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Can New Releases Propel The FGC Mainstream This Upcoming Generation?

Sebastian Quintanilla
13 min

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Can New Releases Propel The FGC Mainstream This Upcoming Generation?
Maybe it will be Project L, or Street Fighter VI, perhaps Tekken 8, but there is a chance out there for the FGC to rise up once more!

Fighting games have long been part of the gaming industry. When arcades dominated the scene, fighting games were at their peak, especially in Asia and even more so in Japan. That influence was quickly exported to the states, later to Europe, and finally all over the world.

For over a decade, Fighting games faced many struggles transitioning from the quarter-eating days to fitting in a cartridge in someone's home console. Some titles fared the move better than others. Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Street Fighter clearly came out on top and broke through that barrier with plenty of goods to show off: movies, animated series, and it goes without saying, they had over two decades of new game releases.

After the turn of the millennia, the genre began to slow down. The rise of first-person shooters, real-time strategy games, and sports games began to slowly push the fighting scene in terms of cultural impact within the industry. 

Of course, the fighting games tradition was still well and truly alive during those years. Super Smash Brothers, especially Melee, made its way into a young audience worldwide, enough to feed into a competitive scene to this day. Street Fighter 4 was another highlight of the new millennium, along with Tekken 4, continuing as strong franchises. By the end of the decade, we would witness a Mortal Kombat revival and a recently announced Evo 2023 gem Marvel versus Capcom 3 in 2011.

Yet, over that same decade, there has undeniably been a shift from fighting games as a core aspect of gaming. Leaving them as extra little featured games at expos such as E3, PAX or niche yet passionate markets in Japan.

The Awards

Take a look at any international game of the year award in the industry, and you will see that since 2000, no fighting game has ever won. Not a “The Game Awards”, D.I.C.E, or even BAFTA.

With The Game Awards, in particular, outside of the category of “Best Fighting Game”, only three games had multiple nominations. Street Fighter V and MultiVersus with 2 each, and Super Smash Brothers Ultimate with 4 in 2019.

Awards are not the “end all, be all” of a game’s popularity, but after two decades of seeing Super Smash Brother Ultimate be the only game nominated for game of the year, a picture begins to appear, one that sees Fighting Games as a backdrop genre in the conversations had in the mainstream, akin to how racing and sports games are seen perhaps.

There is no denying that fighting games are popular, but they are not the monoliths of the industry that other genres or even single games have been. Consider the popularity of Fortnite. 

Street Fighter partnering with Fortnite, played a large part for the benefit of the Street Fighter brand, thus Capcom was happy to work out a licensing deal with Epic Games.

The upcoming lineup of titles has a real chance to build upon their predecessors and have a shot at some more prestigious nominations, even just by volume. Street Fighter 6’s art direction looks fantastic. Tekken 8 could, if treated correctly, produce a very compelling story mode. Mortal Kombat is a historic franchise that has rarely won awards, but its consistency and brand power could propel it into one. Finally, Project L has the support of Riot Games, one of gaming's largest publishers, with all the marketing resources that come with it.

Winning an award doesn't mean sales will instantly multiply or that games that won awards went on to have massive player bases for years. But award-winning titles have a level of prestige and an expectation of quality attached to them that makes it easier to convince normally uninterested players to try them out for a round of two.

When you need to reach as wide of an audience as possible, being able to tell them this game you love is an award-winning piece of software, well, its easier to take the punches of trying to learn how to play a fighting game from scratch.

Online All the Time

We could be seeing a shift in that narrative however. First of all, during the pandemic, many young adults, some of whom had experienced fighting games as kids in arcades or at a friend's house, had the chance to relieve some of those nostalgic memories revitalizing a demographic that remained dormant for a while. 

Gaming has become part of a person’s normal media digest. To the point that well-renowned games are adapted brilliantly into other media, like with the Last of Us; having online social components, like Street fighter 6’s Battle Hub; and scheduled content releases post-launch, like those hinted at Warned Brothers Discovery earnings, calls for Mortal Kombat 12; will go a long way in giving more casual players a reason to return to those titles.

The pandemic had a global effect on gaming, but something that affected Fighting games above all other genres was netcode. For years prior to the lockdowns, the Fighting Games community had raised the issue of the majority of titles being released having horrendously low-quality netcode, leading to an online experience that was passable but certainly did not compete with playing locally.

The incentive to improve the model of networking was simply not there. For Japan, a significant Fighting Games developer hub, there was very little interest in improving their online functionality given that the bulk of their playerbase already lived close to each other.

