Almost every member of the Fighting Game Community is happy to see the resurrection of fighting games. This really shows that ‘times are a-changin’. The stats from EVO 2011 showed more than 2 million unique viewers online watching the stream and roughly 4,000 participants. This alone is evidence that fighting games can hang with the big boys of competitive gaming, such as Halo, Gears of War, and Call of Duty. With the influx of popularity in fighting games, has the fighting game community fallen into the trap of gullible consumers?
There is no doubt that the success of Street Fighter IV is the prime reason for the consistent release of fighting games in present day. Before its release, Capcom did not release a Street Fighter series title since Street Fighter III 3rd Strike in 1999. In the time in between, American arcades and fighting game community was slowly dying due to lack of new competitive fighting games and discarded projects. This left the fighting game community with the same games for over ten years. Therefore, it left them the time to explore and discover the ins and outs of their favorite games. Some of these revelations were that MvC2 had six competitive characters while SFIII 3rd Strike had only three top tier characters and three competitive characters, and CvS2 had roll cancels. The games were at their peak with little left to discover, allowing them to become stale. In 2008, Capcom took the financial risk to release Street Fighter IV in arcade. Then it was released in early 2009 for home consoles in a supposedly dead fighting game market in an attempt to possibly revitalize the genre. To their credit, they created a game that brought players back to fighting games with its iconic characters in a visually stimulating 3D graphics with traditional 2D gameplay. Street Fighter IV was a success, selling out in Japan on opening day and as of March 2011 Capcom sold 3.1 million units worldwide, helping to revitalize the EVO Series tournament with record breaking participants. All of these successes brings us back to the main point: Is it possible that this success is starting to exploit its loyal customers?
With their first StreetFighter titled game in over ten years, Capcom should be given the benefit of the doubt that SF4would not be the perfect game. However, it left players wanting Capcom to “fix” the game. In April 2010, Capcom released the definitive final version of the SF4 series, Super Street Fighter IV with ten new characters, two ultra moves per character, and added features. With a total of 35 characters and 4,900 matchup possibilities, SSF4 added to the depth of exploration that makes fighting games unique to any other video game genre. Then in December of 2010, Capcom released another edition of the Street Fighter IV series: Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition. This was initially released in arcades then to home consoles in June 2011 due to popular demand. What are the factors for Capcom to deliver revisions within the same calendar year such as Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3?
One factor that has forced multiple division releases is the incredibility fast rate of game knowledge. This is all thanks to the greatest resource in the world: The Internet. Acquiring game knowledge used to consists of going out and meeting at a local arcade to watch high level matches, trade matchups with other tournament level players, obtaining copies of matches or combo videos via VHS tapes or surfing alt.games.sf2 while trying not to be trolled by your favorite now coined Street Fighter OG’s like David Sirlin. Now players, novice or expert, can sit at home comfortably and watch top level matches of Diago Umehera versus The World at their own convenience. When game breaking technology is discovered, it is instantly put on the internet for thousands of people to obtain instantly instead of weeks or months for a local player to discover it. This instant gratification is apparent in all parts of society across the world but has it dramatically affected the fighting game community along with its growing popularity?
First and foremost, Capcom is a business, they are not a charity, a best friend, or a neighbor. Their business is making money, not putting out your favorite game and therefore putting a smile on your face. They sell video games to make money, and if it makes you happy, that could be seen as a bonus. Capcom contracts other companies such as Dimps who spend long hours creating sprites in the games people love. The risk of Street Fighter IV in 2009 turned to profit for Capcom. The question is, how much can they maximize their profits? Putting out DLC costumes, avatars, wallpapers, and so on are ways to test for demands. Increased demand of newer content along with the increased physical sales of the SF4 series and MvC3 have proven to Capcom that fighting games can help turn a profit once again with the new generation of gamers. Is possible that fighting game consumers are starting to resemble another large gaming community?
Across all forms of media including, TV commercials, internet, gaming websites, and game reviews, First Person Shooters (FPS) are the dominant genre in console video games with series including Halo, Call of Duty, Battlefield, Killzone, and Gears of War. It seems every month there is a new FPS that is the new craze and then fades as the next FPS the following month arrives and reigns supreme. Gaming companies are looking to cash in on the hot trend to maximize their profits to gullible consumers who simply buy the game because it is new, not necessarily better. Has the fighting game community consumers become blinded because of the lack of games for a ten year span? Has the most dominant fighting game producer, Capcom, realized by starving its consumers that they will now buy any fighting game with Ryu and Chun-Li no matter if the quality may be sub par in the eyes of the competitive player? Does the rise in popularity help or hinder the product. These answers will vary from player to player.
Street Fighter IV series producer, Yoshinori Ono, was so proud to stand behind his product of the first two previous Street Fighter IV editions, one has to wonder why would he apologize for the latest? The decision to update the series does not come from Ono but from corporate leaders within the company who, as previously stated, simply want to make money. With a dedicated fanbase demanding more content in a growing market of video games with no ceiling, it makes business sense to push a series to its financial limits. Street Fighter and fighting games is only a small portion of Capcom’s major titles. Monster Hunter 3 for PSP sold more copies in Japan alone than the Street Fighter IV worldwide. Putting out a subpar edition will not financially hurt Capcom or tarnish its gullible patrons who buy the games regardless of quality.
A short interview released after the initial completion of this article with Yoshinori Ono, is the tale tell sign of Capcom’s intentions in regards to fighting games. He states how he does not want the games to die and will continue to rebalance or patch. At this point, the words rebalance and patch might as well mean ‘gimme the loot’. He also amazingly states how Capcom will make competitive and non-competitive fighting games. So will the competitive fighting game player participate in a game that is not built for competitive play? In this scenario, the competitive fighting game player will purchase any Capcom related fighting game in hopes that it is the game they have been waiting ten years for. But with a gullible market who will buy any Capcom related title, chances of a new game being “the best” is slim considering the corporate business strategy of frequent title releases. However, without the financial support of the consumer buying new releases, the fighting game genre could possibly fall into another ten year depression.
Once again, this is not implying Capcom should not update their games. It is a partially objective and subjective take on the now frequent release of fighting game updates. It is a never-ending revolving door of supply and demand, with the consumers mixed on what they want and the supplier unable to fulfill the needs of susceptible customers. It is simply to satisfy their business practice of ‘getting paid’. Quality is being sacrificed for quantity which at some point will hopefully develop games for every fighting game player to enjoy at all skill levels.
*Charts taken from the official Capcom website.