Street Fighter V: A Failed Game That Refuses to Die
In 2009, Capcom released Street Fighter IV to thunderous applause and near-universal praise. It pretty much single-handedly revived interest in fighting games among the mainstream audience, and brought forth a whole new age of competitive fighting games. Though some argued that it wasn’t quite as good as its predecessor, Street Fighter III: Third Strike, most people seemed to agree that it was still pretty darn great and a worthy successor to the Street Fighter name. Capcom would go on to release several more versions and updates to Street Fighter IV over the next few years, with each one better than the last.
At the time, it seemed that Capcom’s fighting game division could do no wrong.
But in 2012, Capcom released Street Fighter x Tekken, which ended up being a massive failure due to poor mechanics, game-breaking bugs (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo89Gf6imlY) and some of the worst DLC practices in any game at the time. Capcom quickly swept the game under the rug, gave us more Street Fighter IV content, promised us that they’d learned from their mistakes, and that Street Fighter V would be much better.
The reveal trailer for Street Fighter V.
A few years later, Capcom announced Street Fighter V, a brand new game that was meant to completely succeed Street Fighter IV, replacing it as Capcom’s premiere fighting game. Initial impressions were mixed, with the biggest concern being that the game’s graphics looked a bit unpolished. Capcom assured fans that everything would look and play even better by the time the game was released. They revealed several new characters for the game, some of them returning from Street Fighter IV, some of them brand new, and others that hadn’t been seen in the series for many years. Capcom was building hype for the game higher and higher, and most fans of the series were extremely excited to finally get their hands on Street Fighter V.
And then the first public beta came out. Turns out they didn’t learn a godd*mn thing from Street Fighter x Tekken’s failure.
Those promises of improved graphics?
Complete lies. The game was as ugly and unpolished as it appeared in its first trailer.
The roster? Completely gutted, compared to the massive roster from Ultra Street Fighter IV.
Modes? No arcade mode, and not even a proper VS CPU mode were available at launch.
But worst of all was the gameplay, which felt stiff and lifeless, lacking all of the depth that the Street Fighter IV series had. Characters had some of their most notable moves locked behind a meter mechanic, and several characters had been pretty much completely redesigned to the point where their fighting style no longer even remotely resembled the fighting style that fans had come to love.
As if the game being inherently flawed at its core wasn’t bad enough, the pre-release and early launch window were met with a plethora of problems. The game required you to be logged in to obtain any Fight Money (in-game currency, more on that later) or access certain single-player modes, yet the servers were terribly unstable, causing players to get outright booted back to the main menu in the middle of offline matches because the servers dropped their connection. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a quick fix, and it took quite a while for the servers to actually become somewhat reliable. Or perhaps they become more stable as a result of the rapidly declining playerbase of dissatisfied customers…
Imagine defeating 99 foes out of 100 and then being booted back to the menu and losing all your progress.
Prior to release, Capcom announced that using Fight Money, players could purchase DLC characters, costumes and so on, instead of using real money if they desired. This sounded like a great idea at the time, but unfortunately this announcement was just another layer of half-truths and lies. Even though you technically could buy some of these things with Fight Money, many costumes were only purchasable with real money, and it was completely infeasible for most people to gain enough Fight Money to buy much of the content available.
It cost a huge amount of Fight Money to buy even one DLC character, and there simply weren’t any options to quickly gain Fight Money, other than to play Survival Mode, which was almost impossible for all but the most hardcore of players to clear on the higher (and better paying) difficulties, especially due to the frequent disconnects that booted you back to the menu and undid all of your progress. So naturally, people decided to try and cheat their Fight Money count using external programs on the PC version of the game.
Capcom, not wanting people to exploit their system that was clearly designed only as an excuse to seem like they were being pro-consumer when in reality they expected players to just give up on the grind and pay for the DLC with real money, decided to try and do something about the hacking problem.
What they ended up doing was probably the dumbest thing that they could have possibly done.
Capcom updated Street Fighter V with an “anti-cheat” mechanism, which turned out to actually be a rootkit that was so poorly designed that it pretty much opened every Street Fighter V owner’s PC wide open to hackers. The backlash was immediate and fierce, and while they did roll back the update and remove the rootkit pretty quickly, the damage had been done. Players were furious, and many people uninstalled and even asked for refunds on the game over this incident. This was the first of many nails in Street Fighter V’s coffin.
After that, things were a bit quiet for a while, aside from players being disappointed at the lackluster DLC character roster. Each time a new character was announced by Street Fighter V’s resident clown–I mean producer, Yoshinori Ono, it became clearer that Capcom had lost their direction with the game, as each new character felt farther and farther away from what players expected out of a Street Fighter game. Player counts were down, sales were abysmal, and people were beginning to wonder at this point if Street Fighter V had any future at all.
Yes, this monstrosity is something that Capcom actually expected people to pay real money for.
But Capcom didn’t seem to care. They just keep doubling down on the terrible character designs, awful DLC practices, and no worthwhile improvements to overall gameplay during Street Fighter V’s second season. It seemed like the only things that mattered to Capcom at this point were making a profit off of DLC, and keeping the Capcom Pro Tour running, instead of actually making a game that people wanted to play. People had fled Street Fighter V to other, better fighting games, such as Tekken 7 and Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, and player numbers were at an all time low. But then something surprising happened.
The reveal trailer for Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition.
