Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen two distinct “demos” for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite: the VERSUS demo shown at E3 and CEO, and the downloadable story mode demo on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The reaction to these demos could not have been more different. While most players who had the chance to try the VERSUS demo have raved about it, the Story Demo has been met with less than stellar reception.
The reason for this is obvious, when you compare the two. The Story Demo focused on giving players a taste of the game’s story mode, while preventing them from playing around too much and experimenting with Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite‘s new gameplay system — what may be, in fact, be the best thing about the game. Meanwhile, the VERSUS demo at E3 and CEO has the gameplay up front and center. Players got the chance to spend time to figure out just how creative the system will let them be (the answer to which is “very”).
The negative reaction to the Story Demo was further exacerbated by the fact that it looked quite rough compared to the 1v1 demo. Most players who got a chance to try both have stated that while the VERSUS demo still has some of the issues people noted, it still looked further along graphically compared to the Story Demo, with more vibrant lighting and shading. Adding fuel to this fire are reports from various sources that the Story Demo is based on a build that’s at least three months old, compared to the newer VERSUS demo build.
Now, anyone familiar with game development cycles already knows why the story demo was based on an older build. Demos, especially ones that are publicly downloadable, usually need a lot of work to make them presentable, while preventing players from getting into parts of the game that aren’t working yet. This may also require the creation of bespoke interfaces and graphics just for the demo alone. Combined with the fact that public demos on consoles also need to go through comprehensive testing and certification, and you can understand why they’re usually forked off from development with a lot of lead time.
With Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite‘s Story Demo, the main issue seems to be that the demo had to be ready in time for E3. The most likely line of thought here is that releasing a demo focused on single-player content during E3 would help reassure those made wary by Capcom’s previous fighter, Street Fighter V, launching without much in the way of single-player options.
However, what Capcom seemingly wasn’t counting on was the internet’s penchant for accentuating the negative, combined with Bandai Namco announcing their own tag team 2D fighter — one with a more universally-appealing cel-shaded art style. This has had the effect of pushing the Story Demo’s flaws into the limelight, while burying the overall game’s strengths.
This now brings us to the question: would it have been better if Capcom just had not released the story mode demo? Or, at the very least, should they not have targeted E3 as a release date for it? Better yet — should the E3 demo have been the basis of a public demo to be released later down the line (sometime after Evo 2017, perhaps)? Or, can such a demo still be released to help the game?
Personally, I do think it’s clear that releasing the Story Demo did not work out as well as they had hoped. The Marvel vs. Capcom games were always about the creative — if a bit overwhelming — gameplay they brought to the table, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite would be better served if that they focused on that. That said, I do understand the need to reassure people that the mistakes of Street Fighter V in terms of single-player content will not be repeated.
E3 may not have been the ideal time to put out such a demo. Sure, they could have announced the demo at E3, but with events such as Evo 2017 (which is also getting the VERSUS demo), Disney’s D23 Expo, and the San Diego Comic Convention taking place a month after E3, maybe it would have been better to release the demo at those events. Certainly, releasing the same demo that people get to play at these events would be quite the PR coup, and could maybe even stem the tide of negativity from the Story Demo.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is shaping up to be a great Marvel vs. Capcom game, based on how it plays. Already, players have been praising the level of creativity and freedom of expression that it allows. However, all this may be for naught if Capcom (and Marvel) stumble when promoting the game. If they do want the game to succeed, then their marketing campaign should be focusing on its strengths, something that the Story Demo (and subsequent PR gaffes) simply did not do.