Well, somebody goofed again. The powers of Google allow for quite a lot of images to be found on the web, sometimes making it easier to get things done – but doesn’t make it easier to do things legally. Capcom apparently has no qualms about this: their cover art designer (or perhaps I should say ‘former cover art designer’ as he or she will likely be fired after this debacle) used an image from IGN to build the box art for the Wii version of Okami.
Now I’m not expert, but shouldn’t the original art assets be available from Capcom herself – and in higher resolution, no less? (And incidentally, the original Nintendo-brand Metroid Prime strategy guides used box art taken from the Metroid Database!) Then again, we had similar problems getting original source assets while working on Legends of Norrath at Sony Online Entertainment Denver: I guess in that case they assumed that anybody they hired would already know their EverQuest games backwards and forwards. I’ll also set this next to a different, but related problem, that Konami of Japan lost a lot of original development material, including the original artwork to the Castlevania games, when the Kobe studio was damaged in an earthquake. Videogame preservation – and its related issue of internal resource sharing – seems to be a chronic problem that exists throughout the industry, particularly when you have studios spread across multiple countries.
So it seems to me that what we need is not only a better system of preserving game assets, but also of sharing those assets to studios that are working on projects involving those games. The reason this isn’t done too often might be due to disorganization (and apparently this is a HUGE problem with the EverQuest games, which have had multiple design leaders throughout their history – and the fact that EverQuest and EverQuest II teams never see each other. This type of organization needed to have been built in to the original project and wasn’t necessarily something people were thinking about needing at a later date. Another reason could be laziness and inexperience, as I hope was simply the issue with the Okami box art. There could also be language barriers in some of these cases. With greater internal organization and resource sharing, you wouldn’t have problems like this. There is no reason that Capcom should have to use images from IGN to do their job or that an employee should use a fan site as a resource for information that should have been available straight from the original studios. Preservation, organization and studio intercommunication ultimately make everybody’s job easier. Or are game companies simply too afraid that their development ideas and resources will be stolen, even by internal members who signed non-disclosure agreements? (And hey, if you can’t plagiarize yourself, then who can you?)
This seems to be another issue that can be integrated into the IGDA Game Preservation SIG, that of getting the information out regarding preservation and cooperation. If it can happen to a big company like Capcom, Konami, or SOE, then you can bet it can happen to a smaller one too.
It also raises some interesting legal issues. Capcom clearly owns all the rights to Okami…but how much of that watermarked image does IGN own? (I think it’s just the logo) Though I don’t think Capcom is going to recall all their games for the simple fact that it would be too expensive. The more interesting question is whether or not sales will go up or down because of this news bulletin (and how much of that would be due to a perceived ‘collector’s rush’?).