sony’s services, with no sign they’ll ever return. This has to be disappointing for fans, but it also serves as a warning for anyone diving into our new digital future.

The plan is for UMvC3 and MvC2 to be delisted on 12/17 for PSN and 12/26 for 360, and that includes the huge number of DLC costumes and the extra game mode. Anyone that bought the digital content before then won’t lose what they paid for, but future players won’t be able to touch any of it, and would-be MvC2 newcomers are completely screwed out of enjoying the game without digging up a highly collectible copy for Dreamcast or PS2. This is just another sign of what’s to come for downloadable games, particularly ones that tie-in to outside properties like Marvel.

Licences for massive entertainment properties like Marvel Comics can end after a few brief years, meaning games starring Spider-Man and Wolverine shift from publisher to publisher. Discs versions eventually go out of print, but digital releases have no copies to publish and no shelves to be taken off. So when franchises like Marvel vs. Capcom disappear, it exposes some of the red tape involved in creating games like it. Even if Capcom is willing to sell them forever, Marvel seemingly isn’t, leading to situations like this one that could only get worse in this digitally focused next generation.

And it’s popping up frequently as we approach what should be a simplified digital future. Multiple games left the Wii’s Virtual Console with little explanation, several Ninja Turtles rereleases vanished a couple years ago, and a title as big as GTA: Vice City can be (temporarily) taken off Steam thanks to contested song rights. With so many corporate deals in play, even one misplaced agreement can get a game removed without a trace using the same tech that’s supposed to make them easier to own.

Some of this can be sidestepped if you stick with physical copies, but Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s situation also reveals another next-gen problem for gamers. If you don’t buy UMvC3’s DLC before next week, it looks like you’ll never be able to touch it again. UMvC3 doesn’t have much in the way of substantial downloadable content, but we’ve already seen next-gen's growing attraction to micro-transactions. As more core content gets sectioned off into downloadables, how useless will retail copies be after a game’s substantial DLC vanishes thanks to the end of some business arrangement?

These types of situations are always going on behind the scenes, but the immediacy of digital platforms now forces players to deal with them when they’d rather just be enjoying their purchases. It’s a tough situation that seems to be unavoidable given the massive corporations involved in making games. So hold on to your retail copies while you can, because today’s games come with expiration dates--some of which, like Marvel vs. Capcom’s, won’t be known about until the last minute.

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15 comments

  • rxb - December 17, 2013 5:21 a.m.

    The only positive from this is that hopefully before games get removed vigilante fans/ bloggers / jarnolizts will alert people. When the last few new copies of Ikaruga were sold I doubt there was warning or opportunity for the masses to still buy it.
  • RonF - December 17, 2013 12:35 a.m.

    The next insult will be denying the possibility of new downloads of previously purchased games, which, therefore, would prevent the transfer to new hardware.
  • Swedish_Chef - December 16, 2013 11:49 p.m.

    Magneto: "The dream is dead." On the bright side though UMVC3 is 83% off on Xbox live right now with all the DLC and MVC2 being 75% off so if you have an Xbox but haven't got it then now is the time to buy it and pay your respects to the best worst fighting game series.
  • Zeos - December 16, 2013 11:16 p.m.

    Well I just bought MvC2 to be safe seeing as it was on sale for 3.50 for PS Plus, and I surprisingly had never played this one.
  • Shigeruken - December 16, 2013 8:07 p.m.

    That's unfortunate news. In Microsoft's original drm plan, all games were tied to digital licenses, so in a situation like this, would that have meant people who owned physical copies would have lost their resale rights?
  • archnite - December 16, 2013 7:18 p.m.

    It feels like this console generation has been nothing buy doom an gloom already and its only three weeks old. Everything is awful and all of gaming will b ruined forever.
  • CoryRX8 - December 16, 2013 5:51 p.m.

    My solution would be for Microsoft and Sony to not allow delisting of any games on their storefronts. Basically, if you license your game for digital download, you license it perpetually. These types of shenanigans annoy me. I missed TMNT2 the arcade game when it was delisted, missed the DKC series on Virtual Console, and the fact that there is no option to pick them up second-hand means I have to hope that they reappear someday. That said, at least it's good that this is highly publicized, rather than having the articles show up after they've been delisted (looking in your direction again, DKC).
  • n00b - December 16, 2013 5:36 p.m.

    But the dlc is already on the disk Ok i swear this will be the last time i bring this up
  • Jackonomics2.0 - December 16, 2013 7:20 p.m.

    I think Jill and Shuma gorath are the only on disk dlc. You want on disk DLC blabbering, that's Street Fighter X Tekken, that held another set of characters and waited until they can charge you again, those characters and the costumes were all on disk. Atleast Marvel had a reason for Jill and Shuma to be on disk, it's because Capcom liked Shuma but Marvel said no, and after convincing them, they decides yes but only if he's DLC, to which they made Jill dlc to accompany him.
  • SkyDragonc5 - December 16, 2013 5:02 p.m.

    I don't know why they cannot just license for each game rather than for a set period of time. That way the publisher can keep it up and running, and the other company can make a percentage of profits. It should be indefinite.
  • LordZarlon - December 16, 2013 6:30 p.m.

    This is a fantastic point! I don't get this either. Why would anybody sign deals for time limited access to a property instead of a specific product. Steven Spielberg doesn't have the right to tell Universal Pictures to stop selling E.T. just because it's been around for 30 years. Marvel shouldn't be able to tell CapCom that they can't sell it anymore and if that's the deal that CapCom made then they're just stupid.
  • nai1210 - December 16, 2013 4:52 p.m.

    On a side note your gonna want to play marvel online,thats why i think digital psn,xbla nintendo's virtual console stuff should have just continued on the new console's but i assume microsoft and sony have done the same as nintendo and have started the services from scratch and will do so with each new console so they can keep reselling though's digital releases,which suck's
  • SuperMikeOG - December 16, 2013 3:39 p.m.

    Shitty! Well in that case I think Sony and Microsoft should stick it to the man and make all Marvel vs. Capcom related products free or at least extremely discounted.
  • Hyperion - December 16, 2013 3:52 p.m.

    they are. UMvC3 is 83% off on xbox live starting tomorrow.
  • g1rldraco7 - December 16, 2013 3:33 p.m.

    What a way to start the week :(

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