Oh hey, it's a rant thread. I haven't ranted yet, so today upon the release of 2k2UM in arcades, I can finally do that.
What the fuck SNKP. What the fuck.
Okay. Two things.
One. I hate 2k2 on a popularity standpoint in HK. Everyone and their grandmas play it to death and it inadvertently led to the death of anything that's not 2k2 so far. Which means 98 gets phased out, 2k3 was too bad, Neowave, NGBC & XI are not 2k2 etc. And since its release that year, Hong Kong's KOF scene only consists of one game. 2002.
That's not to say the other games are not being played. They're just all replaced sometime sooner or later by 2k2. I still remember the time when XI was out. All the arcades I visit had it when it came out, they had some sort of promos (at least there's posters). People played 2k2 instead. Then, one of the arcades I visited pulled the XI cabinet from its roster AFTER THREE DAYS. It's like a world record of getting rid of a completely new game. Slowly, XI gets pulled away from arcades, and until now, I think I can count the arcades in Hong Kong that has XI with two hands. And there's few hundred arcades in Hong Kong (notwithstanding those medal redemption machine centers that call themselves 'arcades', they can set their machines on fire and I don't care).
Simply put, most of the KOF players here failed to go past 2k2. There are some reasons. One of them is that they aren't willing to relearn characters in a new game where it's possible that they can keep losing (it's a psyche thing). Two, even if they tried, the next game SNKP released, 2003 didn't exactly set the world on fire. Well it did, but in another way. Arcades here have 2k3 on a fire sale after players found out it's pretty much one guy with two other characters and stopped playing (weird input times as well). Then Neowave (like 2k2 but more expensive), and KOF: MI wasn't exceptional. The theory is that 2k3 was so weird and wrong that people got mentally scarred of anything past 2k2.
Which is why I don't like 2k2, since 2k2 at least made the KOF players here stop trying new things, which ruined the path for anything past the game itself. Including XII.
Two. I absolutely hated the timing of 2k2UM's release. Yes, it's expensive now. But it charges the same per game as XII. So if for example, a generic KOF player went into this arcade intending to play KOF, but there's only XII and 2k2UM at the same price. He's going to head towards 2k2UM. It's something he's more familiar with. Or given the choice, he'll just move to another arcade not way too far away since it has 2k2.Over at CX
you can check out VV's quickie interview with Dr. Neogeo. Dr. Neogeo said that XII and 2k2UM are targeting different bunch of people. Maybe he's right, but at least from here, it's wrong.
Let me recall what I typed when the 2k2UM loketest was over at HK. That particular arcade had 3 XII cabinets (6 back to back) and 1 2k2UM loketest cab. They aren't that far away, maybe 3 machines apart. 2k2UM's loketest version had like 20+ people surrounding the machine and playing it actively (and on a short notice, like 1 day before the loketest). Meanwhile, XII had about 3-4 people PLAYING. And like 10 people watching. As said, 2k2's allure is much, much bigger than any other KOF games in HK. That much is obvious, I'm pretty sure that SNKP guys at the loketest can at least tell from the response. But no, they decided that they're two very different games targeting different group of customers. Huh.
I think what XII is about, is that it's supposed to 'draw' new players in (2k2UM is for the classic KOF players). People who were turned off by MVS graphics. People who played SF4 recently and wanted to try something else. GG/Blazblue players (o wait, there's only dozens of them here in HK, nevermind). But there's two flaws. One's obvious, so I'm going to talk about the less obvious one first.
Fighting games are all skill based and practice based. But wait Pen, didn't you say you're going to talk about the less obvious one? Yeah. What I mean is that if you want to be better, you need to dole out more money. And practice a lot. I started playing KOF since 99 and I don't think I am a mid-level player until like sometime last year when I played 98 on a daily basis when 98UM was out (I also admit that I was largely using the educational version for practice). When new players ploink their $5 HKD worth into XII, the first thing they found out is that there's 3 identical ladies telling you there's a time trial. Wait, how does the game play? Nuh uh. Read the flyer on the cabinet please, if that cabinet does have one (it'll probably have a movelist of half of the characters while the other half is on the 2P side). So, new players pretty much need to figure things out on their own. And it's a scary experience when you either have to 1. fight a level 8 CPU; or 2. fight a mid to good player who at least knows the basic KOF stuff that can also apply to XII or even understanding the system already. Which means that your $5 is pretty much as good as gone. And $5 is a pretty hefty sum when a 2k2 machine only costs you $1 or $2 HKD with twice as many characters. If a new guy's going to start playing KOF, they'll probably play 2k2. It's cheap and widely accessible, and one of the newbie's friend probably has some experience with it. If he's drawn in, the cycle continues.
Looking back a bit and on a slight tangent, I think SF4 is great with that beginner's mode in arcade, you can play 3 matches by yourself against an easier CPU before exposing yourself to other live players. It's letting someone unfamiliar get a feel with the game's system, and understand how their character works.
XII doesn't do that. It throws you into a pit of fire and you need to find some way to crawl back up from there. It's not very newbie friendly. It *LOOKS* like it's newbie friendly. And if you want to be good at it, you need multiple $5 HKDs to do that. I probably invested at least $100 HKD to play XII myself, and all I can do so far is pressing C like a madman during CC. Who would invest on that, especially with the current economy? Price drops here mostly occur when the game is on a dying trend. I saw that with XI. $4, $3, $2, $1, gone. When people are playing XII because of the price drop, it's too late by then. The game is likely as good as dead. And to guys like me, it's like investing in Lehman Brothers stock before it goes down. You're practicing for a dead game.
