Capcom has updated Street Fighter V with a massive patch that includes a large Story Mode and other features were absent in the launch of the game. We’ll examine the issues surrounding the way the game launched, the roll out of features and what takeaways developers can have from this experience.
What Street Fighter V Had Initially
The launch of the game felt very focused on the hardcore fighting game community. To those players, most won’t touch single-player content at all – as long as the game is interesting and competitive to play with good net-code, that will be enough. For some, Street Fighter V seemed to be a success, and the game has received well over 4,000 entrants into the 2016 Evolution Championship Series (EVO), which is a record number of entrants. The release timing in February was key to give players enough time to practice Street Fighter V for the Capcom Pro Tour series.
At the same time, while the fighting game community was generally pleased, the reception from reviewers and many mainstream consumers were less enthusiastic. While the aesthetics of the game were widely praised and most found the mechanics to be accessible and interesting, the lack of features was a drag on many review scores. The lack of a traditional Arcade mode (where the player chooses a character and then fights against other characters from the roster) seemed like a bizarre exclusion, along with the fact that there wasn’t a way to face off against the computer in a best-of-three match up in any context.
What there was at launch was a Character Story for each character on the roster and a Survival Mode. The Character Story was limited to a handful of single round fights and could be completed in 15 minutes per character. Survival Mode was hampered by the unstable servers (which the player needed to be connected to in order to play). The focus was clearly on players using the online versus mode – something the hardcore would no doubt dive into but casual fans may be intimidated by or have no interest in.
What the Update Offers
Probably the largest part of this update is the single-player story expansion “A Shadow Falls” covering an overarching story for the game and its characters (each character already has its own brief Character Story). This sort of mode is the first of its sort for the Street Fighter franchise, which had previously used what tended to be a hodgepodge of different character stories that sometimes contradicted each other, and promises a full cohesive arch. Not everyone who plays fighting games will care about such things, but those that have come to love the personalities of the Street Fighter franchise over the past 25 years will no doubt feel invested in their personal fates.
For those who feel overwhelmed with the systems in Street Fighter V, there will also be a Demonstration Mode that will give beginner, intermediate, and advanced tutorials for all characters. Augmenting that will be a Trial Mode with the ability to test out different combos for all of the different characters. These are things that more casual fighting game fans will appreciate, even if they probably should have been available from the start.
Along with the previously released characters of Alex and Guile, the characters Ibuki and Balrog will be added and available to buy with their own accompanying Character Story, with the characters Juri and Urien playable in the Story Mode and coming soon to download. If that isn’t enough, there will be scads more costumes to purchase for all of the characters, three alternate appearances for existing stages and three brand new stages to fight in.
As far as quality-of life updates, players will be able to purchase all of the above mentioned additions with real-world money (something previously absent). There will also be matchmaking improvement, that will better pair up players depending on rank, and promised online performance improvements. There will be lobbies for up to eight players with match spectating, rematch options for online battles and a much requested “rage quitting” deterrent implemented.
Why This is an Issue
When Street Fighter V launched, it was priced at $60. That’s the standard price point for AAA games coming to retail, so that’s not surprising. The issue was how much it was asking for while the game was lacking many of the features which had been prominently touted (like the Story Mode) were pushed back until the “June” update.
Video games are a medium of immediate gratification. As such, the delaying of any feature by months is an interminable wait for many people who want to get their money’s worth immediately. Most professional critics, even if they liked the fundamentals of playing Street Fighter V, docked it points for its threadbare game modes, and many user reviews on Steam were unkind as well.
This was all because the game, which was admittedly incomplete by the developers, was given the price of a full and complete product. Players paid the full price and wanted all of the promised features right away, not just assurances they’d be coming in an update four months down the line. Transparency was also a problem, as many of the promised updates came late and many were pushed back from their original release date in March, making some gamers feel doubly burned.
Many consumers compared the release of Street Fighter V to that of a Stream Early Access title. The thing is with Early Access games, it’s explicit that players are paying money to play an incomplete product. Street Fighter V was launched as what was ostensibly a complete game, and if people are paying a premium price they’re going to expect a premium product. Not everyone is going to be following the new cycle either, so the revelation that the game came without many promised features was probably only revealed to certain consumers when they booted the game up for the first time.
Given the mixed response to the Street Fighter V’s launch, it was only a mild surprise that it sold fewer physical copies than Pokken Tournament, a fighting game exclusive to the Wii U. You only have one time to make a positive first impression and that frankly didn’t happen with Street Fighter V. The lesson is clear from this: do right by all of your customers with your product, not just the smaller half of them. While hardcore fans generally liked Street Fighter V well enough, they were the minority of the overall Street Fighter fanbase that were interested in the game.
With this new update, Capcom will try and turn any negative opinions around. The Street Fighter V finals will be televised on ESPN2, which between that exposure and the new patch, maybe it will give the game a second life. The era of “games as service” gives Capcom the opportunity to change their game for the better and change the narrative surrounding it. Considering the interesting cast of fighters, the lovely aesthetics, and the deep fighting system, hopefully they’ll succeed in bringing people around.
David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.