The Future of Characters and Balance Updates in Street Fighter V
As part of a Street Fighter V panel at Evolution, Capcom revealed some interesting tidbits about the base roster, post-launch release of characters, as well as some info on balance patches. We now know that the game will launch with 16 characters, 4 of which are brand new. The first of those 4 new characters, Necalli, was revealed at Evo later that weekend. More characters will be gradually released over time, all of which can be earned for free by playing the game, or paid for with real money. Finally, all balance updates will be free and rolled out to everyone.
Let’s start with some context. Street Fighter IV was designed as an arcade game. Not taking into account what a Street Fighter game could be online, it did not have the infrastructure hooks for big online updates. As such, Super Street Fighter IV came out on disc, rendering your original disc useless. While it was the way that fighting games were designed up to that point, it certainly wasn’t the way they had to be by then.
Updates going forward didn’t require you to buy another disc, but it did require a purchase when Street Fighter IV went from Super to Arcade Edition and then to Ultra. I gladly paid, cause Street Fighter IV is the game that keeps on giving to me. However, it’s clear to see that the player base shrunk with each new iteration.
Based on what was said at the panel, that is no longer the case. They’re moving more to a platform model, where the game will be continually updated for balance without additional purchases. I’m a fan of what Microsoft is doing with Killer Instinct, and this is clearly as step in that direction. Having one disc that rules forever will hopefully keep more players in the ecosystem as well.
In regards to 16 launch characters, it does feel a bit small relative to precedents set with modern fighting games. Heck, even Ultra Street Fighter IV now has 40+ characters to choose from. That said, the original Street Fighter IV only had 16 playable characters when it launched in the arcades, as did Super Street Fighter II. As long as I can find a few characters in that base set that fit with me, I should be good.
As part of that 16 are 4 brand new characters. So far, only Necalli has been revealed, though he gives me hope for what lies ahead. He looks awesome so far and brings with him a move set that looks really interesting. Can’t wait to see what else in store!
The real appeal is in the post-launch support. Unlike IV, where characters were only added as part of major updates, Capcom has committed to gradually rolling out characters. This keeps the buzz around the game going throughout the year, as there’s always more to talk about and learn. Won’t be holding my breath for Rose to be part of the launch lineup, but a gradual release schedule like this makes her inclusion eventually to be much higher.
Best of all, Capcom has vowed to make it possible to earn every new character for free. By playing the game, you’ll earn Fight Money, which can be cashed in to buy new characters. If you don’t have enough Fight Money, you can pay with Zenny, which is basically you paying real money for credits. I’m enough of a Street Fighter junkie that I would have gladly just paid for all of the characters without question. Instead, I’ll probably be able to get at least some of them for free, which is great. Questions about how fair the economy will be are valid. I’m going to guess that it won’t be as fair as we would like. As long as the pay options aren’t insane, then I should be fine either way.
Looks like the days of paid updates are mostly over. Good riddance. I look forward to this new world where everyone is playing on the same framework. Hopefully that means that more people will stay on for longer. Too early to pass final judgment on the monetization of characters, though being able to earn them for free through playing the game is a welcome addition.