Remember how excited I was for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle a few months back? Let’s just say things have changed a bit.
During this blog’s Holiday downtime, Arc System Works plugged along with announcing new characters for their team-based fighter, a four-franchise showcase following what is arguably their tentpole fighting game for 2018, Dragon Ball FighterZ. But while both games received positive press throughout the second half of 2017, Cross Tag Battle’s general perception went into a tailspin at the turn of the year.
Arc System Works’ Fighting Game Awards earlier in January presented a handful of new information on Cross Tag Battle, including official release dates. The game will release on May 31st in Japan, and June 5th everywhere else, meaning it will be coming out barely a year after its initial announcement at the Evo World Fighting Game Championship last July. A surprise, to be sure, but it didn’t seem bad…at least, until fans heard the next bit of news.
(Screencap courtesy of Arc System Works’ January trailer for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle)
The game’s roster will clock in at 40 characters from across the BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and RWBY universes. However, only the characters revealed between Evo and the ASW Fighting Game Awards will be available from the start, and since 20 characters had been unveiled in that period, it effectively means that the game will release with half a roster. The other half will be downloadable content, divvied up into six packs of three characters apiece, and two standalone characters.
What’s more, it was announced that Blake Belladonna of RWBY would be among those 20 DLC characters, presumably one of the two standalones. That revelation has lead to assumptions that Yang Xiao Long from the same series would be the other standalone DLC character, and that in turn indicates that Cross Tag Battle’s launch roster will only feature RWBY’s other two heroines, Ruby Rose and Weiss Schnee.
Needless to say, backlash came in hot and heavy once word started making the rounds.
Really, what needs to be said that already hasn’t been? Of all the things Arc System Works could have done with Cross Tag Battle, paywalling half of its roster is the most boneheaded decision they could have made. Splitting up Team RWBY at the same time is just as short-sighted, and it’s an especially bad sting in the tail for any RWBY fans that might’ve been looking forward to this game on the premise that the series was getting a moment in the fighting game limelight for the first time.
Yes, there’s additional money to be made, and I understand wanting the game to have legs beyond its initial release. I also get that the RWBY characters take a little extra investment since they’re the only characters being created for this game from the ground-up. At the same time, however, this isn’t the way to go about turning a profit or extending the game’s lifespan. And as someone who was genuinely looking forward to this title, it’s disappointing. Arc System Works always seemed to be one of the smarter fighting game developers compared to the likes of Capcom, so to see them go down this road hurts.
Thankfully, details have come out recently to clear up the controversy. Director Toshimichi Mori has gone on record saying that the base game and downloadable content together would not total out to be that much more than a standard game, which is usually around $60 before any sales taxes kick in. DLC would also cost less than what it would normally, and if there’s enough positive reception on release, Cross Tag Battle may get additional updates beyond the initial DLC.
Arc System Works also mentioned on their official Twitter account that they have heard the outcry from fans, and as of this writing, will present something “very soon.”
Given the nature of this situation, there are a few potential scenarios that could play out. The first is that Arc System Works simply announces the official price points for both the base game and DLC, with the former being around $40 and the latter around $20 in total. Those prices wouldn’t be that bad in the long run, since, again, it would altogether cost about as much as a modern-day game would. While it still doesn’t fix the issue of having half the game’s cast locked behind a paywall, at least people would not be paying an arm and a leg for a complete roster.
Alternatively, Arc System Works could make substantial changes to their DLC plans. In this case, Arc System Works would delay the game’s releases by a month or two, and use the extra time to put Blake, Yang, and characters from two of the six DLC packs onto the main roster.
Personally, I’d argue the second scenario would work best. While it’s not a huge increase, 28 characters is a solid base to begin with for a tag fighter, and Arc System Works would still be able to add to the roster with the dozen DLC characters they have left. Plus, having all of Team RWBY will be sure to sway RWBY fans into purchasing the game early; whether or not they buy the DLC that comes afterward depends on whether or not the BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena and Under Night characters provide a knock-on effect.
With that being said, however, it’s more likely that Arc System Works will simply announce that the game and the DLC will be sold at lower price points than normal. It feels like this game is being made on a smaller budget than Dragon Ball FighterZ was, and a delay to implement more characters might not justify whatever is left. And while this is dipping more into tin foil hat territory, there could be internal pressure to get this game out as soon as possible to be in the running for this year’s Evo lineup, which is taking place in early August as opposed to the usual middle of July timeframe. It’s not like Arc System Works doesn’t already has a spot at Evo all but assured with Dragon Ball FighterZ’s staggering success, but that’s neither here nor there.
Regardless, Arc System Works needs to be smart about how they address their DLC plans. They already assured fans that they are aware of the backlash, which is a good start. Now it’s on them to prove to fans that they actually listened. And I hope that they have, because as a long-time BlazBlue fan and a more-recent RWBY fan, I want this game to succeed.
Whether or not they do rests squarely on what they do next.
‘Til we meet again,