Day two of our week of Mega Man features! I'm really hoping this one brings out some discussion from both Mega Man fans and those who haven't checked the franchise out. I'd love to know your thoughts!
Difficulty in video games is always such an interesting topic to me. There are a small handful of games that the gaming public at large consider difficult, and then a huge amount of titles that people say are too easy/hard/somewhere inbetween. I'll never cease to be amazed by how people can have such wildly varying impressions of challenge in a game. Even more interesting, no one can give a "wrong" answer on the topic. It's all about the perception of difficulty, and the struggles an individual had when progressing through a game.
As we moved on from the NES era, I think it's safe to say that games got easier...or at least more welcoming. Back in the day, NES games were challenging in a way that some felt was unfair. The difficulty was cranked up to 11 in order to make sure the player got their money's worth out of an experience. You had to spend countless hours perfecting your skills in order to have any chance of progressing in the late stages of a game, and beating the final boss was a momentous occasion. There were very, VERY few games that offered anything that would ease newcomers or lesser-skilled players into the experience.
When people are asked about the most difficult games and franchises of the NES era, there are names you can depend on hearing. Ninja Gaiden is always going to be pegged as a real challenge, which I find to be a more than fair assessment. Battletoads is thrown in there, and once again, that's definitely a fitting label. Those same people will often name the Mega Man franchise alongside the aforementioned franchises, and that perception seems to have stuck around to this very day.
In my honest opinion, I don't find Mega Man games to be ridiculously difficult. Sure, they pose a challenge in some stages and certain robot masters can be tough to tackle, but I don't think there's anything crazy in them. That's just my opinion, though. I have countless friends and family members who instantly name Mega Man when coming up with hard games, which leads me to believe that the general gaming population does find the Blue Bomber's adventures to be quite a task to take on. It's this perception that might explain something else going on with the Mega Man series.
There's no doubt that Mega Man is one of the most iconic characters and franchises in gaming. The character is known by gamers the world over, and is instantly recognizable. There's also been multiple Mega Man cartoons, toys, figurines, and so much more. It's safe to say the Blue Bomber's quite bankable outside of the world of video games. That's what makes the next fact so surprising to me. Out of the entire history of all Mega Man games, including spin-offs, just six of them have over a million units sold.
When I found out how few Mega Man games broke a million units sold, I was honestly shocked. I thought for sure the Mega Man series sold better! Considering how many installments there are and how widely know the character is, it seemed a sure thing that numerous entries were multi-million sellers. Even crazier, it doesn't appear that a single Mega Man title has managed to move over 2 million units by itself. Mega Man 2 is clocked in at 1.51 million sold, making it the best-selling standalone Mega Man game. That's pretty damn crazy, isn't it?!
How could a character have become so well known, yet not managed to rack up a few more units sold? I guess it really does have to do with the amount of Mega Man games in existence. According to Wikipedia, when you count all Mega Man mainline games, spin-offs and more, there are over 130 Mega Man games out there. When a character gets that many appearances, it's hard for people not to notice. You're constantly seeing the character pop up, and his ever-present nature spreads awareness without people even realizing.
The other factor could very well be the perceived difficulty of Mega Man. Plenty of people believe Mega Man games to be some of the hardest out there, and they've held onto that opinion for years and years. That idea of Mega Man games being incredibly difficult has been passed down throughout generations, and it's certainly still believed by many today. There are no doubt some players who'll never touch a Mega Man game simply because they've hard about how challenging the games are, whether that's a fair assessment or not.
Is there anything Capcom can do for the Mega Man franchise to help it escape those chains? I honestly don't know what it would take, but I think it would have to be a multi-year effort. This long-held belief isn't going to be one that disappears overnight, and it would have to take some radical thinking to change minds. A heavy focus on advertising to showcase new features included to make the games easier. Something to show people that they can handle Mega Man games, all without losing the hardcore Blue Bomber fans who don't want to see things dumbed down.
At least we know that Mega Man is an important franchise for Capcom. They continue to support the character to this day with new titles and compilations, and those seem to fare well. As a matter of fact, Mega Man 11 is one of the six Mega Man titles that has managed to move a million units. Perhaps we're just now getting far enough removed from Mega Man's inception that a new round of gamers are checking out the franchise for the first time, and they known nothing of the series' fabled difficulty.
I have no issues with Capcom implementing features that would make for an easier Mega Man experience for those who want it. I just don't want them to make the easy approach the only option, which I'm sure they never would. They know what makes the Blue Bomber work, and work hard to make sure they keep those fans happy, and give them what they expect from the franchise. With all that said, hopefully something is in the works to bring Mega Man to a new audience that could potentially be scared of its difficulty. I'd love for the series' sales to match the notoriety of the character.