Yeah! You heard me! Street Fighter is killing fighting games! Yes, I am well aware that Street Fighter IV was largely responsible for the resurrection of the fighting game genre, and yes, I’m aware that Street Fighter IV has turned the eyes of people who would have never given the fighting-game community a second look. I’m also not saying that Street Fighter is a bad fighting game. On the contrary, it’s decently balanced, fun to play, incredibly deep, and is one of the bestselling fighting games in existence. Yet regardless of all of this, Street Fighter is still acting as one of the most disruptive entities in the fighting-game market today. Why? Several reasons.
Reason #1: Street Fighter is the Call of Duty of fighting games.
By this I mean that every other fighting game producer is trying to chase Street Fighter money. Every fighting game developer wants Street Fighter’s level of success. Unfortunately, this is impossible.
You see, it’s difficult to seriously play multiple fighting games. Pro players tend to focus on only two or three titles, if even that. Casual gamers also tend to gravitate toward the game that they are best at or the game their friends are playing. So the only way another fighting game can see a Street Fighter level of success is if everyone spontaneously stops playing Street Fighter, which isn’t going to happen. Heck, even Street Fighter can’t beat Street Fighter. Street Fighter X Tekken largely failed because Street Fighter players enjoyed the original Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition Version 2012 better.
If companies continue to chase Street Fighter money, then they will, unfortunately, be doomed to failure and disappointment. Game developers, instead, need to pull back their expectations to better fit the trickle of fighting-game players Street Fighter is willing to give up.
Reason #2: The fighting game community looks at Street Fighter’s success as its own.
I had an enlightening series of conversations at the East Coast Throwdown major fighting-game tournament this year. I decided to ask people what tournaments they entered and why. Several answers were what you would expect: “I entered this tournament because it’s my favorite game”; “I entered this tournament because it’s the game I’m best at”; and even, “I entered this tournament because my friends entered.”
However, Street Fighter entries gave me a fourth response that somewhat baffled me. There was a very large group of players that were entering the Street Fighter tournament, not because they liked the game, not because they were good at the game, but because they thought it was the right thing to do. Specifically, they wanted to “support” the tournament scene and show people that we can get record numbers, and since Street Fighter was the biggest tournament there, they found it only natural to make it bigger.
But then some of these tournament goers said that they only had the money to enter one or two tournaments, and they chose Street Fighter over the game they actually liked. People kept saying they would rather play Guilty Gear, Vampire Savior, Mortal Kombat, or what have you, and yet they chose to enter Street Fighter instead, completely polarizing the tournament and denying smaller games much needed participants.
Reason #3: Street Fighter has a lot of money and uses that money to stay on top.
At EVO, you can easily play in a Street Fighter tournament with prize pots that begin at $20,000 or more. (This is before anyone even enters!) You can literally earn a decent year’s salary just by taking first in an EVO Street Fighter tournament. Much of this money comes from Capcom, Madcatz, and other companies that continue to push Street Fighter as the king of all fighting games.
What does this mean for players? Well, first of all, it means that players with a limited amount of money to spend on tournaments will enter Street Fighter for a chance at the big prize pool. Secondly, it creates an almost unfair expectation by pro gamers who enjoy other games. If you have a choice between entering a Street Fighter tournament and making a year’s salary or entering the tournament of your favorite game and bringing home maybe 500 dollars, which one are you going to pick?
The thing is, casual fighting gamers follow professional fighting gamers. Whole fanbases play games that pros give their support to. No one stops to think that these pros may be giving their support to Street Fighter for practical reasons, not because it’s actually their favorite game.
Reason #4: What happens when Street Fighter dies?
The first three reasons I posted showed that Street Fighter is forcing the fighting-game community and the fighting-game industry to rely on it. Street Fighter is run at nearly every fighting game tournament in existence, and fewer and fewer fighting games are being made because everyone is playing Street Fighter.
At this year’s E3, there were only four fighting games to play. Two were updates to existing properties (Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate and Blazblue Chrono Phantasma). One was Divekick, and one was Killer Instinct. So, let me repeat that: Two games were updates to existing franchises, one was an indie title with two buttons, and one was an Xbox One exclusive. Not exactly looking great compared to the million and one shooters/action games we saw on the floor.
So if publishers don’t think it’s worth it to invest in fighting games because Street Fighter is ruling the roost, then what happens when Street Fighter inevitably dies? Maybe it will happen when we transition into the next console generation. Or maybe it will happen later due to a natural declining interest. What game will we play then? Will we play any? Will we encounter another fighting-game slump? Will we forget about the genre for another ten years until Street Fighter revives it?
Simply put, Street Fighter is making us put all of our eggs in one basket, and if that basket breaks, we may be facing another fighting-game crash. The best way to support this genre is to play a variety of different fighting games and stick with the ones we love most of all. Sure, this will still make Street Fighter come out on top but not to the extent it has now. Maybe then, we will have a cushion set up for when this egg basket breaks.
Senior Contributing Writer