Microsoft to publish Steel Battalion

For Capcom or in spite of them?

You could be forgiven for thinking that Capcom has all but made its bed with Nintendo, having supported them so vigorously with the Resident Evil series and last month's announcement of five exclusive new titles. The Japanese publisher/developer has even been linked with the ominous 'Megaton' announcement - with rumours suggesting that Nintendo could purchase the creator of such franchises as Street Fighter, Resident Evil and Mega Man. Not that we believe that for a second.

Rumours have this habit of being total codswallop, particularly on the Internet, and Microsoft certainly seems to have missed out on the Chinese whispers, instead reminding us this morning that Capcom is launching a major Xbox title next year - the forty-button tank controller-bundled Steel Battalion, one of the Japanese developer's most ambitious projects on any system. Microsoft has today confirmed that it will put its significant financial drive behind publishing the game and its hefty peripheral, which are expected in the Spring.

Steel Battalion has sold fairly well for an Xbox title in Japan, where it is known as 'Tekki', with interest in the game and mostly its bewildering controller has kept fans chomping at the bit for a piece of the action. Unfortunately, pricing of the controller has probably been enough to put those same fans off - having forked out for an Xbox, is anyone likely to pay the requisite $199 just to play one vertical tank game? Given that the Xbox is the virtual home to all mech games - with a handful already available (and online) and more to come - it's a difficult purchase to justify, particularly with no future use for the peripheral confirmed.

Nevertheless, this announcement could be viewed as a reminder that Microsoft still has friends in Japan, despite its console tanking almost as viciously as a 40-foot mechanised warrior with galvanised steel lances. Or, one might speculate that Capcom wanted to cut its losses and bail out of distributing the game/controller in Europe, but that Microsoft needed the game to appear to "demonstrate the scope of what can be achieved using Xbox hardware," to quote Sandy Duncan's statement this morning.

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