Anyone who has followed Capcom and the Street Fighter series knows its knack for some frustrating business practices. Fans have been complaining for years about having to pay full price for only slightly improved games with marginally larger casts. Street Fighter II boasts six standard versions and a more recent HD remake, not including games on separate consoles, while more recently Street Fighter IV had three — technically five if you want to include Arcade Edition and Version 2012. So when Capcom announced that Street Fighter V would follow a much simpler model, I was not alone in being fairly optimistic that the company had finally listened.
Street Fighter V would be the only version of the game. All content updates, bug fixes, and tweaks would be implemented through free updates along with DLC characters on a monthly basis, with the option to eventually either purchase DLC through in-game fight money called Zenny or actual currency.
What Went Wrong with Street Fighter V?
While Capcom delivered on its base promises, it didn’t meet its projected numbers, selling only 1.4 million of the projected 2 million units. So, what went wrong? It really looked like Capcom was finally changing its ways and giving fans what they wanted. Some might blame the Street Fighter V engine itself. Street Fighter V departs from its predecessor in many ways, and a whole generation of people who’d grown accustomed to over eight years of using specific engine rules and frame data had to learn new timing and rules. I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that; The fighting game community has always shown an ability to adapt quickly and accept new systems of play. I believe that if we look at SFV as a product, we’ll see why people didn’t rise up to buy the game in droves.
Getting Your Fight Money’s Worth
Street Fighter V is a full-priced game, but those who pre-ordered or bought the game right at launch didn’t get the full game they paid for. The net code for online play was a mess upon release, with several bugs and glitches that created unbalanced matches. People who bought a Season Pass found themselves playing pretty much the same game as everyone else, having to pay for things like stages with minor changes to them. In that sense, it’s really more of the same, only the consumer feels even more cheated as they specifically bought a Season Pass to get all post-release content. The game was also missing some very basic features that fans have come to expect from fighting games over the years, such as a robust training mode and a story mode.
Not The Same Old Story Mode
It’s become somewhat standard now that most modern fighting games, though generally played for their online and PvP, have in-depth campaign modes that allow players to get immersed in the game’s lore. Look to Netherrealm Studio’s Mortal Kombat (2009) and its sprawling tale as a shining example. Even Street Fighter IV had a basic but playable Single Player mode, with anime-style character intros and endings.
On release, Street Fighter V had no true arcade mode and a heavily limited story mode with only a few non-animated storyboard-like images shown with a paltry three to four fights. It’s true that a full story mode, complete with cinematics, did launch in June, and it continues to expand with the addition of DLC characters. But the full mode should have been there from the beginning, and people who have been playing the game since day one spent months feeling like they hadn’t gotten their money’s worth.
Dropping the Ball on Planned Updates
As mentioned before, Capcom’s original DLC plan was to release a character every month, and up until May, they had been living up to their promise. However, there was a major blunder in communication in May when Capcom presented Ibuki as the next DLC character, then announced that she, along with a game patch wouldn’t be available until the end of June. Fans did not respond well, and Capcom’s reputation took at hit for not delivering on time.
Does the New Release Model for Street Fighter V Work?
As it stands now, the new release model for Street Fighter V isn’t working. If Capcom was able to fully deliver on its promises, the model has the potential to work quite well, though. Other companies, such as Telltale Games, have found a great deal of success from an episodic release formula. Killer Instinct for the Xbox One has seen success with a seasonal release schedule and regular character and feature releases (albeit with a more consistent implementation). Unfortunately, Capcom appears to be floundering. With Street Fighter V replacing its predecessor in 2016’s EVO tournament and now that they seem to be back on track with DLC character releases, maybe the numbers will pick up. But for now, the gamers have spoken, and Capcom needs to pick itself up off the mat and step up its fight game if it wants to deliver a knockout victory.