News reporting in the gaming industry – as with most industries – isn’t as detailed over the Christmas period as it is during the rest of the year. That might explain why an announcement from Capcom regarding the future of the legendary ‘Street Fighter’ series was glossed over at the time, and is only now provoking interest from gamers, who feel it may have given away more than it initially intended to.
The most recent game in the ‘Street Fighter’ series is ‘Street Fighter V,’ which was released in February 2016 and is therefore now more than three years old. The developer has extended the life of the series by releasing new ‘seasons’ of the game, which introduce fresh playable characters and new stories. There have been three seasons released so far, with the fourth believed to be imminent. It’s the fact that more details aren’t already known about the fourth season that has led to rumors that a brand new sixth ‘Street Fighter’ has entered development.
In December 2018, Capcom made a new character called ‘Kage’ available – an evil version of the ‘Street Fighter’ original character Ryu. In the past when new characters have been announced ahead of a new season, they’ve been accompanied with silhouettes or teasers for what else may be coming in the season, as well as an opportunity for players to buy a ‘season pass’, which reduces the cost of buying each individual new character or update when they become available. This time there were no teasers, and no season pass offers.
Confused gamers took to Twitter to ask Capcom what was going on directly, and the response from the gaming giant is an intriguing one. They say that they have no plans to make a season pass available, and that ‘Kage’ must be purchased individually, following up by saying that players shout ‘stay tuned’ for further updates. A further teaser then appeared on the developer’s blog, which spoke of ‘doing things differently’ with 2019’s updates.
‘Doing things differently’ could mean many different things. The first possibility is that there won’t be as many new characters or aspects in this fourth season, and therefore no reason for Capcom to offer a season pass, as there would be no value to it. That would be the most disappointing option, but also probably the least likely.
The second possibility is that Capcom is going to stop charging for updates to the game. As widely-played and well-loved as it is, ‘Street Fighter 5′ is still three years old, and a three-year-old game will inevitably start to lag behind fresher titles on the market no matter how much effort is made to update it. The existing player base of the game – especially those who have paid for the three new seasons on top of the cost of buying the game when it was new – have spent a lot of money on it over time. Capcom may simply feel that it’s time to do something nice for them and let them have any new developments free of charge. That would be lovely of them, but it wouldn’t explain why they were charging for the ‘Kage’ character – and nor would it be in keeping with the behavior of most game developers.
The third option is therefore both the most likely and the most exciting. Capcom may not be planning to provide new content or support for ‘Street Fighter 5’ for much longer, and may have started winding the game down, ready to end support for it. When the game was released, its head producer said that there were plans to ‘support’ the game through to 2020, but ‘supporting’ it doesn’t mean that new content will be released all the way through to that date, or that development on a new game won’t start before then. Is it, therefore, possible that production is already underway on ‘Street Fighter VI’?
If this were the case, it would historically be viewed as ahead of schedule. There have always been significant gaps between new installments of the ‘Street Fighter’ series, with eight years elapsing between the fourth game and the fifth. If the sixth ‘Street Fighter’ were to be released in 2020, the gap would be a comparatively short four years. There’s also the logistical question of whether making a major gaming release in 2020 is viable or desirable; both the next PlayStation and Xbox are expected to be released before the end of 2020, so starting work on a major new game now may leave you with a final product that isn’t compatible with the latest hardware.
There is, of course, no confirmation that Capcom intends to continue with the ‘Street Fighter’ series at all. They could just decide enough is enough, and let the franchise die. That seems doubtful though; ‘Street Fighter’ is a commodity that went so mainstream that it crossed over into a (dreadful) movie, and also made it into the world of slot games, where there’s an online slot based on ‘Street Fighter 2’. The slot game is targeted at gamblers who played the game when they were young but are now old enough to play it for money, and even has a bonus feature where you can play a limited version of the real game. When you own an intellectual property that can make money in the competitive world of gambling, it makes little sense to throw it away or abandon it.
Whatever the cause of Capcom’s sudden desire for mystery and secrecy, it’s sure to become clear soon when the full details of the fourth season are revealed. Whether we’re still playing ‘Street Fighter 5′ on current-gen consoles at the end of the year, or we’re playing ‘Street Fighter 6′ on the next generation in 2020, we’re just happy that one of the most beloved video gaming series of all time is still with us after more than thirty years. Given that both Ryu and Ken were at least in their early 20s in the original game, we can only hope that we’re as energetic and youthful as them when we reach our 50s.