A PlayStation 2 version of the hugely-anticipated Resident Evil 4 will be released in Japan at the end of 2005, Capcom has confirmed, ending the long-term exclusivity arrangement it had previously signed with Nintendo. The move could also pave the way for long overdue ports of other previously GameCube-exclusive titles Resident Evil Zero and the well-received remake of Resident Evil.
As part of the now-infamous Capcom Five line up originally announced in a blaze of publicity in September 2001 (including the still-unreleased Killer 7, Viewtiful Joe, PN03, the canned Dead Phoenix and RE4) Resident Evil 4 represented perhaps the jewel in Nintendo's third party exclusivity plans - plans which have long been in tatters with delays, cancellations and poor sales, but this latest move will be seen as the final insult for die-hard fans.
On a commercial level, though, it would have been nonsensical for Capcom to release its biggest title in years on the console with the smallest installed base, and one which in the context of the PlayStation 2 trails by such a vast margin that the company effectively risked pouring millions of dollars down the drain if it had have honoured the original deal.
Capcom, of course, is no stranger to exclusivity deals, having previously released Resident Evil: Code Veronica exclusively on the Dreamcast, and then over a year later issuing it to much greater commercial success on the PS2. However, with a Japanese PS2 version of RE4 lined up for the end of 2005, the Cube will still most likely enjoy almost a year of exclusivity - still a significant length of time for the title to give a much needed boost to the platform in the early part of next year.
A statement issued by Capcom sheepishly admitted 'market considerations' were the reason behind the change of tact, not to mention 'shareholder requests' evidently as exasperated as the rest of us that it was potentially ignoring the wishes of the vast majority of its audience. A bit like U2 releasing its next album on vinyl only. Or something.
How the PS2 version of RE4 will fare in comparison to the technically outstanding GameCube version is a matter for conjecture at present. At present, Capcom insists that each version will play to each format's respective strengths, but on the other hand, at this stage in the PS2's life cycle the sort of technical wizardry that normally emerges at this late point should ensure that few compromises are made.
Meanwhile, given that Resident Evil 4 is now on its way to the PS2, speculation is mounting that Capcom will also take the opportunity to release its other Cube-exclusive Resident Evil titles; the prequel Resident Evil Zero, and the remake of Resident Evil. Currently Capcom has no official plans to convert either titles, but it would not be a major surprise if the Japanese giant decided to cash in on this obvious commercial opportunity.
Capcom Eurosoft has yet to confirm a release date for the PS2 version of Resident Evil 4 yet, but we're expecting an early 2006 launch. In the meantime, Resident Evil 4 will be launched early in 2005 on GameCube, initially in Japan and the US, with Europe following a couple of months later. Expect full hands-on impressions of the game soon.