Capcom's New Resident Evil Title Is Unrestartable
June 28, 2011
Capcom has just released its latest Resident Evil title for the Nintendo 3DS, but like all games featuring zombies and other monsters, there's a nasty little surprise waiting inside it. As it turns out, the company is trying another controversial digital rights management scheme (remember the always-on network connectivity requirement on the Sony PlayStation 3 versions of Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and Final Fight: Double Impact?) by not allowing players to reset the save game data for Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D. This means that you cannot wipe out saved progress in order to replay the game completely from scratch. Capcom's goal here seems to be to make the game less attractive on the used game market. After all, who'd want to buy a used copy of a game and be stuck with the previous owner's progress and unlockable rewards already unlocked and completed? In fact, rumor has it that GameStop will not be buying this game back from customers or selling used copies thanks to this restriction. DVICE sums it up for us:
It's been confirmed that Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D for the Nintendo 3DS is a game that once finished, cannot be reset for complete replay. According to both the U.S. and U.K. game's instruction manual "saved data on this software cannot be reset."
Basically what Capcom has done is make Mercenaries 3D a one-time play affair. Once you've unlocked all the goodies and played the entire game, you will not be able to erase the game's save data and start fresh as if it were a new copy. Consider this: lending Mercenaries 3D to a friend, a little brother or sister will be worthless because they'll only be able to continue playing the game with your saved settings and create their own.
Think of the ramifications of applying this restriction to other Capcom properties. Imagine a Mega Man game where defeated Robot Masters stay dead forever or a Street Fighter title where knocking out M. Bison keeps him defeated on the pavement for good. These are extreme and absurd examples, but I'd have said the same thing about a Resident Evil title where progress is written in digital stone. Now, Mercenaries 3D is a little different from the other games in the series in that it's more of a score attack title than a traditional story-based adventure, but the principle still stands. People should have the right to delete game progress and restart from scratch if they please. Remember, the ideal DRM scheme only impacts the pirates, not legitimate owners of a game. As soon as paying customers are inconvenienced, the DRM has gone too far.
Capcom has a history of strange DRM though. Consider the the CP System II (CPS-2) arcade board that debuted in 1993 which featured what some have dubbed a "suicide battery". Wikipedia describes the restriction:
The CP System II consists of two separate parts; the A board, which connects to the JAMMA harness and contains components common between all CP System II games, and the B board, which contains the game itself. The relationship between the A and B board is basically the same as that between a home video game console and cartridge. CP System II A and B boards are color-coded by region, and each board can only be used with its same-colored mate. The exception to this is that the blue and green boards can be used together.
The B boards hold battery-backed memory containing decryption keys needed for the games to run. As time passes, these batteries lose their charge and the games stop functioning, because the CPU cannot execute any code without the decryption keys. This is known to hobbyists as the "suicide battery". It is possible to bypass the original battery and swap it out with a new one in-circuit, but this must be done before the original falls below 2V or the keys will be lost. Consequently the board would just die anyway, meaning even if used legally it would not play after a finite amount of time (Unless a fee was paid to Capcom to replace it).
Capcom has some very talented developers, but whomever in management is making these kinds of decisions should pay special attention to the outcry over Mercenaries 3D. The best way to get the company's attention if you disagree with this form of DRM is to not buy the game (new or used) and to send a polite letter explaining why you chose not to do so. Poor sales without explanation may be blamed on other factors (Capcom could wrongly conclude that, for instance, there is no market for Resident Evil at all on the 3DS), so it's best to let your voice be heard. Not allowing players to reset save data is a bad decision, and if it ends up being bad for business, then ideally we won't see it happen again in future releases from Capcom or other companies. Remember that as soon as Electronic Arts made the online pass a profitable reality, other publishers followed with similar schemes. However, if we ever see a suicide battery in a 3DS game card, then the pitchforks are coming out.