Who wants to buy a Capcom?

By Steve Watts, Jun 17, 2014 12:45pm PDT

Capcom's shareholders sent a clear invitation to potential investors recently. By removing the safeguards it had in place to prevent a takeover, it essentially puts itself on the market with a flashing neon sign.

We don't know if anyone will bite, and if so, there's a distinct possibility that it will be some company that has nothing to do with games. However, Capcom's long history makes it ripe for an existing publisher to bring it into the fold. More than a few companies could benefit from adopting Capcom's library, if not its brand. We've taken a look at some likely (and altogether unlikely) contenders.

Nintendo

Perhaps the company most in need of an acquisition, Nintendo could use some new blood as the Wii U continues to flounder. Capcom's library of classics still associated with Nintendo's heyday, like Mega Man and Strider, would make an excellent fit for the console business, and the two companies already enjoy close relationships on handheld series like Monster Hunter and Phoenix Wright. Mega Man even appears in Smash Bros later this year. Meanwhile, franchises like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry could give Nintendo a boost to its lacking hardcore credentials. Then again, Nintendo would almost certainly put those on the shelf so as not to compromise its wholesome image.

Nintendo has a large enough war chest to make such an investment, but it is generally cautious and tends to make more left-field moves. When the company does invest in a developer, which is rare in itself, it's barely ever a move we saw coming.

Microsoft

Microsoft is the polar opposite of Nintendo. An investment would be almost entirely for its current slate of franchises, and we know the two already had a close relationship for Dead Rising 3 exclusivity. Picking up the Dead Rising franchise whole-hog, along with other fairly popular ones like Street Fighter, would be a nice get for the company. Plus, it would be an investment into the Japanese market with an already sure-fire hit in Monster Hunter.

Microsoft could certainly afford it, but the utility might be limited. It's already willing to pay for console exclusivity when it wants it, like in the case of Dead Rising, and doesn't have to invest the money to make that a permanent fixture. Plus it appears that the company has more or less given up on Japan this generation. It hasn't launched yet, and the eventual launch is likely to be subdued.

Sony

Sony, finally, would be a hybrid of the two. It would be grabbing the classics like Mega Man, but also hitting historically PlayStation-associated franchises like Resident Evil and Devil May Cry. Of the three console manufacturers, though, Sony is probably in the worst financial position for such a move. The gaming arm is doing fine, but its TV business is on shaky ground and it doesn't have a war chest like Nintendo. This is only likely if Capcom ends up going for a song.

Square Enix

Square Enix was once one of the largest publishers with mega-hits like Final Fantasy 7, but the waning of the Japanese game industry's influence has hit it harder than most. This is why it started looking into investing in western publishers like Eidos, a move that has paid off beautifully as Tomb Raider and Hitman turn into successful mid-tier franchises. Capcom isn't a western brand, but some of its biggest names (Street Fighter and Resident Evil, particularly) come from an era when Capcom was attempting to appeal to the western market. Those names still have staying power, and both are in a position to reboot similar to Tomb Raider. Plus, capturing Monster Hunter would secure yet another of Japan's biggest RPGs, just as the company consolidated Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest under the same roof.

On the other hand, Square Enix may not be able to afford such a costly venture. It's a middle-tier publisher now, and while profitable, it isn't rolling in funding either.

Sega

Similar to Square, Sega is a publisher in need of more franchises. Capcom is fairly similar to Sega in most respects, in fact: waning Japanese companies with long legacies and a few popular franchises still hanging on. To Mega Man, it has Sonic. To Monster Hunter, it has Phantasy Star. To Devil May Cry, it has Bayonetta. This would be more mutually beneficial than most, since both flagging companies could prop each other up.

Then again, it likely doesn't have the funds. Perhaps worse yet, their franchises are such close analogs that the utility of them might get redundant. It's too bad, though. We'd like to see Dante fighting Aliens.

Namco Bandai

Namco Bandai is probably the closest match for Capcom in terms of tone and studio culture. Their libraries would fit well together. So well, in fact, that their fighting franchises had a high-profile crossover, with another still (supposedly) in the works. Like Capcom, its existing library runs the gamut from classic and revered (Pac-Man) to modern hits (Dark Souls). If one company could cleanly fold Capcom's games into its own seamlessly, it would be Namco.

Like Square and Sega, however, this is a mid-tier publisher. It's unlikely to have the cash handy to take over another publisher roughly its own size. It may be the neatest fit if the two agreed to some kind of merger or partnership, but a takeover through stock purchases would be more difficult.

Activision

Activision, on the other hand, could easily afford it and then some. Between two of the biggest franchises and the consistent money-maker of Blizzard on its side, there's very little reason why the publisher couldn't just buy Capcom lock, stock, and barrel. However, this would be an investment in search of a cause. Activision's business model relies on annualizing a small stable of huge franchises. It doesn't have much use for a large and storied library of games that are mostly past their prime. It wouldn't fit Capcom either. Aside from the frequent reiterations of Street Fighter, Capcom doesn't go for annual sequels.

This reasoning could be applied to either of the other big third-party publishers as well. Electronic Arts and Ubisoft could probably afford Capcom, but they'd have very little reason to do it.

Disney Interactive

If Disney wants to pour its buckets of Frozen money into essentially capturing one tenuously connected franchise, it could bring Marvel vs Street Fighter all in-house. There is some precedence for this, as Disney grabbed Lucasarts in its Star Wars acquisition without much attention to Monkey Island or Maniac Mansion. It's doubtful, though. Nothing in Capcom's stable is as big as Star Wars, and it would require a lot of investment just for one get. Capcom isn't selling off franchises piece-meal.

The Mobile Appeal

The most likely contender is some company that sees value in Capcom outside of traditional console releases. After all, Capcom's biggest franchise, Monster Hunter, is starting to push more into mobile devices. Between that and its wide back-catalog, a clever mobile company could snatch up Capcom and turn its games free-to-play. A company like Gameloft would be the most likely candidate for this route, though other publishers like EA and Disney have their own mobile publishing arms. If either of them picked it up, it would most likely be more for the mobile potential than Capcom's traditional console games.

Amazon Game Studios

Amazon is a fledgling in the games industry, but the company is also absurdly rich and seems hungry to make its Fire TV a quasi-console. It even acquired Double Helix, the developer of fighting game Killer Instinct and the latest Strider game. It already has both fighters and one of Capcom's own franchises in its DNA, so it could look to beef up its internal development even more.

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