Why Street Fighter Remains At The Top Of the Esports Scene
Street Fighter sits at the top of all fighting games, we delve deep to find out how this happened
Street Fighter II Turbo is undoubtedly one of the most important games in history. The first Street Fighter title came out way back in 1987, yet here we are, 30+ years on with Street Fighter V still going strong. How has this huge game remained at the top for so long when many of its peers aren't anywhere close?
Street Fighter has over 11 million players on PS4, which is more than Mortal Kombat, Skullgirls, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Tekken. This doesn't even count the number of people that access the game with their PCs. The Capcom Cup is one of the hyped events in the fighting game circuit, and when we talk about the FGC, we can't neglect to mention Street Fighter V. This comes even with subpar netcode, a poor launch, and inadequate content for consumers.
So, what's the secret to Street Fighter's success? How have they been able to hold on to consumers and continue to fly the flag for fighting games? I personally think that there are three reasons for this: Legacy, storylines, and money.
As mentioned earlier, the first Street Fighter game came out way back in 1987 and while that didn't create much of a splash, the sequel, Street Fighter II, was nothing short of monumental success. In the recent Netflix documentary, High Score, the humble beginnings of Street Fighter II were explored, and Akira Nishitani and Akira Yasuda, designers for the game, were interviewed. The two men spoke of the things that inspired the colorful stages of SFII and how they tried to represent various parts of the world. In addition, the character designs were also revolutionary as gamers had up till then, never seen such an eclectic cast of characters with such unique designs. No one can forget the first time they laid their eyes on Dhalsim or Blanka, or who can forget Guile's iconic hair (which he still has today). These were things that gamers weren't used to. What more, Street Fighter II also introduced the concept of competitive fighting. For the first time, two individuals had to face off against each other to determine a winner. This appealed to many gamers' competitive spirit, and arcades were filled to the brim with contenders looking to claim the title of 'best.'
This history would prove to be important for Street Fighter as the years went by as gamers trusted the Street Fighter brand to deliver quality time and time again. SF was one of the first games that raised the complexity of fighting games to a level where everyone could access it, but few could truly excel. This led many gamers to dedicate hours in a bid to become the best. As time went on, we were introduced to the likes of Fuudo and Daigo, who were excellent at the game after long periods of practice. So, no, whenever a new Street Fighter comes out, consumers are sure to buy because of the enormous credit that the game has in the bank. For that reason, even a game as poor as Street Fighter V is still very popular, and you can bet top dollar than when Street Fighter VI comes out, the lines will be long as people scramble to purchase the latest addition to the Street Fighter timeline.
This might seem trivial, but the power a coherent and riveting story has cannot be overlooked. In addition to all the weird and wonderful things that Steet Fighter II provided us with, they were also one of the pioneers of storytelling in fighting games, and the story has moved on all the way to Street Fighter V. Characters have been added, some have disappeared, others have suffered one fate of the other, but the story has carried on. For this reason, several players have grown strong bonds with some of the characters. We've watched Ken Masters grow from irresponsible playboy to dedicated husband and father. We have seen the reduction of M. Bison's power as other villains like Seth and Urien have come center stage. We have witnessed the tragic story of Charlie Nash and his possible end.
Another thing that has helped engage consumers has been the numerous iterations of Street Fighter. Apart from the mainline Street Fighter series that have 5 games so far, there are other titles, including crossovers games like Street Fighter x Tekken, Marvel v Capcom, Street Fighter v X-Men, and so on. This is even without mentioning the other media that have used the Street Fighter brand. Granted, all the Street Fighter movies are utter crap, but their existence means that there are more people exposed to the story. Besides, we have comics, manga, animated projects, and so much more. All of this culminates in a rising popularity that increases the player base. Subsequently, there are more people willing to play in tournaments, both local and international.
This is probably the shortest and most obvious reason of the three—money. Capcom is a pretty humongous company, and therefore, they have the means to support their tournaments. For instance, the prize pool for the Capcom Cup 2019 was well over $250,000. While this might seem like little for LoL and DOTA, it is absolutely huge for fighting games.
That means that even with a game like Street Fighter V that people have a problem with, players are incentivized to learn the game, so they are good enough to win the money up for grabs. This is a point made even clearer by a tweet from PR Balrog, a popular SFV player who said that he hates the game's netcode, and he gets upset when crush countered, but still plays the game for money.
I definitely play SF5 for the money. The netcode sucks and I hate getting crush countered.— Eduardo Perez-Frangie (@PRBalrog) February 12, 2019
If you put on your bio that you're a professional Street Fighter 5 player then you're trying to play for money.
Engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation pic.twitter.com/JxyPs6Dp3P
Street Fighter is 33 years old now and is growing even stronger as the years go by. There is a Street Fighter league to look forward to, and various other competitions to keep us occupied, and even though SFV could be a much better game, we hold out hope for the next installment is more robust and balanced.
Long live Street Fighter!