King of Fighters 15 is still officially slated for 2020, but I really don't think a release this year seems realistic for SNK's next fighting game

More than halfway through the year we still haven't seen even the faintest glimpse of it, which bodes ill for its proposed release schedule

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • July 31, 2020 at 9:47 a.m. PDT | Comments: 46

King of Fighters 15 has been in the works for a while at this point and been in the public eye for at least the last year or so, gaining traction with fans ever since last year's EVO (which was almost exactly a year ago) where SNK showed off the game's logo during a cavalcade of Samurai Shodown news. What a lot of people may not remember, though, is that SNK actually confirmed development and officially announced during an investor relations meeting that King of Fighters 15 was coming as far back as December of 2018.

While they didn't specify anything about the game at that time, and indeed they haven't done so in the year that's passed since the logo unveiling in Las Vegas either, they did list a 2020 release date for it at the time. With us being halfway through 2020 and still not having seen even an image of the game outside of the logo, it's seeming increasingly likely that the game must have been delayed to at least next year. Let's take a look at the realities affecting King of Fighters 15 and its proposed retail date for this year and what may be working for and against said release window still holding true.

First of all, while it hasn't been refuted by SNK at any time and is therefore still their publicly stated release date, the 2020 release window was propsed back in 2018. A lot can happen in the one and a half years since this initial announcement internally at a company both inside and outside of the project at hand, and a lot did happen on a global scale with the outbreak of COVID-19 this year.

The fact that we haven't seen anything beyond a logo for the game — which was shown a full year ago now — means that development is likely not moving as smoothly as they had originally planned and could also have been adversely affected by the circumstances of 2020, much like many other games and other media projects in development have been this year.

While it is entirely possible to keep a project under wraps until it's close to completion, this usually isn't the case when you're making a fighting game since companies often want to take fan feedback (something the Guilty Gear Strive development team over at Arc System Works are at least claiming that they're doing) which makes it seem like a bit of a stretch to hope for King of Fighters 15 to be publicly shown and released within the next 5 months.

Another reason why this seems unlikely specifically for SNK and King of Fighters 15 is because of what happened with the last game in the series. King of Fighters 14 was a stellar game, but it was marred by a budget a bit too low for the high ambitions the developers had for the game as well as inexperience with 3D modeling. While the game itself wasn't bad by any means, it left a bad visual impression on players and SNK had to work hard to update the graphics only months after its release to offset the bad reputation the game's appearance has garnered.

Even during those circumstances, King of Fighter 14 was a game which was announced almost a full year before the eventual release of the game, meaning that if King of Fighters 15 were indeed still slated for a 2020 release, they'd have less than half of the window they had for King of Fighters 14 between public unveiling and actual release — a strategy they'd be unlikely to want to rely on, given the troubles they faced with having to improve so many aspects that players didn't like about the last King of Fighters release.

Looking at other major SNK projects between King of Fighters 14 and the upcoming King of Fighters 15, they don't come close to having as short of a window as just 5 months between fans getting their first look at the game and having it playable in their home, either.

SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy which was by the developer's own admission a much smaller scale game they did more for fun purposes was first shown in January of 2018 and ended up releasing in September of that same year — making even that a longer window than what the main title of King of Fighters 15 which they're undoubtedly putting much more money, time and manpower into would have if it's still on track for a 2020 release.

The Samurai Shodown revival which ended up releasing in June of last year was first shown to the public about nine months earlier in September of 2018, making it a slightly longer window than what SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy had but also somewhat shorter than what King of Fighters 14 had.

It would seem pretty obvious based on SNK's past trends as well as those of gaming as a whole (with Nintendo being clear outliers, but that's beside the point) that a 2020 release for King of Fighters 15 is looking exceedingly unlikely at this point, but what is clear is that the game is still in development and SNK are hard at work at it.

Thankfully, we may not have to wait too long to get a glimpse at what SNK have in store for us even if the release window may have been moved up — two of SNK's main developers are participating in the fighting game roundtable discussion which is happening later today, so odds are fairly good that we'll get to see not only some new Samurai Shodown content but also our first look at the upcoming King of Fighters 15 if we're lucky, though I must stress that no such promises have been made by SNK publicly.

The famous quote from Shigeru Miyamoto states that a rushed game will forever be bad while a delayed game may eventually be good, and it applies perfectly here. If SNK feel that they need to delay King of Fighters 15 later than their originally promised window to make it a good enough product for a satisfying release, then please do.

I would much rather have a quality game later than a lacking game right now, and I can't wait to see what they have in store for us with the next iteration of one of the most celebrated and beloved franchises in the entire genre of fighting games.

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