It is an undeniable fact that fighting games sell extremely well. Despite this, Street Fighter, Tekken and Mortal Kombat are all niche products. Yes the communities built around them support them in mass, but most gamers are wary of the genre. Many like myself are intimidated by the expansive roster of previous titles, the inherently odd Japanese style and the intricate web of combos to learn.
So how do we broaden the fighting games reach? How do we draw in casual gamers or dedicated gamers that have just never taken a liking to the genre? Well it seems like Capcom, Bandai Namco and NetherRealm worked it out before we did.
Last year the Street Fighter team released Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. Last year the Tekken team released Pokken Tournament DX. Last year the Mortal Kombat team released Injustice 2. At their core, they are the exact same as their aging cousins, but they also offer a new found opportunity for inclusion.
Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite – Characters You Know
You might not know who Ryu or Chun Li are, but you most likely know Iron Man and Captain America. If not, where the hell have you been? Most people adore the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even if they aren’t really into video games, the idea of pitting Spider-Man up against Thanos is pretty enticing to most people. By offering a roster of well-known and popular characters, a fighting games reach is greatly extended. It also offers the opportunity for Capcom to pimp out their other franchises. You came for Hulk and Thor but you became invested in Resident Evil’s Chris Redfield or Dead Rising’s Frank West or Devil May Cry’s Dante. Maybe you then go and check out which game they originated from.
Simultaneously maybe your buddy has been trying to get you to play Street Fighter for years, but it wasn’t your thing. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite comes out and since you’re a big Marvel fan, you play a few rounds. You start to move beyond just playing for the characters and actually become a little competitive. You’ve played for a while, but you’re looking for something more challenging now. You jump into Street Fighter. It doesn’t matter that Infinite’s story is nonsensical or that it isn’t the best fighting game out there. The fact that it can draw in new players with familiar faces is all Capcom needs to expand this genre’s reach.
Injustice 2 – Great Single Player Modes
The fighting game genre originated in arcades. It was a competitive way to play games while proving which of your friends had the dopest skills. The genre never progressed much past that. Fighting games rely on their multiplayer, drawing audiences in through the spectacle of E-Sports tournaments. Single player modes are tacked on attempts to flesh out the final products content and teach the basics before jumping into multiplayer. However some people don’t want to play online, and others don’t find the core gameplay of fighting games all that engaging. So how do we attract those people?
You tell an interesting story. Marvel may be dominating most mediums, but DC has them beat when it comes to video games. Injustice 2 is a far superior game to Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite. The biggest contributing factor being its single player campaign. It doesn’t just market the game using Batman’s mask and Superman’s chest, it creates a truly engrossing story within the DC universe. It’s a win win. For dedicated fighting game fans, there is a robust online mode and progression system. For those who have no interest in the genre, there is an amazing story with some frantic button mashing in-between. You don’t always need to cater to everybody, but the more options you provide, the more attention you receive.
Pokken Tournament DX – Fan Fiction
It doesn’t always take a billion dollar brand or a solid campaign to help draw in new players. In fact sometimes your game doesn’t even need to be all that good. Pokken Tournament DX is a mediocre game. With such a limited move set, this feels like babies first fighting game. The terrible single player mode is an absolute chore to progress through with absolutely no pay off. So why in the world would I include it in a piece about helping the genre grow?
Well despite all its flaws, it still does add something. The Pokemon series is one of the world’s biggest video game franchises. Yet despite the insane amounts of profit Nintendo and Game Freak must have acquired, they refuse to modernize the series. Remember it was only 5 years ago that a mainline Pokemon game made the jump to 3D. Fans have been screaming for an open world, real time action spin off to this turn based strategy game. To an extent Pokken fulfills this wish. You can pit some of your favorite Pokemon against each other in an actual battle. It isn’t about stats, it’s about skill. Sometimes you don’t need all the bells and whistles, you just need to listen to what the fans want.
PlayStation All Stars 2?
So yes the fighting game genre (despite its size) is a niche market, but there are proven ways to garner the attention of larger audiences. I wouldn’t be surprised if we continued to see such a trend. Nintendo’s Smash Bros. series is still growing strong after decades. Microsoft breathed new life into Killer Instinct by adding Xbox celebrities such as General RAAM and the Arbiter. With the limited success of Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite and Sony’s current relationship with the developer, could we see a PlayStation All Stars 2, remade as a fighting game?
There is a sizable roster of possible fighters added in this generation alone.
- Bloodborne’s Hunter
- Nier: Automata’s 2B
- Horizon’s Aloy
- God of War’s Kratos
- Insomniac’s Spider-Man
- The Order’s Sir Galahad
The options are limitless, if they learn the lessons gained from the three titles above. Draw in gamers with characters they know and love, a dedicated and admirable single player mode while still giving the fans what they want. If I could cross my fingers and hope for one sequel in the New Year, it’s this.