Opinion: Street Fighter V is doing ‘League of Legends’ wrong, and Capcom needs to fix it
I’m probably the worst person to try and pass judgment on fighting games. I’ve only really been taking them seriously in the past couple of years and even then my execution and decision-making are abysmal at best. Sometimes I wonder why exactly I stick with this genre that continuously shows me how terrible I am, but then there will be the one game that makes everything feel right. There is always that one game that’ll show you why you stick with these menacing titles and when that happens it feels good.
It’s not that these are always the games you excel at, but rather where something just clicks. That moment you find a bad habit of yours or even begin to understand the mindset of your opponent. Fighting games are made up of small victories and shortcomings that come from reaping what you sow. Games in the fighting genre are unforgivable and while this may not be appealing to everyone, it has become an important aspect of the fighting games community. You’ll be beaten over and over again by other players until you make the effort to be better or you quit, it’s not pleasant but that’s how it is.
So what does all this have to do with Street Fighter V and more so League of Legend? Well first off, Street Fighter V is a fighting game and all of these things apply in a way and, secondly, I like making absurd comparisons for the sake of discussion. It’s going to be a little weird for a while and while it may feel like I’m grasping at straws here I would like to be heard out for a bit. Street Fighter V is a pretty interesting title to look at from a development point of view and I think it has some important things to show about gaming communities and how we look at competitive games.
Street Fighter V has been out for a year now and it’s been an interesting ride. The game released as a pretty solid fighting game, but there was a problem when it came to the available content at launch. It released as the foundation for Street Fighter V, to build upon in the coming months and years. It was released with the idea that it would be a platform that could be built on instead of re-released as a Super Ultra Hyper edition in the future. Fighting game re-releases are frowned upon by the gaming community but they do have their place in the market and we’ll touch on that later. Street Fighter V released to a less than welcoming reception but as the year went on, and the fighting game community started to adopt it, we started to see an interesting if flawed game coming to the forefront of competitive fighting games. It may not have replaced Ultra Street Fighter IV in the ways fans wanted it to, but we did receive an interesting title that Capcom planned to support alongside their community. Street Fighter V could only improve on what was originally released… but that didn’t really happen.
We had an acceptable first season of Street Fighter V. The game’s mechanics were simplified in order to help new players pick up the game. So while we didn’t have all the hype of Ultra Street Fighter IV, we were still entertained by the rise of NuckleDu. There was a lot to complain about in season one but this is something that happens every time a fighting game enters its next iteration. The game needs time to establish itself and develop as time goes on, but this hasn’t really happened with Street Fighter V. We’ve found that season two has taken a step back to try and be even more welcoming to new players but not benefitting from it. Season two has found the DLC fighters to become top tier characters while sales have halted to a crawl for the game. It’s just not performing as well as Capcom may have hoped and while there is a dedicated group of fans still playing the game, it’s getting difficult for them to stick with it. Street Fighter V is in an odd position and this is where I’d like to draw comparisons to League of Legends.
For those of you who may not know, League of Legends if quite easily the biggest game in the world at the moment. The free-to-play MOBA has a massive community following it and has even created a culture around it thanks to how invested the community is in the game. It’s remarkable how big League of Legends is given its humble origins. While the game may get a lot of hate, it’s still managed to achieve some near impossible feats. Now that we’ve established what most of you already know, let’s go ahead and elaborate on this crazy comparison and hopefully come to something insightful.
Street Fighter V is being developed in seasons. League of Legends is developed in seasons. They share a similarity but how could they possibly contrast each other when they share this simple concept? At the end of a ranked season in League of Legends, we see drastic changes that are implemented and tested in a test environment as well as an off season on the live servers. It isn’t perfect and sometimes it takes awhile for the change in the game to settle, but with the community being given a clear and concise direction the game will be heading to something they expect. This isn’t to say that Capcom hasn’t done any of this with the transition to season two but it definitely hasn’t gone as well as it could have. The community reception to season two has been less than stellar and this is something that could quite easily have been avoided with appropriate planning by Capcom. We’re still in the early stages of the game and while it may take Capcom a while to get this sort of thing right, they should be looking to find where they have to improve to ensure a smoother transition between seasons and inevitably a better player experience. While location tests are expensive and can only be done with a fraction of a community, they did ensure that arcade re-releases were well tested and wouldn’t be haphazardly implemented.
Overall gameplay and mechanics are one thing but another important aspect of fighting games, and MOBAs, is the characters. Characters can make or break a fighting game and if you don’t have a memorable cast of unique characters your game probably isn’t going to last very long. The Street Fighter series established what we can expect from fighting game characters but this doesn’t mean they can’t have their flaws in this title. Those who play MOBAs should be well acquainted with how metas are established and how some characters are stronger in certain metas than others. The only comparable thing in fighting games is their tier list that ranks each character based on their perceived strength in the game. Tier lists are not set in stone and can change drastically if there is an upset at a tournament or someone discovers an interesting piece of tech. The thing with fighting games is that even though tier lists are established, the characters are meant to be on a level playing field. It shouldn’t be the case that a chosen few characters are noticeably better than the rest of the cast, even if it’s just for a year. There is a lot more that goes into learning and perfecting a specific fighter when compared to a MOBA character and some players have been playing their characters for years, across titles and platforms. Forcing them to change because of design choices you’ll change on a yearly basis is poor form by the developers and doesn’t give players any sort of consistency. It’s totally possible that one player’s favourite character might be an adequate choice one day and then be pathetic the next. This sort of change can work in many other genres but it’s just simply not permissible in a fighting game. Hopefully, Guile’s rise to Street Fighter V domination is just a mistake and not a sign of the things to come in the following years.
Now I’ve been going on for quite some time and should probably draw to my conclusion but there is one small point that needs to be said and it’s just the unfortunate truth of the matter. Games are expensive and having to buy a re-release of a game at the full retail price definitely hurts the wallet. One way to circumvent this is by implementing DLC, but that is also something that has to be kept up with and can lead to being expensive. Ideally, in a fighting game, you would want to have access to all characters in the game for practice purposes. You never know what you’re bound to face in competition (unless of course there is an obvious top tier character) and so being well averse in what each character has to offer would probably be for the best. The problem with locking content behind a paywall, be it real money or even in-game currency, is that if you want to take the game seriously you have to unlock that content, no ifs or buts. This sort of thing works for League of Legends as there is far less to learn about characters and there is a lot less situational knowledge required than that of a fighting game. There is also an issue where players have to now purchase cosmetic content that they used to be able to earn by just playing the game but that’s something that could be argued until the end of the earth and still not provide anything useful.
With all this in mind, however, we have to give Capcom the benefit of the doubt for a little while. While their plans for Street Fighter V might have sounded foolproof on paper, their execution has proved to be rather lackluster. Street Fighter V is a very expensive experiment for Capcom and while it’s unfortunate that this is the case, it was probably a necessary one in order to understand how to better deliver content. Capcom were never going to hit it out of the park on the first try and there was always going to be community backlash. How they how they handle it and develop from it in the future will determine the outcome. At the moment things aren’t looking too promising for the title, which is quite a shame as I did enjoy it quite a bit in season one, so now it’s time for Capcom to pick Street Fighter V up out of the dirt, dust it off and move on. They need to stick to what the series is good at and provide a solid fighting game experience, the rest will follow once they manage to clear up the negative air that surrounds the title.