Published on December 7th, 2014 | by Ricardo
The (fickle) heart of battle: Street Fighter V’s biggest gamble
Street Fighter V is coming. As a fighting game fan and lifelong fan of the series, my initial reaction was excitement followed by an exclamatory, “It’s too soon!”
Despite Street Fighter IV releasing way back in 2008, it FEELS as if the game was definitively finished this year with the release of Ultra SFIV. Jokes of Capcom releasing the same game on five separate occasions aside (which they have), this isn’t a series or a genre accustomed to swiftly moving on to the next numbered sequel.
On one hand, it’s heartening to know SF’s following is the strongest it’s been since Street Fighter II and the days of Raul Julia’s M. Bison. On another, it seems obvious the series is changing.
I speak primarily of the announcement that Street Fighter V will be exclusively for Playstation 4 and PC upon its release in 2015 and will feature cross-platform play. To be honest, I’m not shocked by this move. The console gap is closing, and it’s going to come down to exclusives (alongside other tangibles) for Sony and Microsoft to distinguish their machines. With Microsoft already touting its own exclusive fighting franchise with the new Killer Instinct, it only makes sense Sony would attempt to one-up.
Let’s be honest: With all respect to the awesome modern interpretation on Killer Instinct, there’s no question which series will drive more traffic.
But all the same let’s not get crazy. Though Street Fighter is a big “get”, it is not on par with the likes of other major franchises like Call of Duty or Assassin’s Creed in terms of market share. This is a fighting game, and comes with a certain barrier for entry that game sales have proven many won’t cross. Hence why the cross-platform support will be crucial for SFV’s success.
Long has the issue of audience segmentation plagued fighting games. If net code holds up and this PC/PS4 cross-platform support works, then Sony and Capcom will look like geniuses. They’ll have finally unified two sections of the audience into one, and that might be justification enough to have completely killed off a third section.
That third sector, however, is likely not to go quietly. Xbox LIVE was consistently a better performer for online fighting games during the SFIV era, yet now LIVE players have been left in the lurch. Whether a backlash will be enough to change console availability for the series’ future remains to be seen.
Ultimately, Sony’s Playstation Experience keynote shook one growing misconception about console gaming; that exclusives were going away. They’re not, and that’s going to spell big things for PS4.
It’s also going to mean something big for the future of Street Fighter, for better or worse.