Why Street Fighter V Is More Than Just a Game

We talk with Capcom's Matt Dahlgren about SFV's launch plan, and how the game will continue to grow.
Street Fighter V's Necalli © Capcom
By Michael Martin

Street Fighter V’s launch was supposed to be an exciting time for many people. But not every part of went as well as Capcom planned. Critics and fans bemoaned the fact that the title shipped with minimal single player support, and a story mode that felt incomplete. These criticisms aren’t unwarranted, nor are they wrong. However, it seems in their attempts to take Capcom to task for its inability to cater to a casual audience, the loudest critics don’t want to consider Street Fighter V a full-featured game from a competitive perspective. Casuals feel alienated (for now), but competitive players are very important to Capcom and Sony as they push Street Fighter V as an esport on the Capcom Pro Tour.

Street Fighter V's Nash Story Mode © Capcom

For the Casuals

NetherRealm Studios set a standard with the Mortal Kombat series. Mortal Kombat X might feature one of the richest story modes in all of fighting games. It's difficult for Street Fighter fans not to look over the fence and see greener grass. Before Street Fighter V launched, Capcom announced a larger cinematic story mode add-on would launch in June as free downloadable content. You have to wait, but it is coming.

“As with any form of entertainment, creators will nearly always wish there was more content, but there are a lot of factors in play when it comes to what makes it into the final cut. The good news for Street Fighter V is our final cut isn’t final and development has not stopped, and the service will continue to improve over time,” Dhalgren said.

“We certainly understand if those features had been place at launch, the content offering would have been stronger for new players. The additional content is coming soon, so we appreciate everyone’s patience as these updates will definitely help casual fans dive further into the world of Street Fighter V.”

For the Competitors

Capcom launched Street Fighter V barely two weeks before its first Ranking Event in Cannes, France on the Capcom Pro Tour. It’s first Premier Event is the weekend of March 18-20 at Final Round in Atlanta, Georgia. There’s no doubt the game needed to be out in time for competitive players to begin training. While the single player content may be lacking, the multiplayer content is thriving. Players are hyped after seeing the first batch of Street Fighter V tournaments complete.

On the day of Street Fighter V’s launch, I attended a local tournament in Seattle. More than 50 players showed up to compete. Some were usual faces at these local events, but there were plenty of new players who came out to play in their first tournament or get in some casual sets. At a recent Wizard World event in Portland, I watched firsthand many attendees come to the Capcom booth and try out Street Fighter V, which had launched a few days prior. A handful of players showed up to a “boot camp” for training with Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez and Evil Geniuses’ Justin Wong.

Competition helps bring casuals into the game and keeps them around. What do you do when you’re done with the single player content in Street Fighter? Capcom built an entire network to entice players to not only play each other online but to seek out online and local events.

“There is more opportunity now for competitive players than we’ve ever had in the history of the genre, and we are constantly sharing the excitement of fighting games with the Capcom Pro Tour to new audiences. With Street Fighter V, the game is more accessible and more intuitive than ever before in the series, so this is the perfect time for anyone to jump in and have fun,” Dahlgren said.

“I’ve watched multiple players, who would not normally describe themselves as fighting game fans, already fall in love with the game, and that is extremely encouraging to all of us. This is also the best online experience a Street Fighter game has ever delivered, and playing online often feels like you are playing someone in the arcade.”

Street Fighter V's Laura Matsuda © Capcom

A 'Fighting Game Service'

Capcom doesn’t need to only cater to the competitive side of Street Fighter V - but it's hard to argue against the fact that competition and esports are the lifeblood that keeps it going, just like they were for Street Fighter IV. When the casuals who don’t play for competition fall away, it’s the ones who get excited by what they see on the live streams or on YouTube that encourage growth in the scene. We’re seeing it with all-new players and players crossing over from other games already. Traditional Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat X, and Marvel players are making Top 16 and Top 8 at tournaments.

To Capcom, Street Fighter V is more than just a fighting game. It is envisioned as a “fighting game service,” and the distinction has either escaped those critical of the game or they may not have been aware of Capcom's greater plans.

“Making a game players want to experience for a few weeks and then move on from isn’t the strategy for Street Fighter V. What will determine the success of Street Fighter V is whether or not we can grow and maintain a long-term, dedicated user base that plays the game as a hobby. I don’t think our approach to the game is alienating to casual players. I just think the game feature set, in its current launch state, isn’t necessarily living up to the expectations of casual players,” Dahlgren said.

“The promise of this game is an ever-evolving fighting game service, and we will continue to listen to our fans and optimize the overall experience based on the feedback we receive.”

This is new territory for Capcom. From everything we’ve been told, Capcom doesn’t intend to release new versions of Street Fighter V as the game is updated. There’s no need to anymore. That’s a holdover from when the games’ updates were released in arcades first. Now Capcom can update Street Fighter V as time goes on. In theory, the service should continue to become more robust, just like the game. It has to, otherwise it’s all for nothing. Yes, Capcom is asking fans for some patience. It’s different especially coming from a publisher who hasn’t had the best track record for releasing updates and DLC in the past. They’re aware of it and that’s why they took this new approach to Street Fighter V.

“We ask our new players and longtime fans enjoy what the game currently offers and they treat each new evolution with open minds. This is a marathon (not a sprint) for us and we have huge plans for both the game and the competitive scene,” Dahlgren said.

© Capcom

Rise Up

For some, Street Fighter V is already a failure and won’t give it a chance because of its lack of single player content. That’s too bad. For others, it’s exactly what it needs to be, with major improvements coming. Yes, Capcom could have handled many things better with Street Fighter V’s launch. That is not in question. It’s shortsighted to think of Street Fighter V as an incomplete or Early Access game because of a lack of solo content. However, it has most, if not all, of the features required to play competitively and online, with more coming. They'll address the rage quitters and 8-player Battle Lounges and Spectator Modes are coming too.

“It is very difficult to turn a game that is fundamentally not fun, into a great game. On the other hand, it is very easy to add new bells and whistles to a game with a strong core foundation. Street Fighter V has a very strong foundation, and our team is extremely confident this will be the game pushing the fighting game genre to new heights,” Dahlgren said.

“To our loyal fans, if you love Street Fighter V, please let your voices be heard! We can’t grow the scene without your support. This is a truly awesome and revolutionary game and it has the ability to skyrocket our scene to new heights, but it will take all of us working together to grow and realize our true potential. Rise up!”

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