It may not seem like it, but it’s been nearly a decade since the last numbered Street Fighter game.
That’s right: Street Fighter IV came out in 2008. Of course, you might not have noticed the time passing, given the release of Super Street Fighter IV in 2010, Street Fighter X Tekken in 2012 and Ultra Street Fighter IV in 2014 – to name but three.
Such updates and spin-offs are all fervently received by fans of Capcom’s seminal fighting series, but nothing compares to the excitement around a completely new revision.
Next year’s Street Fighter V could prove to be the franchise’s biggest reinvention yet, as it opens up the close-knit community to a new generation of players.
“The ambitions with Street Fighter V were to make the game approachable and accessible again, but also to make everything with the characters feel a lot more individual and bring out more chances for people to find the right competitor that suits them,” explains Brian Ayers, EMEA brand manager at Capcom.
To help promote the new game as an entry point for series newcomers, Street Fighter V will build on its predecessors’ popularity as titles played at a professional level.
“We really hope that Street Fighter V can bring in a newer, younger audience,” Ayers continues.
“Perhaps more of an eSports audience, as well. Street Fighter is actually one of the first eSports titles out there, but it’s relatively underground compared to the likes of Dota 2 and League of Legends.”
"We’re not free-to-play, but Street Fighter V will be the only disc you’ll ever need to buy."
Brian Ayers, Capcom
One major change with Street Fighter V is its release plan. Unlike its predecessors, the title will not have an ‘Ultra’ or ‘Super’ re-release a couple of years after its launch. Instead, the base game will be expanded and enhanced as gameplay is tweaked, characters are added and features expanded.
This will help with its growth as an eSport; minor alterations between versions can make a huge difference for professional competitors, so ensuring everyone has the same edition of the game ensures everyone is on a level playing field. It also means that those left puzzled by the fluctuations between multiple different Street Fighter SKUs in the past need worry no more – there’s only one choice.
“We’re not free-to-play, in as much as you will still have to buy that core game, but Street Fighter V will essentially be the only disc you’ll ever need to buy,” explains Ayers.
“You won’t get Super Street Fighter V or Ultra Street Fighter V. It will just be that core release, which will hopefully make it more accessible so people aren’t questioning which version they have to buy.”
Although it will be sold as a retail product, Street Fighter V will also include micro-transactions. The model will allow players to purchase new characters as they are added to the game – by spending real money or earning currency by playing.
“We’ve announced that the vast majority of our post-release content you’ll be able to unlock for free,” says Ayers.
“I say for free – there is an investment, but it’s tiny. It’s a very varied range of content because we’ve mapped out for the first time a proper schedule of post-support.
“People who want to just pick it all up can do so, but then you can earn in-game currency – Fight Money – and grind out those characters instead.
“You might be younger and not have as much money, but might be time-rich, so to speak. It’ll be really interesting to see how that performs.
“Moving to a service-based platform means we can be a lot more reactive to balancing; we don’t have to wait for another disc version. We’ll be making sure we have a dedicated balancing timeframe.
“It also allows us to react to fan feedback – maybe if we don’t get something quite right or if fans want to see more of something else. Capcom has a pretty good reputation for listening to fans, and we can continue that and be a lot more reactive.”
Street Fighter V will be console-exclusive to PS4 when it arrives next February, with a PC version landing simultaneously. Players on each platform will be able to fight each against each other, thanks to cross-platform compatibility.
PS4 gamers were granted a sneak peek of the game earlier this year in the form of several beta tests. These were plagued with several connectivity issues – but Ayers is positive about the effect locking to a single console will have on the finished game.
“It means we can work an awful lot closer with Sony,” he explains.
“We are a bigger priority to them. Sony is great to work with, especially on beta support. We had our first beta recently with mixed results – it started slowly, we had to shut it down and roll it out again. A lot of that learning came from Sony. You wouldn’t necessarily get that if you were multi-platform.
“What it allows us to do is try something really new and exciting, which is the cross-play functionality. Because PC is essentially an open platform with its own audience and its own characteristics, it’s really exciting to be doing that. It’s a big act to follow up on, so we’ve got to back it up.
“The end result will be worth it; we’ll be able to learn things that previously maybe we didn’t, in terms of seeing if PC gamers have a certain style compared to PS4 players. You might even be able to look at a match and tell that it’s a PC player – even though they’re using the same controllers, as you wouldn’t want to play Street Fighter on a keyboard. You might see those little nuances come out.”
"It’s at the forefront of our minds to make Street Fighter V more approachable and accessible. Not just the game, but the business model, too.”
Brian Ayers, Capcom
In an industry full of passionately vocal fans, Street Fighter still stands out as having one of the most dedicated audiences around.
That makes the introduction of new characters and gameplay mechanics a delicate task, as developer Dimps balances the need to push the brand forward with retaining fan-favourite elements that have been series staples for over 25 years. (See ’Fighting Through the Ages’ below.)
“The long time that Street Fighter has been around makes innovation tricky but, at the same time, it allows you to build some foundations and fundamentals,” observes Ayers.
“You have a long history of the game having a certain quality that always makes it feel like Street Fighter. You can tweak a lot of elements to it, and probably go quite far away from the core sometimes – Street Fighter III in particular was a very, very technical fighter, but it still had that Street Fighter element to it.
“It’s a certain je ne sais quoi quality. As long as that feel is there, you can take liberties in certain ways. As long as you’re always able to do a fireball, then I think we’ll be okay.”
With Street Fighter V set to rock the fighting game genre for players old new and old in February next year, Ayers is confident the right changes are being made to juggle its significant legacy with a modern approach to games releases.
“Previous Street Fighter games could feel a bit prohibitive, so it’s very much at the forefront of our minds to make Street Fighter V more approachable and accessible,” he reiterates. “Not just the game, but the business model, too.”
FIGHTING THROUGH THE AGES
Brian Ayers, EMEA brand manager at Capcom for Street Fighter V, looks at how the fighting game genre has evolved since the first Street Fighter launched back in 1987
“In terms of how it’s changed, there’s a lot more of it.
“Capcom with Street Fighter was quite lucky in as much as Street Fighter II, in particular, hit at just the right time, blew the competition away and really raised the bar – not only for its own franchise, but also setting a new standard.
“You don’t have that kind of luxury in the fighting game scene today because there is an awful lot out there and an awful lot of it is really good.
“What’s really exciting about the fighting game genre, and certainly the community, is there’s a real approachability in terms of the way people are with each other. There’s a quite friendly rivalry that you maybe don’t get with other genre competitors. That includes Tekken or Mortal Kombat fans giving Street Fighter a go, and then vice-versa. You get these fantastic situations where you see [Mortal Kombat character] Scorpion cosplayers demoing Street Fighter at EGX and stuff.
“That goes right up to the top, to Yoshinori Ono, our Street Fighter V studio head, being really good friends with Katsuhiro Harada, who looks after the Tekken series. That results in things happening that you could’ve never imagined before, such as Street Fighter X Tekken.”