It’s been a very tough year for Street Fighter V. Numerous issues blighted its launch period while long-time fans have grown disenchanted with the state of the game. Capcom have worked over the past 12 months to correct this course, trying to tempt gamers back and building a solid core experience. But the reality is that try as they might, mud sticks and for Street Fighter V, it seems that momentum for the game has staggered to an awkward crawl. The question is, how long should Capcom give itself before giving up on its troubled title?
It’s not hyperbole to say that it’s been a bad year for the Street Fighter franchise. On Steam the game retains a hugely mixed rating – a sign that PC gamers by and large are still unimpressed. More recent reviews skew to positive, but with fighting game staples like an Arcade Mode missing in action, there’s a feeling that the game still isn’t up to standard many expect from a AAA-fighting game. Perhaps more troubling for Capcom; numerous gaming outlets reported last week that the game just isn’t shifting units anymore.
It’s all very different to when Street Fighter V was unveiled. Back then it was a huge coup for Sony that Capcom’s insanely popular Street Fighter would be skipping Xbox One entirely. Given how important Xbox 360 had been in pushing Street Fighter IV and its spin-offs – it’s understandable why gamers saw this move as a huge shift. Yet almost a year after launch, the game has been relegated to a complete afterthought. People are singing Sony’s praises, but Street Fighter barely gets a mention. Honestly, I suspect many gamers have forgotten about the game entirely.
Even those who have hung around aren’t without complaints. The current state of the game’s character balancing has left some of the communities more prominent members infuriated, while Capcom’s push to squeeze new characters out as DLC smacks of poor decision-making. The Season 2 update brought change, but it didn’t change nearly enough or add content in that made people feel excited about the game. It seems every decision Capcom with the game only serves to alienate yet more gamers, and stops the game from achieving its potential.
It raises the question, how long will Capcom stand by the game as it stagnates? Given how much support Street Fighter IV received post-launch, its reasonable to expect that the company wanted Street Fighter V’s platform to go for many years. Even before release, they talked about Street Fighter V more as a platform than an entry into the series. It made sense at the time, when hype for the game was fever pitch and gamers were anticipating something special. But given how the first year has played out, and seeing wider interest dissipate with such speed, is there really any point in hanging around when it seems that platform isn’t reaching its potential?
I suspect part of the problem for Capcom is that they’re being held back by negative press surrounding the title. When the original Street Fighter IV came out in February 2009, it wasn’t long before the company was trying to find ways to make money off the game’s popularity. Not 15 months after launch, Super Street Fighter IV arrived as paid DLC and started a trend of the company releasing updates for the game that resulted in Ultra Street Fighter IV. It’s already begun this trend in Street Fighter V, putting characters and stages behind paywalls.
The problem is fans aren’t happy with this, something you don’t have to look far to find on the games community websites. New characters and content are arriving, but given how bare bones the game was upon its launch – some of those who paid full price feel like they’re being ripped off. Will these gamers go out to buy Ultra Street Fighter V when it inevitably touches down? I highly doubt it.
There’s also the awkwardness surrounding the situation of console exclusivity. I don’t like to stoke console fanboyism, but I do believe Capcom was very short-sighted in cutting out Xbox One owners. It was a pure business decision, made by Sony and Capcom to appease their bottom line and drive sales of PlayStation 4 consoles. The end result of this is a year after launch, there’s barely any coverage of Street Fighter V on PlayStation outside of the EVO competition. The game would likely be in a better position if it was available on both consoles, as it has been in the past.
It’s the same reason Rise of the Tomb Raider did so poorly on Xbox One as an exclusive, sometimes franchises don’t sell systems. They work better as cross-platform entries as their fans aren’t willing to make the jump. Compare the 3.4 million lifetime sales of Street Fighter IV to those 1.4 million of Street Fighter V, and it’s easy to see that fans haven’t been convinced to make that jump. It might have sold Sony some consoles, but it’s left Capcom without a huge slice of its fan base.
For Capcom, the question of whether to continue supporting Street Fighter V ultimately comes down to how long fans are willing to give the game. DLC has long been a huge part of Capcom’s strategy in gaming, and as long as fans are continuing to buy DLC with real money, there continues to be a reason to stand by the game. Eventually though, these gamers will move on and stop investing if they don’t see the returns Street Fighter V promised. I do believe Capcom need to make it right, and change perceptions of the game. But with so much negative press around the game and a community so uninspired – the company needs to make it right soon. Otherwise it may find itself hanging on to a game that no one cares about.