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When a Fighting Game Becomes Dead (and Why)?

8 min

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When a Fighting Game Becomes Dead (and Why)?
The entire library of the fighting genre is impressively big, but some titles in-here are already dead, even if they’re accessible from modern devices

A fighting game is born in the hearts and minds of developers. The community experiences the first excitement from trailers and can’t wait to actually play those matches… But in the obscurity of the future, we can already see this exact fresh game being dead. 

Both ends of this process are apparent. One example of the initial excitement is Street Fighter 6 — the game is just great and the whole community is kind of obsessed with it. Anticipation is in the air for MK1 and Tekken 8. But it is clear that at some point, both the developers and players will decide to move forward, and even those newest titles will be left behind.

You probably have some examples of dead fighting games in your head. And let us add only an example here — Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl. It could not follow the community’s expectations and just slid to the dead state.

What is a Dead Game?

This term certainly goes far beyond technical features. Many games are unplayable because the original devices are old. And those titles weren’t good/lucky enough to get remastered versions.

But some relatively modern fighting games are dead because:

  • no content is released anymore and no further support is planned;
  • too few people play them regularly and actively.

It pretty much feels the second reason is more important. You don’t want to spend half an hour waiting for an opponent in an online lobby to then face a person of a drastically different skill level.

A game may be totally playable and fully enjoyable offline — within its single-player modes or among friends. But in the modern world, having no active only playerbase is a strong synonym of being a dead game.

When Games Move to the Dead Category?

It’s not like this with other competitive genres. Good, well-established shooting titles and MOBAs live for long, long years. Counter-Strike or Dota 2 evolve with many improvements, becoming generally better games. But the players still have the same environment to showcase their mastery.

On the one hand, such stability is pretty great, as you don’t need to suddenly learn drastically refreshed mechanics. And the other hand is not that powerful, to be honest — I wanted to mention the repetitiveness of playing one game for many years, but then remembered the numbers of active players in those shooters and MOBAs… Yes, they are impressive.

Ok, fighting games are great as they are, we are not comparing the communities’ sizes here. It’s about trends, not numbers.

When a big fighting game is released, everyone is there. The lobbies are full of enthusiasts, and the range of skill levels is great. Beginners have other beginners to play with, and then they meet proper partners at any stage of their growth.

But eventually, we kind of get easily distracted. Someone returns to anything they played before — for reasons… (“I don't have a proper character here; the input is annoying; the frame data is a mess; I miss my friends”). And someone decides to keep looking for another fighting game, more perfect for them to focus on.

The lobby becomes less and less crowded. You spent more time finding an opponent. You often get someone of a too-different level, so you just don’t enjoy the matches.

This process might be stretched in time, with splashes of interest from the release of DLCs, balance updates, and new technical features. But then, eventually, an inevitable death comes…

It’s a moment when I cannot avoid current examples anymore. Dragon Ball FighterZ is rather on the late stages of this timeline. We have passed all the character releases, many pros have left (and keep leaving) this title, and only rollback netcode, the last balance patch, and the World Tour make DBFZ still alive. But it’s pretty certain what’s coming next.

Guilty Gear Strive is totally on a different chapter of this story. It had a phenomenally good start. It’s passing through new Seasons. It is in the middle of another Arc World Tour. The near future is bright for this game. The players have some certainty that if they join the party right now and invest a good amount of time in practicing, they still will have lots of opportunities to have fun and compete.

Some titles avoid bitter late periods by properly timing the next installment of the series. People still have good reasons to play Tekken 7, and they clearly see Tekken 8 on the horizon. Yep the previous game will be dead with no doubts, but this process reminds of the Phoenix rebirth — one burns to give life to the next one.

There are no clear numbers to understand when a game is dead already. A small niche game may thrive, but in the exact same situation, a generally more popular title is having its last breath.

Skullgirls has been around for 11+ years. The game has a pretty stable audience and a presence at esports events. But it’s obviously a smaller project in comparison to, say, Mortal Kombat. We are safe to name Skullgirls alive even if the number of its active players is significantly smaller than for lying on its deathbed MK11.

Natural Reasons and Accidents

If we look into the nature of things, we’ll find that it’s mainly business and money-related reasons that make fighting games dead. A company earns on selling the base game and gets extra income from season passes and probably cosmetics. But it’s a very limited potential. When the expenses don’t bring revenue and aren’t even covered, the team moves forwards, and the game remains abandoned. It’s a pretty natural reason.

With a heavy heart, I have to mention Soulcalibur 6 here. There was no initial explosion of popularity — a lot due to the difficult world circumstances after the release. The esports coverage wasn’t big, the business did not get enough profit, and the game died prematurely. Sure, we still have SC6 tournaments, and some people in the online lobby. But let's be honest to ourselves — it’s a death level for such a remarkable series. The reasons for this are based on a series of accidents. 

Fighting games often die when they don’t have financial means to live. Companies release something new to get a fresh wave of the community’s attention and to jump into the money stream again. It feels like a circle of life for them.

Only rare titles are beyond it. Brawlhalla succeeded here, after adopting the strategy of selling cosmetic items and getting enough funds for esports competition for further development of the game. It’s very similar to the mentioned plan for shooting and MOBA games. The future of Brawlhalla is interesting to follow. Can MultiVersus repeat this scenario and move even further?

Apart from that, fighting games die, and there is no end to this tradition. And it’s not bad nor good; it is as it is.

Why Bother?

Knowing this cycle might help you decide whether to practice a game or if it's rather too late.

You need to invest some initial time into learning mechanics and getting generally better at a game before jumping into the online wilderness. Otherwise you risk getting destroyed without experiencing fun or competitive sides of the genre.

But also… (and I’m saying this with a risk to put a nail in the coffin of this article) objectively, there is no such thing as a dead fighting game. They sure die for online and competitive experience. But they still live in the dimensions of couch multiplayer and local parties with friends.

The game might be objectively dead, but you could still have some joyful hours with its story or arcade modes.

And yeah, no game dies in the hearts of true fans!

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