One Year Later: Umbrella Corps Was Dead On Arrival

You didn’t need to be a psychic to tell that Umbrella Corps was going to come out of the gates and immediately crash into a brick wall, but I don’t think anyone actually foresaw it performing as poorly as it did given that its predecessor Operation Raccoon City still managed to hit 3 million sales despite overwhelmingly negative attention. Launched June 2016 as an alleged eSports title, Umbrella Corps peaked at 428 players on Steam and immediately crashed into the low double digits over the following 30 days.

And why not? It was the spiritual sequel nobody asked for to a spinoff from the Playstation 3 that few actually enjoyed despite it selling well. I suppose Capcom was hoping that customers wouldn’t subscribe to the whole “fool me once” ideology, and if they were then they misjudged the market. Fatally. It’s a bad sign when you announce your serious project and the customer base is treating it like a bad April Fool’s Day joke.

Umbrella Corps is a cover-based game where cover barely offers help and in many cases is actively detrimental, a shooter where in many situations guns are less preferable than your melee weapon, a zombie game with AI so inconceivably stupid that zombies will miss their attacks from close range or just outright ignore you, and a Resident Evil game embarrassing enough that Capcom decided to strip the game of its titular ties to the franchise prior to release. Like Raccoon City before it, Umbrella Corps shows the signs of a game that could have been much better had Capcom put into place a competent leadership utilizing realistic funding with genuine determination to see the game through to completion.

But they didn’t. Umbrella Corps was released alongside the Beginning Hour demo for Resident Evil 7, the latter of which received much higher praise, making it clear that Capcom had put all of its cash into the main series while handing the Osaka studio fifty cents and demanding that they make a million dollars out of it. Actually, I’m more inclined to believe that Capcom handed Osaka Studio the budgetary equivalent of a hundred dollar bill and said “don’t spend it all in one place,” then proceeded to completely ignore the studio up to, and following, release.

To hammer down on Umbrella Corp’s problems, Capcom had just enough energy to keep patching the game for two months, until on August 19 they patched in four player mode. While Umbrella Corps is a 3v3 game by design, by August the community had grown small enough that getting together a group of six people in matchmaking was a laborious effort, and as a result Capcom patched in the ability for matches to start with just four people. Also in August, Capcom ran its one free weekend for the game. It didn’t work, the population barely blipped and by this point the game’s reputation as not even bad enough to be ironically good was well known.

The only saving grace for Umbrella Corps may be that it was wholly ignored by much of the media when it launched due to the same day release of another, much higher profile disaster: Mighty No. 9. In the world of gaming, Capcom spilled fruit punch on the new carpet only for few to notice because Comcept was playing with fireworks in the next room and set the whole house on fire. The game managed to make it into a number of “Worst of 2016” lists, with a few publications noting its dramatic drop in population, but otherwise the game by this point has mostly been forgotten by the press, gamers, and by Capcom itself who probably had a few options on the table to at least try and revitalize the community but didn’t consider the potential payout worth the effort.

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