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Is There Any Hope for Street Fighter 5 at This Point?

A year after release the fighting game staple is still grasping for the mass audience reach.

Games launching with missing features is, unfortunately, a common occurrence these days. Grand Theft Auto V got away with releasing online features two weeks late (with server issues), but Street Fighter V’s lackluster launch was a major disappointment for both veteran and casual fans of the series. A year after release, the game has sold only 1.5 million copies and has yet to capture the attention of a large audience like its predecessors did.

Released in February 2016, SFV was praised for its mechanics and gameplay, but criticized for launching without a proper arcade mode, its lack of characters, and its crippling server issues, which were prevalent enough to warrant a comment from Capcom CEO Kenzo Tsujimoto about the game's launch:

"Based on what we learned from the past year of operations, it’s best to spend a little more time in developing and running a high-quality title that will perform well globally.

For example, some aspects of “Street Fighter V” needed more polish, such as the lack of content and server issues at launch."

Although Capcom has since addressed their server issues and rage quitting problems that plagued the game at launch, SFV still doesn’t have a proper arcade mode and has depended on its modding community to fix load times. On top of that, Capcom’s financial earnings page shows that Street Fighter V has only sold 100,000 copies between May 2016 and February 2017 -- significantly less than other games in the franchise over a similar period of time.

Missing a number of single-player features and locking new characters behind a rather expensive paywall has deterred new and casual players from getting into the game. Regardless of its fluid combat, mechanically sound gameplay, and great graphics, Street Fighter V fails to emulate the “games as a service” method that worked so well for Street Fighter IV.

SFV's two season passes even surpass the price of the base game itself -- while only adding 12 new characters to the roster, five of which have yet to be released.

This puts Capcom in an unfortunate position: Fans who purchased the game at launch feel like they’re spending too much money on a half-finished product, while casual players may be put off by the game's initially poor reception -- along with having to spend over $80 to get everything in the game, even as a bundle.

Professional players like Daigo are still sticking to their roots, but many are having trouble sticking to the game due to balance issues.

These issues could be driving players to other fighting games to get their fix. After months of being ignored, Mortal Kombat X is starting to have a thriving community on PC. The first Injustice game was fantastic, and the sequel is gearing up to do just as well. Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 and Tekken 7 will join the two previous titles at EVO 2017 after their release. If all these anticipated titles have acceptable launches and polish up their already solid formulas, they could soon take the crown from the undisputed fighting game king.

Some games like Skullgirls and The King of Fighters are already growing in popularity in online communities as well. An appealing low price of entry along with varied, balanced characters are drawing PC and console players to these fighting games.

One thing is clear, though, and that is Capcom is dedicated to its hardcore audience and those interested in the fighting game community. Whether met with positive reception or not, developers are still (a year later) working on balancing the game and putting heavy emphasis on the eSports scene. Street Fighter V broke records last year for the number of entrants at EVO 2016 and will be streamed on TBS during the ELeague Invitational this year, boasting a $250,000 prize pool.

In order to repair its reputation and draw its audience back in, Capcom is going to have to seriously overhaul Street Fighter V. The game could very well be revitalized with an updated release, similar to Super Street Fighter IV, bundling in all of the DLC characters with a major content upgrade. Catering to the hardcore audience is the best course of action to keep players continuously engaged, but without any focus on the casual audience, Street Fighter V is easily missing out on millions of potential sales.

Published Feb. 27th 2017

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