Capcom announced a new edition of the game, called Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, a free update which brought with it the long-awaited Arcade Mode (which should have been in the game from day 1), as well as several new characters that actually looked much more impressive than anything announced for the game in a long while. A lot of people were considering coming back to the game, since it looked like Capcom might finally have gotten their crap together and put out an update with significant improvements to the game. And when Arcade Edition launched, it ushered in a new era for Street Fighter V, that fixed all of the issues with the game and made it one of the most highly-praised fighting games in history.
Just kidding. They put ads in the game and everyone went back to laughing at Capcom and playing other games.
No, this is not a joke.
That’s right, Capcom put ads in the game.
Now, to be fair, you could turn the ads off entirely, but if you opted in, you got a little bit of Fight Money each time you watched one of the pre-match ads or fought in a battle with costumes featuring ads. Keep in mind, they had already gutted the Fight Money system, halving or completely eliminating most other ways of obtaining it. Also keep in mind that this was originally a $60 full priced game that had been out for a few years now, and was now injecting ads into matches. If that doesn’t scream desperate, I don’t know what does.
The improvements to the overall gameplay in season three were negligible, the game was still ugly as sin, the DLC gouging had gotten even worse, and now there were ads in the game! Now, to be fair, many of the ads were just Capcom advertising their own products and services, but it was still incredibly tacky and desperate. Everyone could tell at this point–Street Fighter V was on its last legs.
Unfortunately, Capcom themselves still didn’t get the memo that the game was dead and was the biggest laughingstock in the fighting game community (aside from Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, also a Capcom game). Almost a year later, Capcom finally announced a single new DLC character named Kage (who is basically just Eviler Ryu), instead of revealing an entire season as they had done before. And then after that, things were mostly silent up until it came time to announce the games that would be played at Evo 2019, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world.
For the first time in many, many years, a Street Fighter game was not the headline game of the Evolution Championship Series. Instead, it was pushed back to third position, behind Tekken 7 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Capcom had been dethroned from Evo, and it was a major hit to the morale of the remaining Street Fighter V community. But alas, this was not the last terrible thing that would happen to Capcom at Evo 2019.
A few days prior to the biggest fighting game event of the year, a trailer for three new DLC characters for Street Fighter V was uploaded to the Steam store page for the game before they had been officially announced. This was supposed to be Capcom’s big announcement at Evo, but someone’s screw-up completely blew the surprise for them. It was a devastating blow to producer Yoshinori Ono, who appeared to be completely heartbroken over the incident. Though he did promise that more surprises would be coming to Street Fighter V sometime this winter, Capcom’s big summer surprise had been ruined.
And as you might imagine… no, there still aren’t any significant improvements to the game that have convinced players who have quit the game to come back. It’s just more DLC, which Capcom hasn’t seemed to realize isn’t going to bring players back in. The game is truly on its deathbed, and I’m honestly quite amazed that it has lasted as long as it has. At first, I was angry with the game, and angry at myself for preordering the game for $90 (season 1 pass included). I was angry that Capcom delivered such a shoddy product, one that is, in my opinion, worse than Ultra Street Fighter IV in every single way. I was angry about the rootkit. I was angry about terrible DLC practices. I was angry about the roster. I was angry about the ads.
But now I just feel kind of sorry for the game.
I feel sorry for the players who, like me, were suckered into buying the game based on name alone.
I feel sorry for the developers, especially those that I’m sure actually wanted to make the game as good as possible, but probably got forced by upper management to make the game as cheaply as possible.
But more than anyone else, I feel the most sorry for the people who are still playing the game because they feel that eventually, Capcom just might fix the game. But they won’t, and everyone knows it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Street Fighter V doesn’t even make it to Evo 2020 at all, and I’m pretty sure that if it doesn’t, Capcom’s upper management will be utterly shocked and bewildered at how people might not want to play their awful, half-assed microtransaction-ridden pile of garbage.
Quite possibly the last time we’ll see Street Fighter V at Evo.
In my opinion, there are quite a few things that Capcom could have done to make Street Fighter V a success, even after the rocky launch. They could have improved the graphics and animation quality, which have been widely panned since the game’s first trailers. They could have made the combat feel less stiff and more in-line with previous entries in the franchise. They could have implemented better DLC practices, allowing every DLC item to be purchased with Fight Money instead of only certain things, and made Fight Money easier to obtain with a reasonable amount of effort. Heck, they could have even made the game free-to-play and given bonuses to players who bought the full game, and the game would probably be in a better state than it is in right now, because as it stands, it’s a full-priced “AAA” game that has a DLC structure like a free-to-play title, and that isn’t okay, as far as I’m concerned.
So, what lies in the future for Street Fighter V?
Personally, I think that it has no future. As I said before, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it doesn’t make it to Evo next year. I would say that the vast majority of people still playing the game are either tournament players who seek to make money from the game, or fanboys who are too stubborn to accept that the game just isn’t as good as it should be. And that’s kind of the biggest issue of all–that the game SHOULD be better. Capcom has shown us many times in the past that they can absolutely put out a high quality fighting game that is worth being played and supported for years and years, but whether it was because of time, money, executive meddling, or whatever, Street Fighter V has absolutely not lived up to Capcom’s legacy, and there’s really no excuse for it.
Here’s to hoping that Street Fighter VI isn’t anything like Street Fighter V.