Capcom’s recent comments on when we can expect the next major upgrade in Street Fighter have led me to start thinking the company might be crawling back into its shell in regards to fighting games. If that’s true (I’m really only basing this on feelings), then I wonder what it spells for fighting games going into next gen. Could we see a repeat of the PS2 era?
“It took six years to go from Street Fighter II to Street Fighter III, and nine years to go from Street Fighter III to Street Fighter IV. Purely based on that it would probably take us until the year 2018 before Street Fighter V comes out,” said producer Tomoaki Ayano. The reason it took almost a decade for another Street Fighter to come out though is because Capcom had basically given up on the franchise.
We’ve had a bit of an explosion of fighting games this past console generation, but we also need to remember that the genre on consoles was shrinking during the PS2 era in terms of popularity. It got to the point where at the beginning of this console generation games like Virtua Fighter had little hope of success outside of Japanese arcades. According to a profile Eurogamer did last year on SFIV producer Yoshinori Ono, Capcom didn’t believe another Street Fighter would garner a good return of investment in this climate.
Ono apparently had to lobby Capcom for years to get SFIV greenlit. “The company kept telling me: ‘It’s a dead franchise. It doesn’t make any money,’” he said. Is it possible he might have to do that again after Ultra Street Fighter IV?
It’s possible that the market for fighting games on PS3 and Xbox 360 actually got oversaturated. I know I probably have too many fighters on my PS3 to devote adequate time to — I’ve had an unplayed copy of Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown sitting on my hard drive for weeks. Capcom did well to release new Street Fighter and Marvel vs Capcom games, but Street Fighter x Tekken fell short of Capcom’s projections, and they’ve blamed it on market cannibalism. Then you’ve got all the digital re-releases of older fighting games, culminating in the disappointing sales of the Darkstalkers re-release. I wouldn’t be surprised if Capcom decided to ease up on fighters for a while. It’ll be a problem though if this blunts the popularity of that genre going into next-gen.
Capcom is more or less the center of the Fighting Game Community — by that I mean the community that encircles events like Evo or places like Shoryuken.com. Sure a bunch of other games from other companies were at Evo 2013, but Marvel and SFIV were far and away the main events. The recent fighter renaissance arguably started with SFIV’s release in 2008.
As niche as fighters seemed during the PS2 era, pretty much every major fighter developer released multiple new games back then… except Capcom. You had new games from Namco, Sega, SNK, Midway, and Arc System Works, but basically nothing original from Capcom (unless you wanna count Street Fighter EX 3). During the preceding PSX and Dremacast days Capcom liberally released console ports of their latest arcade games like Street Fighter Alpha, Marvel vs Capcom, and Capcom vs SNK. During the PS2 era all they put out were re-releases of older fighters.
Is it a stretch to say Capcom’s investment in fighting games has an effect on the popularity of the genre as a whole?
I think it’s reasonable to expect the other developers to release new entries in their franchises on PS4 and Xbox One. Of course you’ve got Killer Instinct right out of the gate, and I think someone involved with Mortal Kombat let slip plans for a new game. We don’t know what platforms Guilty Gear Xrd is coming out on.
Now I’m not expecting SFV next year or anything like that. It’d be nice though if I could be confident Capcom was already making plans for the game on next-gen hardware. 2015 or 2016 would be nice in my opinion, but 2018 to me sounds like Capcom’s thinking of taking a rest on fighters — one of the company’s main strengths.