Nov. 28, 2023
The Thriving Business of Fighting Games
3 min read
In the ever-evolving world of gaming, the FGC has managed to carve its niche and stage an impressive comeback — the fighting game renaissance.
This revolution, led by titles such as Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1, and Tekken 8, has not only captured the attention of dedicated enthusiasts but also raised eyebrows in the business realm.
Let's dissect the journey from niche to thriving and highlight the key factors contributing to the fighting game community's newfound vigor.
From Niche to Resurgence: A Brief History
The roots of fighting games trace back over 30 colorful years, with Street Fighter 6, Mortal Kombat 1, and Tekken 8 currently at the forefront. Street Fighter 6 in particular boasts an impressive player base, with an average of 20,000 Steam players, sales exceeding two million copies as of October, and a record-breaking presence in the Japanese market. Mortal Kombat 1 follows suit, having already sold over three million copies. This revival, however, prompts a question: what propelled fighting games into the limelight in the first place?
Starting with a Bang: The Street Fighter II Effect
The late ’80s and early ’90s marked the mainstream emergence of fighting games, with Capcom’s Street Fighter II leading the charge. This groundbreaking title introduced “firsts” in the gaming scene, from shaping controller design to pushing the boundaries of graphics. The diverse cast and competitive nature of these games resonated with audiences, propelling them to mainstream success. Street Fighter II in particular became a global phenomenon, paving the way for more fighting games and sustaining arcades through a second wave of popularity.
The Dark Ages: Facing Decline
The late ’90s and early 2000s witnessed a decline in the fighting game genre, termed the “Dark Ages.” Factors such as game fatigue, subpar releases, and the demise of arcades contributed to a struggle for survival. Even a resurgence in 2009 with Street Fighter IV merely lifted the genre from a state of decline to survival. The unwillingness to innovate and adapt to the changing gaming landscape played a significant role in this downturn.
The Business of Gaming: Heralding a Golden Era
It’s exhilarating to witness the FGC stepping into a new, unprecedented era. The signs point towards a golden age for several reasons:
- Street Fighter 6’s excellent launch: Street Fighter 6 has rejuvenated the FGC, boasting exceptional graphics, mechanics, marketing, and sales figures. The recent Evo tournament, with a record-breaking 7,061 participants, underlines its massive success.
- Rollback netcode revolution: Rollback netcode has made online play viable for the FGC, opening the doors to a wider pool of competitors and expanding the potential for online tournaments.
- Evo’s success under new management: Under Sony and RTS’s management, Evo has not only maintained its charm but has also seen improvements in production value, sponsorships, and additional events.
- Mortal Kombat 1 launched with lots of fanfare and was well received, even with some annoyances like lack of lobbies or crossplay. MK1 won the Fighting Game of the Year award at Golden Joystick 2023.
- Upcoming game releases: Anticipation surrounds upcoming releases such as Tekken 8 and Riot Games’ Project L. Project L, in particular, has the potential to redefine F2P fighting games, leveraging Riot’s successful free-to-play model.
While other sectors of the esports industry face economic challenges, the FGC, built on grassroots foundations, stands poised for its best era. The trends observed at Evo 2023 and the upcoming slate of new games fuel optimism for the future of fighting games, not only as a community but also as a thriving esports industry. As we enter this new golden era, let’s rally behind the FGC and embrace the excitement that lies ahead.
Get ready for the next round — the FGC is back, and it’s stronger than ever.