And arcades aren't exactly drawing new people in. There's this mystic allure obviously, when you cannot enter one until you're 16 years old over here. But if you're a newbie in an arcade, you'd much rather go play racing games, Gundam VS, Sangokushi Taisen 3, the most popular arcade games. I understand a game like 2k2 won't draw new guys mainly because the graphics are old, and the new games involve more cooperation, teamwork (eg Gundam VS), new ideas (eg Sangokushi Taisen)and an easier access to adrenaline (eg racing games), a better way to play with friends. But it's ok for arcade owners since it's an established game in an arcade. It's a solid source of income since there's lots of old KOF players who play it.
Here's the problem for XII on an arcade owner's standpoint. Okay, there's a new game from SNKP called KOF XII. We have 2k2 here, people are playing it. Maybe people will play XII. But wait, the board is expensive! Fine, we can fork out the money and charge players with a higher price tag. It looks pretty, people will try it out, hopefully. Bad memories of getting 2k3, XI getting into head now. Sold 2k3 and XI since nobody was playing it. Those are non-revenue machines. I wonder if XII will be like them...?
This brings to my second flaw. The game gets almost no coverage here in HK. It's like...I dunno, the 2008-09 L.A. Clippers where the local media decided to focus on the Lakers and totally left Clipper game results to the Associated Press' version of recaps. The funny thing is that from what SS linked above, it has the same thing in Japan.
Maybe we're a selected group of people. We notice what SNKP has been doing with the game because we're KOF fans. What about the other people? Game magazines cover them, yeah. But if you ask me, SNKP did a piss-poor job of marketing the game. KOF XII didn't have a set release date for us to get excited about (maybe they did and I didn't notice). Nothing dramatic like April 10th 2009, the day KOF is reborn. I don't see any of that. You spent, like what, maybe 1/3rds of your development funds into this game. Now you aren't going to put ads on gaming websites, gaming magazines etc? I don't even see an XII poster on arcades. This is stupid...this is absurd. Unless SNKP is poorer than we think, I can't find a valid reason for not putting an ad in Japan for game magazines and the like. Or unless SNKP knew the game sucked, but so far I find XII to be a rather solid game (except for that newbie unfriendly bit). I don't know why, maybe SNKP decided that their XII official website is going to be the info-bearer and many people are visiting it based on hit counts. But when I type "KOF XII" in Google, their website shows up on the second page. Maybe SNKP should like, nudge Google a bit and push up their page rankings or something.
What I find interesting (and FYI, it's *not* a good thing) is how the folks at FightClub are figuring out the game. They aren't dumb people but they're actually finding out about the game system on the fly. Which means, aside from the basic KOF stuff like rolling, CD, running, recovery rolls, everyone had to figure out the system by themselves and consolidate them on the forums. I don't recall that when XI was out, and I certainly don't recall that when 98UM was out (info was posted but most people who played understood what it was). So at least for Hong Kong, SNKP or whomever that's distributing them to arcades is doing a shit-poor job (worse than piss-poor!) on educating the players. Is it part of their plan that the players should find out the basics of the system themselves? Even though I made the system info thread, I still have question marks hovering over my head. Not good.
Or maybe, they knew 2k2UM was coming soon. Why waste marketing funds when a possibly more popular game is coming out in two weeks, where you don't EVEN need to market the game to make it popular? Saves you money. It also probably costs half as much as XII. When 98UM was out, they had craploads of poster. I have this arcade near my work where the wall outside it (it's in a shopping mall) is filled with the same 98UM poster. If I'm the SNKP HK head, I'm going to print shitloads of 2k2UM posters too. XII posters, on a by-request status. We only have 50 of these in our offices, I'll say. It's almost as likely that SNKP knew what is going to happen over here. They tried it with XI, and failed. They then realized that people over here aren't going to care much about XII. Which is true.
I wonder if Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan are the same. I suppose they are. From this post
it seems that XII is about as rare as a solar eclipse. This is sad, really. I wish I'm able to nominate "SNK Playmore's KOF XII Marketing" into SaiFail, but it's too late.
Is XII redeemable? On the arcade side, I don't know. I don't think so. I think we're going to lose XII before the end of the year. 98UM wasn't really popular, it's standing on one leg but surviving. XII to me is more like your dream girl/guy (depending on your preference) who's destined to leave the world by his/her 20th birthday and he/she's already 19.
I still have hope over the console side. I really do, I plan to get an Xbawks 360 to support it. SNKP needs to get this game together to show that XII is not a flop. Because if they also fail on this, I don't know what's going to happen next. SNKP has been stretching the series to its limits till now (and getting the movie is not the pinnacle of the series), and if XII is not a semi-commercial success at least on the console end at worst, I suspect that KOF is done.
I don't care whether what I wrote about is incoherent. It probably is, I like to ramble. But I want to get my thoughts across. Seeing that 2k2UM machine today makes me want to cry, really. XII is dead here.
So for now, I'm going to donate some money to my 19 year old dream girl and hoping that she can make it to 21 years old. That's what I tried to do with XI. I'm not like a saint obviously, but I'm going to support something that I've done for the last few years. Like the Clippers.