The pandemic, mixed with the rise of the live service model for some of gaming's largest titles, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and finally pushed for a more robust online experience. One that could be supported long-term with consistent content drops while also doing its best to fix all those pesky lag and connection issues that had plagued the genres.

Here it's also worth highlighting the monumental efforts the communities of many FG titles made to get improved connectivity. Rollback especially was not well respected by developers at the start of the decade, but today, it is seen as a bare minimum for any upcoming titles. So much so that other gaming genres have started to call for a similar shift in networking protocols for their titles, demanding an improvement to online matches.

Seeing as the FGC could soon lay claim to leading the industry in online connectivity with games like Tekken 8, Street Fighter 6, Project L, and the recently announced but not really Mortal Kombat 12; there is an opportunity to put those last few years of work front and center in their marketing. To say loud and clear, that Fighting Games can be played online or offline with no, or at least very little, downsides.

From locals to World Championships

The competitive fighting games community has one of the longest legacies in the esports industry. It might not have been as centralized as other games, like Starcraft or Counter-Strike. But it does have something that is rarely found in other scenes naturally. A clear hierarchy of importance and prestige in its tournaments almost across the board.

When most of you think about a fighting game tournament, you will probably think about major finals tournaments, perhaps the finals of a year-long circuit. But you might also be intimately familiar with your own local scene, the tournaments that make up your region of the world. 

Even if you haven’t attended one in a while, or even ever at all, if you and your group of friends play fighting games chances are you will know of a grass root tournament happening somewhere nearby.

A game’s staying power in the FGC can be measured as two components: Their online population, which for older titles can be quite low or even impossible to assess, and the more important, offline population, the number of people that will come out and play the game at their local tournament.

Marvel versus Capcom 3 is a great example of a game whose online connectivity suffered in the years after its release, so much so that today, in order to play the game online, many will be recommended to use a third-party service named Parsec. And yet, after many years, Marvel Versus Capcom 3 is back on a major stage, the Evo 2023 stage. It lived thanks to its dedicated community and players.

This structure has been refined naturally over decades, and each region has taken its own approach. Critically, the talent that is developed with it, is simply incredible. The perfect example is Pakistan’s rise into the Tekken competitive scene over the years, an often overlooked region of the world has produced an outstanding amount of top players for the game, and it is all thanks to the work and passion of the players who pushed the title in their home regions.

As another example, France has been looking to expand its impact in esports in recent years. Although it seems like their involvement has been relatively limited so far, they might be the country spearheading the next step in the industry with direct government involvement in the scene to help promote youth participation in social programs.

If the new generation of fighting games captures the attention of the gaming audience, then its timing could potentially align with increased interest from governments in local tournaments. Events that generally help advertise and in some cases, directly support small businesses. That is why some of the major European countries are interested in esports as a way to drive international tourism and home economic development for the younger generations.

Live Service Games

Yes, live-service games have a bad reputation. This is undeniable. But it also seems like the model has truly left Pandora’s loot box, and there is no way it's getting back in there. Yet it has a couple of upsides that we think are worth considering. There are things to like about game development that puts out new content on a regular basis for fans of those games.

Earlier, we mentioned Fortnite and its successful licensing strategy, bringing in culturally relevant material into the game and giving players a reason to stick around and play every few days. But even before and after its release and launch into mainstream popularity, other titles, mostly free-to-play ones, experimented with the idea of delivering content in regular chunks. Warframe, Destiny, MultiVersus, and even as far back as Team Fortress 2, already saw the potential for live service, though you might have noticed we only listed a single fighting game among them.

Indeed, there aren't many Fighting Games following the same model. Perhaps Brawlhalla and MultiVersus are the only two who have successfully put together these ideas, and even then, we wouldn’t fault you for being skeptical. In the major franchises, we often see DLC or Fighter packs used for their regular content updates instead of a trickling of content that live service games are known for.

We don’t expect, or even want, to see Street Fighter, Project L, Tekken, or Mortal Kombat go full-in on the live service model. But it would be wrong to think they aren’t going to at least look at what they can bring from those spaces into their own to keep more casual players engaged with the content of the game for longer.

These mechanics also don’t have to be all in service of monetization. Some developers choose to use some of these as incentives for players to participate in the wider scene. Achievements have long been a somewhat social mechanic where players can show off their accomplishments. Ranks in the online ladder are another component that exists primarily to give players something to strive for.

Whether in-game tournaments, local representation, or even regional ranking rewards, there is a wealth of possibilities for the Live service model to work in favor of a more fulfilling gaming experience in a Fighting Game community.


Ultimately, there is quite a lot riding on this year’s releases, a new generation of games for Tekken, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat, along with potentially the first bits of gameplay or even a beta of Riot’s entry into the genre. 

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