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A Brief History of Gaming
The Day Capcom Gave Sega the Shaft
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 24, 2015   |   Episode 39 (Show Archive)  

   
Street Fighter II was big business in 1993. In fact, the franchise was so big that many games journalists believed it would break the 16-bit war wide open. In today's episode of A Brief History of Gaming, we're taking a look back at a time when Capcom punched Sega in the gut. While it all worked out in the end, this lurid tale suggests that making promises can sometimes lead to PR disaster.


Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog
Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog BFFs in 1993!
Do you see that picture to the right? This is a picture of Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog in 1993, just a few months before the release of Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition. This was a happy time; Capcom and Sega were finally teaming up. It was the moment Genesis owners had been waiting for. But it was only a matter of time before somebody had to screw it up. This is the story of how Capcom gave Sega the shaft.

It's important to remember that there weren't many multi-platform third-party publishers in the 8-bit era. If you wanted a Capcom game, you either owned a Nintendo console or you waited for another company to port it to a competing system. This was the case with Strider, Ghouls 'N Ghosts, and Forgotten Worlds, three Capcom arcade games that Sega reprogrammed for their 16-bit Genesis.

Although a few games managed to hit Sega's consoles, most of Capcom's library was exclusive to Nintendo. The NES was the only home console where you could experience a long list of Mega Man games, Bionic Commando and the 194X series. And don't forget about the top-rated Disney licensed games, including DuckTales, Rescue Rangers and Tale Spin. Capcom was a major force on the Nintendo Entertainment System, and it was one of many reasons why the Sega Master System had a hard time competing.

Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog

This divide seemed to only get worse in 1992, when Capcom announced that the biggest arcade game in a decade was about to become a Super Nintendo exclusive. Street Fighter II was more than just another game, it was a phenomenon that single-handedly kickstarted the fighting genre. And with magazines spending months hyping the home release, the Super NES was poised to take a commanding lead in the 16-bit war.

But instead of letting this spiral out of control, Sega worked behind the scenes to pull off what many considered to be impossible -- turn Capcom into a third-party Genesis publisher. The plan worked, and in early 1993, Sega and Capcom came together to announce a brand new Street Fighter II game called Special Champion Edition.

Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition
Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition eventually came out, but not before angering Sega fans!
Based on the newly released Champion Edition update in the arcades, this new Street Fighter II installment would allow players to control all four boss characters. Other improvements over the barebones Super NES game included the ability to compete using the same character, swap colors and pull off a number of moves not included in the original Street Fighter II. And best of all, this game was exclusive to the Sega Genesis. Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition was scheduled to be released in June, finally giving Sega fans something to get excited about.

Unfortunately, this brand new Genesis game suffered a lengthy delay. Instead of coming out in summer, Special Champion Edition got moved to September 27, 1993. But as disappointing as the delay was, it was nothing compared to Capcom's next move.

After pushing the Genesis game back, Capcom announced that the Super NES would be getting another Street Fighter II exclusive. This time it was Street Fighter II Turbo, based on an even newer version of the arcade game. This game was faster, offered more moves and was significant rebalancing. It was the ultimate version, and it was only coming to Nintendo's console.

Super Street Fighter II
And then there was Super Street Fighter II!
As if this story couldn't get any worse for Sega fans, Capcom decided to release Street Fighter II Turbo on July 11, 1993, more than two months before Special Champion Edition finally shipped to stores. Sega fans went from having a top-of-the-line exclusive to settling for an outdated and inferior product. Sega got the shaft.

One year later, Capcom apologized by releasing Super Street Fighter II at the same time on both Super NES and Genesis. But the critics weren't as keen on this fourth installment and fans were beginning to grow wary of the annual Street Fighter updates. Capcom turned what should have been a unifying moment into a punch in the gut, and it was going to take more than another Street Fighter II game to make things right.

Strangely enough, Capcom pulled a very similar stunt three years after the Special Champion Edition debacle. As excited as many PlayStation owners were to finally get a DarkStalkers port, the feeling was diminished the moment they realized the sequel hit Sega's Saturn a month earlier. But that's a story for another time.

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