The Monster Hunter series is one of the most successful franchises in Capcom’s repertoire, having sold 40 million units according to Capcom’s latest sales data. But most of those sales have come from Japan, where Monster Hunter’s emphasis on grouping together with friends to take down monsters in local multiplayer found a larger audience in the series homeland than in the more online multiplayer-focused West. Which is why Capcom’s focus on attracting Western audiences with the upcoming Monster Hunter World, is all the more surprising—most of all, because it has the best shot at finally propelling the series to success outside of Japan.
The upcoming free beta for Monster Hunter World, is set to run from December 9 to December 12 on the PlayStation 4, is Capcom’s latest move to ensure that success is indeed found. The beta features three quests across two different zones for players to explore and hunt, which can be completed in single player or multiplayer. It’s similar to the demos of the game that Capcom has shown at previous events, including Tokyo Game Show and Gamescom. The inclusion of online multiplayer in the beta is what makes it stand out, as this will be the first chance for Monster Hunter to show what its greatest strength is—taking down giant monsters with friends.
But for the decade old franchise to capture a new audience, changes both minor and major have to be made to ensure it sticks the landing. Monster Hunter’s appeal often lies in the complex, challenging systems that force players to undergo hours and hours of tutorials before stepping out to try their hand at taking down one of the tougher and more impressive monsters. It took several attempts across multiple games before Monster Hunter could finally sink its teeth into me, and I was happy to see that Monster Hunter World felt intuitively good to play when I tried it out for the first time at PAX West.
One of the primary reasons why is because playing Monster Hunter with a controller feels right at home for anyone who has played any of the Souls-inspired games on console. The shift in focus from handheld devices to modern consoles is a transparent attempt to appeal to players in North America and Europe since Monster Hunter has always found its greatest success with its handheld titles in Japan. Whether or not Japanese fans will follow Monster Hunter through its platform change remains to be seen, which is why Capcom’s focus on Western audiences is a big risk for the franchise.
Outside of the platform change, Capcom has aimed to reduce as much of the clutter and idiosyncrasies that have helped to define the franchise through the years. Some changes such as the scout flies, a glowing green cloud of insects that reveal objects of interest or can follow a monster’s trail, the ability to switch weapons while on a hunt and the addition of drop-in/drop-out multiplayer are all intended to lower the difficulty curve for newcomers. This all speaks to a Monster Hunter that is more exciting and accessible than past titles have been, and even though some of the changes have longtime fans worried, it is ultimately still a game where the act of taking down a monster with powerful and often insane weapons feels just as good.
Monster Hunter World is Capcom’s biggest push to attract Western audiences in franchise history. With the beta taking place this coming weekend, Capcom and Monster Hunter faithful fans—such as myself—will be hoping that this will be enough to get more than just franchise fans talking about Monster Hunter World when it launches on PS4 and Xbox One on January 26, 2018. What’s more, Capcom will be aiming to capture an entirely different and possibly wider audience when it launches on PC later in 2018, which currently only has Dauntless to satiate the thirst of those looking to team up and hunt giant beasts.
Capcom has spent years slowly laying the foundations for Monster Hunter to succeed outside of Japan, though it’s a gradual change, and their newest instalment will be the ultimate test. Because if this push doesn’t bring the success Capcom is aiming for, I’m not sure if Monster Hunter will ever catch on in the West.
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