Announced in July 2010, Mega Man Universe was to be Capcom’s “Mega Man Maker” game for PlayStation and Xbox long before Super Mario Maker existed. Players would be able to build and share their own 2.5D levels, seemingly using Mega Man 2 as a foundation, at least in the beginning. However, the game sported a very different graphical style that confused some, and those such as myself who played its demo at New York Comic Con 2010 found the controls to feel really off. Ultimately, Capcom canceled Mega Man Universe in March 2011, five months after series head Keiji Inafune announced his departure from the company, but Capcom never offered any concrete details about the cancellation. Now, Rockman Corner, the foremost Mega Man news site, has released a report with new details about the development of Mega Man Universe and why it was canceled, pulled from anonymous sources involved with the development.
Details about why Mega Man Universe was canceled
Reportedly, the game was at times being treated as a Mega Man 2 remake before settling on its design as a “platform” for other people’s creations. In a move that could be arguably described as prescient, Inafune allegedly saw Mega Man Universe as a game that would continue to grow and grow, “sustained by the fans and content provided by Capcom. (Inafune) saw it going on for years. A continuous stream of revenue. That was his vision.” In other words, Mega Man Universe would have generated sustained income through microtransactions via DLC and/or expansions, a bold vision for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 era, when DLC was going through a sort of experimental phase.
Reportedly, Inafune was surprised when feedback to the NYCC demo (and apparently a Tokyo Game Show showing) of Mega Man Universe was negative, so the development team refocused its efforts on improving the controls and the graphics — but not the visual style, which was kept because the developers believed it would still appeal to the average Western consumer. However, troubles with both the controls and technical performance continued. The team reportedly decided the game needed to run at 60 FPS in order to achieve the necessary precision for platforming, but they struggled to achieve it. Adding further complexity, plans for online multiplayer were suddenly added, and Inafune outsourced development of that feature to a cost-effective studio (confirmed not to be Inti Creates) that reportedly had no experience related to the task and allegedly never got the functionality to work.
Once Inafune left Capcom in March 2011, Akiko Ito effectively took over Mega Man Universe development, but the project reportedly felt disorganized. Multiplayer functionality was dropped and the graphics improved, but the project could not be salvaged. Mega Man Universe was of course canceled, though Capcom may have briefly tried to rework it again as something closer to a Mega Man 2 remake for iOS. Either way, the report concludes that Mega Man Universe was a victim of its time and budget constraints, in addition to poor project management at Capcom, but pretty much everyone agrees that Inafune’s core idea for the game is still sound.
Presuming these anonymous sources are to be trusted — and considering Rockman Corner’s passion for the truth, they likely are — we now have a clearer idea of why Mega Man Universe was canceled.