Bad news for everyone who ever turned Mr X into Thomas the Tank Engine: Capcom's got its eye on you. In a recent video on the studio's Capcom R&D YouTube channel focused on "Anti-cheat and anti-piracy measures in PC games," the Resident Evil and Street Fighter studio warned its own and other devs of the potential "Reputation damage caused by malicious mods" and said that—for the purposes of its engine's anti-cheat tech—"all mods are defined as cheats, except when they are officially supported."
The company never directly says anything about that nude Chun Li mod that scandalised young and old at the Corner2Corner Street Fighter 6 tournament a few months ago, but, well, you've gotta think that's lurking somewhere in the mind of the people that put this presentation together.
In a section titled "Another problem: Mods," Capcom's presenter remarks that mods are "another inseparable part of PC gaming," but that "for the purposes of anti-cheat and anti-piracy, all mods are defined as cheats" because unsupported mods are "impossible to distinguish from cheat tools, implementation-wise."
Up to this point, I have to admit I can see things from Capcom's point of view. I imagine it is difficult—if not impossible—to separate harmless mods and actual cheats in multiplayer games like SF6 without having a human being check each one on a case-by-case basis. It's clumsily worded, but the company seems to be saying mods aren't different from cheats on a technical level, rather than a moral one.
But then we get to the next slide, which is where the stuff about reputational damage comes in. "The majority of mods can have a positive impact on the game," says the presenter, but warns that "some mods, however, can be detrimental to the company both in terms of reputational damage and in terms of workload."
"There are a number of mods that are offensive to public order and morals. When these are disseminated," like at a major online fighting game tournament, for instance, "the image of the product is tarnished and branding is affected." You hear that, everyone who put Leon S. Kennedy in a thong? Didn't think about the potential tarnishing effects on Capcom's branding, did you? Worst of all, some mods "can be mistaken for legitimate implementations and can cause bad publicity."
The presentation then goes on to warn devs about the potential for players using mods to accidentally break their own games. At that point, they'll get in touch with customer support to complain and seek a solution, prompting an investigation that will inevitably conclude it can't help users with problems caused by modding. That's a waste of time and resources that "are supposed to be used for creating high quality games," says Capcom.
It seems like a stretch to me. A concern that might have sounded more reasonable, just about, in the days of Hot Coffee and the Fox News "Sexbox" segment, but that sounds like it comes from another universe today.
I'm not sure there's anyone out there who genuinely thinks Capcom is putting naked Street Fighter characters in its games or equipping Resident Evil protagonists with the Victoria's Secret catalogue (although it would if it had any damn courage, I tell you), and the failure to distinguish between mods in multiplayer vs single-player games in the presentation smacks of a business that still hasn't properly come to grips with the modding landscape or PC gaming in general.
It's very strange to hear a massively successful games company speak forebodingly about the dangers of modding to a company's reputation in a world where Bethesda exists, but here we are. As Capcom moves forward with development on its REX Engine, I wonder if we should take this as a sign that the company is going to try to make modding harder.
I've reached out to Capcom to ask about that, and I'll update this piece if I hear back.