So it was Nintendo's fault!
It’s hard to imagine the gaming landscape without Mega Man, but there was a time when the character didn’t exist. The Blue Bomber didn’t make his debut until 1987, cementing the launch of a franchise still going over 35 years later.
Famously, Mega Man got a name change before his appearance outside of Japan. Capcom went with the name Rockman in Japan, which is a name that is still used to this day. Why was the name changed from Rockman to Mega Man for localization? According to a former Capcom USA senior VP, the change was made simply because he didn’t like the name.
Joe Morici is the man responsible for the moniker revamp, and he spoke to GameDeveloper about the decision.
Rock Man came over and I thought, Rock Man doesn’t make any sense to me. I knew the characters were based on rock musicians and stuff, but I thought, Let’s just change the name. At that point, Capcom [Japan] trusted me to do the right thing for the US market, so I changed the name to Mega Man. It really wasn’t this long, drawn-out discussion with everybody in the office. I just said, “Yeah, let’s change it.” So we did. I don’t know why people get so upset about it. It just made sense to me. …There wasn’t a lot of thought to it. It was, I like the name Mega Man. It’s big, grandiose.
Whether you like the name or not, it’s one that certainly stuck…much like the cover art for the original Mega Man game. While the Rockman cover art in Japan was lovely, Mega Man’s debut in the West brought with it cover art so atrocious that fans still complain about it to this day. Turns out Morici was involved in that decision as well, but he places the blame somewhere else completely.
…if you remember the first Mega Man game’s box, it looked like hell. The reason it was so bad was because we had literally 24 hours to turn it around. Nintendo said, “We need we need your artwork by tomorrow.” Somebody worked all night long to come up with this garbage-looking box, and then we released it because we had no choice. The first Mega Man did okay, then subsequent Mega Man games continued to do better and better and better.
This is just a snippet of information from the full interview, which details a ton of decisions and discussions that took place at Capcom back in the day. To see more of what Morici has to say, read the full interview here.