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5 non-negotiables we want to see for Street Fighter 6 at launch

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • November 20, 2020 at 3:50 p.m. PST • Comments: 99

It's true, we get especially excited about new Street Fighter titles around these parts, and the fighting game community got one of their first real whiffs of Street Fighter 6 in recent days thanks to a data hack over at Capcom.

We imagine the launch for Street Fighter 6 is still more than a year or so off, but what better way to pass the time than to hammer down hopes and expectations for what we'd most want to see once the next franchise entry hits shelves. First impressions are of the utmost importance and set the pace for ensuing seasons. We've come up with five especially relevant, non-negotiables we feel would get SF6 off to the best start possible.

To give some structure to this we specifically looked at launch failures (of which there are unfortunately plenty in Capcom's fighting game division) to guide us. Especially for those of us who have been paying close attention to major game launches over the last few years, some of these may come across as no-brainers, but the only thing worse than having seen such missteps harm or ruin potential successes would be to see them do it a second time.

We'll start simple with a box that may very well already be checked and say that crossplay across consoles and PC is a must. Street Fighter 5 launched as a Sony exclusive ushering large swaths of franchise fans toward purchasing PlayStation 4s as their console of choice for last generation. The game also made it to PC, but was conspicuously absent from Microsoft's Xbox One and Nintendo's Switch.

The general understanding is that Capcom made this deal with Sony because they'd fallen on relatively hard financial times and a PS4 exclusive deal was the price of having a Street Fighter 5 at all. The PlayStation 4 wound up being fairly underwhelming hardware, however, and has proven to provide a significantly downgraded SF5 experience compared to what one can get on PC.

While it's understandable why Capcom made this move, the era of console exclusivity appears to be rapidly evaporating as players from all over the gaming world have been demanding cross platform play for some time now. We should mention, because it's in this same vein, 2013's Killer Instinct's status as an Xbox One exclusive is also often highlighted as the single biggest weight that held the revered title from reaching its full potential.

In any case, making SF6 a console exclusive would be all but a shot in the foot right at the beginning of this race, especially if other fighting titles allow connections across company lines. The good news is that the small bit of potential information that was leaked indicates that the upcoming title will be available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. That's a great start, though crossplay is not mentioned one way or the other, so we'll be crossing our fingers for more good news there.

The next easy non-negotiable we want to see at launch is a robust rollback netcode. Online play is relatively young in the fighting game community, but expectations have evolved rapidly with the times and fluid network play has changed from a pleasant bonus to an absolute must if you want your game to be taken as legitimate.

Though Street Fighter 5 did launch with rollback netcode, online experiences have been frustrating for a good portion of the game's life (a lot of that thanks to PS4, it seems). Capcom has notably focused on improving their game in this particular arena, as have many other developers across the FGC.

Street Fighter 5 now sits at a decent place for online competition, but given how important this facet of gaming has become, Street Fighter 6 needs to wow from the very start. A rocky netcode at launch is a fast track to negative press, negative social reactions, and an overall loss of charisma that Capcom simply can not afford given how reputable their competition is growing.

This next one is easily the most obvious, but we feel it's still worth bringing up and highlighting with a center stage spotlight given it was box that was very much not checked during 2016's Street Fighter 5 launch. The next non-negotiable for SF6 at launch is a complete game.

Deadlines and eSports schedules are surely difficult to juggle from time to time, but the obvious rushing of SF5 seemingly to be out for the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour was a mistake that has haunted the game ever since.

What the community got on February 16, 2016 was about 60-70% of a full Street Fighter game. No arcade ladders, no store, modes that clearly had not been thoroughly tested and tweaked enough to offer any sort of fun to those who played them, plus all of the usual growing pains of an early fighter.

This felt like such an egregious and obvious error that one could go as far as to say it was straight up disrespectful to fans. Capcom surely felt the reaction and more than likely learned the lesson, but should something like this happen again, audiences couldn't hardly be expected to the game seriously.

We'd be remiss if we ran an entire article on launch woes without bringing up Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, which leads us to non-negotiable number four: an intriguing base roster with familiar favorites.

Capcom famously failed to include the X-Men in Infinite due to a ton of red tape surrounding ownership rights, then made the mistake worse by suggesting that players really weren't all that concerned with character identity, but instead simply with general playstyles. It's now unequivocally clear just how incorrect that notion is, and we suspect the development company is more than aware.

Street Fighter hasn't struggled much with this in recent times as SF5 had a good mixture of 16 starters with the promise of many more on the way, and Street Fighter 4 kicked off with a powerful 25 playable characters in its vanilla version. Skip back to the days of Street Fighter 3, however, and the story changes a good bit.

Capcom took a hard and sudden left turn with Street Fighter 3: New Generation by bringing back only two legacy fighters, Ryu and Ken, as part of their 10-character launch roster.

This decision is often cited as one of the main reasons Street Fighter 3 was a commercial failure and led to the Street Fighter dark ages for the better part of the next decade. People want their favorites with a peppering of some new potential, and apparently not the other way around.

Capcom rectified this a bit by eventually adding Chun-Li and Akuma, but a launch roster without Chun just seems objectively wrong for a numbered SF entry. Now that we have a burgeoning list of legacy characters to choose from, developers shouldn't have too hard a time selecting a strong mix of characters from over the years to put together an exceptionally charismatic character select screen at launch.

Last but not least, we're really hoping for a DLC model that excites and energizes fans, not one that disappoints and frustrates them.

We can give a little extra benefit of the doubt for how things played out in SF5 here as the transition to such a DLC-heavy approach was a new endeavor in some significant ways. That said, players often found themselves frustrated when it came to communication about what was coming down the pike and when it would actually arrive.

The first few seasons felt fairly turbulent until Capcom appeared to figure things out in Season 3 by showcasing all upcoming characters beforehand, but then went into their most abysmal season in 2019 with their eight months of "doing things differently" radio silence. The good news is this issue already seems to have been attended to here in Season 5.

Director, Takayuki Nakayama, and producer, Shuhei Matsumoto, have taken a new approach to communicating continued game development to fans, and it's been a massive step up from virtually everything we'd gotten during SF5's earlier years.

Given that Capcom continues with this approach (and perhaps continues to flesh it out even further) they should be able to hit all necessary targets to keep fans happy in this arena... as long as they don't pull a Street Fighter X Tekken and hide extra on-disc content behind paywalls again, but those days are surely over.

There's plenty more to the picture than just these five items, but ensuring wins in these categories should make for a momentum-filled start to the next Street Fighter entry. Not having to play catch up and try to win audiences over from square one is the kind of story both Capcom and Street Fighter fans are hoping to find themselves in with SF6, and that does appear to be a very obtainable goal from where we stand now.

Banner Blanka image credit: Nikitas Vrotsos.

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