Capcom reminds us why “games-as-a-service” suck, announces end of Puzzle Fighter
The games-as-a-service graveyard grew one larger this week, as Capcom's Puzzle Fighter reboot received an official "sunset" announcement on Friday. The iOS and Android port of the '90s puzzle series will have its in-game store shut down on Monday, April 23, and its servers will follow suit on July 31—meaning the game will have been playable for only eight months after its late-November launch.
That's because the new, free-to-play Puzzle Fighter includes an always-online requirement so that players can be subjected to the timers and loot-box systems applied to both its single-player and multiplayer modes. Capcom's announcement did not in any way hint to a patch that would let the game work in a wholly offline mode, nor did it hint to any open-sourcing of its content so that dedicated players could, say, prop the game's bones up via DIY servers.
Friday's announcement also didn't reference the fact that this game's reboot recently received PEGI ratings (Europe's equivalent of the ESRB) for PC and consoles. And the language here doesn't give us much hope for a non-mobile port of the Columns-like, match-gems puzzle update. Instead, the post blames the mobile version's cancellation on Capcom Vancouver "dedicating its focus to our flagship Dead Rising franchise."
Puzzle Fighter is thus destined to join a growing graveyard of games that relied entirely on live-server environments—and leave their players in the dust when the servers shut down. Puzzle Fighter's plight is admittedly a little easier to appreciate, given that it launched as a free-to-play product in a mobile marketplace where one-time purchases of $5 or $10 are uncommon. Meaning, this situation doesn't feel quite as egregious a shutdown as the retail-priced likes of Evolve and Battleborn.
Still, in addition to subscribing to the poisonous loot-box economic model—with specific-character purchases being time-limited—Capcom's game also went the disgusting route of requiring access to "photos, media, and files" in order to operate (as opposed to siloing that kind of system access for those who didn't want Puzzle Fighter rooting around their files). Honestly, Puzzle Fighter's mobile updates and tweaks seemed mostly designed to drive players to accumulate as many extra characters as possible, as the game added "support characters" to the puzzle battling. With fewer unlocked characters, a player's support strategy options were far more limited, but they mostly worked out to a punishment for those who didn't play by the loot-box and microtransaction rules.
The last just-pay-once version of the series, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, is currently available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It's unclear whether Xbox's backwards-compatible drive was stymied specifically because of Capcom's plans to bring the newer Puzzle Fighter to newer consoles; it's also unclear whether that 360 version will ever be patched to operate on Xbox One consoles.