2016 has been a roller-coaster of a year for Street Fighter V. From the beta hype leading up to a lackluster release, to a poorly scheduled Capcom Cup, to the threat of death from a new Marvel game, Street Fighter has gone through a lot. While the immediate future seems a little bright with the release of Akuma in season two, 2017 remains a big question mark. Producer Yoshinori Ono has said that he wants to solidify SFV as an esports title and that it will have support through 2020, but a number of factors may cloud that vision.
For starters, Capcom is still being very vague and, quite frankly, dishonest with its content for Street Fighter. While season two did bring back Akuma over the holiday season (and with him, some new players), it also had some strange balance changes that left many people confused. Don’t get me wrong here. You’re always going to leave some of your player base upset after big patches, but even those who have been enjoying buffs to their characters (like me…#TeamGuile) have found some of the changes in season two unnecessary and arbitrary.
Then there’s the issue of the new characters that were announced. Emphasis on new. According to Capcom, apparently none of the other characters coming out this season have been in a Street Fighter game. While intriguing, this approach has generated no hype whatsoever. Couple that with a price hike for the season two pass, and you have a lot of very apathetic fans. We’ll just have to wait and see if this was meant to throw us off.
Finally, let’s look at the esports competition. Both Tekken 7 and Injustice 2 come out next year (yes, I know Tekken is technically out, but it’s coming to consoles). Now let’s throw in the big wildcard: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. If Capcom’s timeline holds up, we could see the next Marvel game before the end of the year. That gives us a massive title in Tekken…one that pros have already been playing for some time…and two superhero-based titles with huge followings of their own. It’s my opinion that with how far gaming and superheroes have come since Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, both Injustice 2 and MvC:I will be commercial successes. And if you know anything about esports, you know that you need a large casual audience to make any scene successful. Unless SFV has some serious magic up its sleeves, I believe it has a very steep, uphill battle waiting in 2017.
Street Fighter is, and will always be, my favorite fighting franchise. As much as I want it to keep pushing on, I really don’t think it’s going to hold the interest of the FGC at large for much longer. Those who are already successful, along with those like myself who are already playing and enjoying the game, will likely carry the torch for Street Fighter V into the coming years, but the likelihood of seeing a steady infusion of new players is very slim. Especially considering how intimidating it can be learning the ropes, what with technical jargon and an often stand-off-ish community, not to mention the physical and mental coordination needed to be “good”. All we can do is be patient and let the chips fall where they may (unless you’re Daigo…then go and write books and try attracting new blood). So until next month, keep labbing it up and improving in season two! Oh, and congratulations to NuckleDu again on his latest tournament win at China’s U League! Is that kid ever going to slow down?