The Disappointing, Sad, and Unavoidable Failure of Street Fighter V

Capcom gambled big on their strategy for Street Fighter V. It didn't pay off.

Capcom gambled big on their strategy for Street Fighter V. It didn't pay off.

The sales numbers are in, and even though Street Fighter V had a decent head-start, the multi-platform title has been outsold in Japan and the US by the Wii U exclusive Pokken Tournament.

This shouldn’t have happened.

The Street Fighter games are quintessential competitive fighters. They are insanely popular among casual and competitive players alike, and this new installment promised to be the be-all and end-all, with Capcom promising free updates and consistent patches to avoid any super-hyper-ultra-turbo edition rereleases.

This game, the newest in the most popular fighting game franchise in the world, was beaten by an (admittedly, amazingly fun and deep) fighting game on this generation’s least popular console. To find an explanation for this, we need to rewind to the weeks prior to the game’s release.

Capcom’s Crunch Time Gamble

Prior to the game’s release in February, Capcom found themselves up against a wall. It became clear that they would not be able to ship a completely finished product by the promised date. Now, with most games, this wouldn’t be a huge issue. The game would simply be delayed. No problem.

The issue with Street Fighter V was that it was slated to be the top-billed game at this summer’s EVO: the country’s premier fighting game tournament. If the game were to be delayed, not only would that billing be put in danger, but top players around the world would have less time to learn the mechanics of the game in order to compete at the highest level.

Capcom was faced with an incredibly difficult choice. They could either crunch to finish the multiplayer portions of the game on time and release what would essentially be an incomplete game, or delay the game and risk alienating the entire competitive scene. Capcom chose the latter, betting on the loyalty of their fans.

It didn’t pay off.

Street Fighter V’s Sales Failure

Sadly, after launch Street Fighter V had undersold Capcom’s quarterly expectations by 600,000 copies. Those of us who own the game and have been playing it regularly since its release know that this isn’t because it’s a bad game. The game itself, the mechanics, the graphics… it’s all there. It’s a Street Fighter game, and a damn good one at that.

Plus, Capcom, at least thus far, has made good on its promise to support the game and add significant content updates for free. 

None of this was enough, however, to mask the fact that many fans of the series don’t play competitively. The lack of any significant single player modes at launch turned them off, and by the time the full story mode arrives in June, it’ll be too late to win them back and try to sell them a copy. The hype train will be long gone, and those fans will simply look forward to the next King of Fighters game.

Silver Linings

That said, it’s not all a loss for Capcom. As previously mentioned, the addition of story mode in June will be huge for this game, and if their marketing team pushes again to target the casual market that passed on the game in February, the game might make up some ground in terms of sales.

And though Capcom’s gamble on their fans’ loyalty may have missed the mark, the competitive community has rallied behind Street Fighter V, and they’ve rallied hard.

Four days after signups were available, Street Fighter V broke records for number of entrants at any EVO tournament. As of a month ago, there are over 4,000 competitive gamers that will take part in the Street Fighter V tournament. That number will only rise as we get closer to July. 

Capcom’s Second Chance

Street Fighter V is an odd case. It may be a commercial failure, but in the fighting game community, it’s a massive success. Perhaps that can be traced back to the way the game was released, with only the competitive elements truly completed and finished (well, except for the multiplayer servers, but that’s a different article…). The game, in effect, self-selected its audience. Since it was purely a competitive multiplayer game at launch, competitive gamers flocked to it. 

It will be interesting to see what Capcom decides to do this summer, as the story portion of the game launches and EVO looms nearer. A second marketing push on the heels of the largest EVO tournament ever held might be just what this game needs to take the title once more.

About the author


RobotsFightingDinosaurs has been writing about games for 10 years and playing them even longer. Despite the millions of hours he's played across multiple gaming generations, his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Robots has written for Polygon, Thrillist, Kill Screen, and more.