Street Fighter V may not have sold as many copies as Capcom would have liked it to after it launched in 2016, but it’s been slowly making up for lost time. The developer had hoped that the latest installment of their legendary fighting series would shift two million copies within the year of its release. It didn’t, but it’s still slowly racking up sales today, and is closing in on three million. That’s still a long way short of the incredible fifteen million sales that Street Fighter II racked up during the 1990s, but let’s face it – no fighting game is ever going to be as big a deal as Street Fighter II was.
There have been several reasons suggested as to why the fifth installment of the popular series has failed to sell in the same way Street Fighter installments of the past have – even Street Fighter IV managed to sell nine million copies – but most of them are variations on the same theme. The game felt like it was released incomplete, and then bled players dry through DLC and extra features if they wanted a more complete playing experience. Extra characters were sometimes $10 a time. A new costume for a character could be $4. Street Fighter V began to feel less like a game, and more like an expensive maintenance project. Shortly after it was launched, some media outlets openly referred to the game as ‘disastrous.’
The Pull Of Nostalgia
Not all of the criticism revolved around the fact that the game was little more than bare-bones at launch, and charged for any improvement you tried to make to it. Some felt that there were too few characters from the past in the game. To hardcore gaming fans, the entire cast of every Street Fighter game ever made is familiar. To casual gamers, though – the kind of gamers Capcom would need to appeal to If they ever watched to get past ten million sales with a Street Fighter game again – the characters in Street Fighter have never changed since the mid-1990s. To them, Street Fighter will always be about Ryu, Ken, Blanka, M. Bison, Chun Li, E. Honda, Zangief and the rest. To put it another way, it’s about the cast of Street Fighter II.
If you weren’t around and playing games in the early 90s, it’s hard to state how big the impact of Street Fighter II was. It was the only game every kid in the playground wanted from their parents. It was a pop culture phenomenon long before ‘going viral’ (or even the internet) was ‘a thing.’ Such is its legend that it’s one of the very few video games ever to be reimagined as a mobile slots game. There are mobile slots based on Tomb Raider, mobile slots based on Call of Duty, and mobile slots based on Worms – and that’s about it. Even Sega’s venture into mobile slots was shut down when Sega Slots failed. Street Fighter II is still there on some slots websites, making money. Street Fighter III, IV, and V are not.
If Capcom had wanted to use that nostalgic lure to their advantage, all they had to do was make sure all the characters from Street Fighter II were present and correct in Street Fighter V at launch. They didn’t do that. Inexplicably, they still haven’t done so until now. Finally, after three years, E. Honda is completing the set by making his Street Fighter V debut in the next round of downloadable content.
Along with the character of E. Honda comes Poison, Lucia, and a change in the way the game is marketed.
Free To Play
For the first eleven days of August, Street Fighter V will be free to play as a trial, in an attempt to make the aging game inviting to new players. Anyone who agrees to the trial is free to play a version of the game which includes all of the characters up to and including the third ‘season’ of downloadable content, which included Street Fighter II favorite Blanka. After the trial ends, players can decide whether they want to keep the game and spend money to unlock the full version. If they do, it’s anticipated that the price will be significantly reduced.
It’s the second initiative aimed at reducing costs within the game within the past six months from Capcom, who also did away with the unpopular season pass system at the end of 2018. None of this will be of much comfort to players who have already spent hundreds of dollars on the game since it was launched, but a fresh influx of new players might give Street Fighter V a new lease of life online.
No Street Fighter 6
There had been rumors that Street Fighter 6 would be announced or even previewed at this year’s Evo fighting game tournament, but those rumors turned out to be unfounded. Capcom’s producer Yoshinori Ono spoke out before the tournament to quell the rumors, stating that he ‘doesn’t have’ Street Fighter 6 at the moment. Some have taken his words to mean that the sequel isn’t currently in development.
It would be a surprise not to see a further Street Fighter game in the future, but anyone expecting one only three years after Street Fighter V hasn’t been paying attention to the way the series has progressed. It’s been thirty-two years since the first Street Fighter game, and in that whole time, we’ve only had five ‘official’ Street Fighters, along with various deluxe or otherwise amended variants of each version. Given the eight-year gap between Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V, Street Fighter VI probably won’t be on the horizon until the mid-2020s.
Not only does that mean there won’t be a new Street Fighter on the next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles – there may not even be a new take on the game on whichever consoles succeed them. Given that game streaming is about to become a reality, and Google and Apple are entering the marketplace, who’s to say what hardware we’ll even be playing games on by then?