With the release of Street Fighter X Tekken, I've seen a lot of hostility thrown towards the game because of how it is handling microtransactions. Specifically, people are relatively mad about how Dan has been used to basically say "yo, go into the DLC store and buy some gems". It's a regrettable use of a character that Street Fighter fans both love and hate in equal parts (although I'm firmly in the 'Dan is awesome' column). However, because of mechanics that have been introduced into Street Fighter games at this point, I couldn't help but compare it to a game that I frequently play: League of Legends. The more and more that I'm thinking about it, the more I realize the truth...
Allow me to demonstrate:
- Both games feature an excessive number of characters to pick from.
- Both require mastery of the game mechanics as well as a deeper understanding of the characters and timing.
- Both have some douchebags in their community.
- Both push microtransactions.
The only two differences that I can honestly think of are that Street Fighter is a retail game that costs anywhere from $20 - $60 (depending on which version you buy) and is a fighting game while League of Legends is free-to-play and is a strategy game.
However, what if Street Fighter WERE a free-to-play game, let alone a little more like League of Legends in some regards?
- The Gem system isn't that far off from being a little bit like the Runes system from League of Legends, where you fill up a page with runes that you buy with the in-game currency gained from winning games. You actually cannot buy runes with real money, as they are items that directly influence and give an advantage to someone in the game. Therefore, if Street Fighter went free-to-play, you would offer the Gem system as a way for players to customize how they play a specific character in a greater way than there was before. It would mean that three people would play Ryu, but every one of those Ryu players might be different because of this extra layer of depth.
- League of Legends, as of this writing, is currently up to 94 champions to choose from. Generally, a new champion is released every two weeks, and the new champ can be purchased either with the in-game currency (called influence points) or with real money (called Riot Points). Overall, a new champ runs you about $8 brand new when they first come out. Some may say "that's a lot", but for a character that you will play a ton, it's not that much at all. Meanwhile, most Street Fighter games seem to round out a little over 30 characters, maybe a little less sometimes. However, what if Street Fighter were able to release a new character every two weeks...or every month? They would cost about $5 - $8 upon release, or you could use whatever in-game currency you get from winning matches to buy them. Beyond that, visual skins/outfits/costumes are another way of making money, and Riot has figured that formula out very well. They typically release at least one new skin every week, and those usually cost around the same as the champion but feature a pretty extensive reworking of the character's art in many cases.
- If Street Fighter went free-to-play, it would give more viability to playing Street Fighter on the PC, a place where players wouldn't have to war between which console is superior to play it on. Sure, the PC version of Street Fighter IV wasn't phenomenal, but it was also thrown together and is generally not the most played version. PS3 has been the dominant platform, but PC is where the dominance should rest. That's not a comment of PC elitism, but it's a platform where Capcom could work closely with some controller manufacturer to create a controller peripheral that works incredibly. At the same time, the majority who use an arcade stick would be able to plug up and go.
- You wouldn't get so many re-releases of the same game over and over, as it would be one consistent and ongoing product that has ongoing balance tweaks and changes. New stages could be added for free, much the same way that League of Legends offered up Coop vs AI and Dominion.
When it comes down to it all, Capcom seems as though they are right on the verge of being free-to-play with the way they constantly want to offer up microtransactions and push out tons of iterative versions. Maybe that's because of the speed in which the fighting game community masters their games, but I think it mainly has to do with Capcom needing to push something out that will get some sales numbers because of their flailing status as a company. Nonetheless, it feels to me like the future of the Street Fighter franchise is in the free-to-play market. It's risky, but it can be incredibly rewarding. Moreover, it's a way to expand the audience of the game while also offering a new and stable platform for equality as well as competition.
What do you guys think? Is Capcom past the point of no return on something like this? Does Street Fighter as a free-to-play seem viable at all?
Until next time, piece.