Are fighting games a niche genre?

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#1 Posted by Martian_Bars (18 posts) -

My friends and I can't agree on this. Some of us think fighting games are a less popular genre but would not classify them as niche, while others think they are definitely niche without question.

I have been asking around the web compiling answers and thus far I am still getting mixed results.

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#2 Posted by Efesell (4532 posts) -

I mean I guess how harsh is your criteria between niche and mainstream. You can use that term to mean a small room full of the only people who have heard of this strange thing or what is still a sizable community but is still niche by comparison to the mainstream.

I would say fighting games operate in that latter bracket, yeah.

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#3 Posted by the_hiro_abides (1324 posts) -

Yes fighting games are a niche genre.

However I think all video game genres are a niche genre. Most popular games appealing to the mainstream are multiple genres.

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#4 Posted by hermes (2617 posts) -

It really depends on how niche is niche for you. Street Fighter 2 was one of the best selling games in history, Mortal Kombat was big enough to force the congress to pay attention...

If by niche you mean "a lot of people don't play it regularly and it is not covered in news regularly", yes, they are niche. If it means, "a lot of people that play games have not, at least, a basic understanding of how they work and has, at some point in their lives, played a fighting game", I think there are better examples (city sims, JRPG, visual novels, etc...) of more niche genres than fighting games.

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#5 Posted by Onemanarmyy (4438 posts) -

As an outsider, i'm always surprised by how BIG fighting game releases like Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat still are. Like i know these games are culturally very important for games and will always hold a dedicated fanbase that plays them for years & years. But it seems like there are many people out there that know upfront that they'll probably fall off after playing for a few weeks or hardly play against other humans and are totally cool with that.

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#6 Posted by Martian_Bars (18 posts) -

@onemanarmyy: I would agree with you, absolutely. Do you feel that warrants the ole niche stamp or something else?

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#7 Edited by Onemanarmyy (4438 posts) -

@martian_bars: My presumptions would've agreed with you that fighting games are niche. But when i look at the last few big fighting games and realize that they sell quite some units, i feel like that's somewhat of an understatement. Mortal Kombat X was the ninth best-selling retail game of 2015 in the United States. Dragon Ball FighterZ sold over 3.5 million copies. Street Fighter 5 sold at least 2.5 million (but probably way more now). Those are substantial numbers. I guess it's more accurate to say that 'being a serious fighting game player' is niche, but 'being a fighting game owner' is pretty mainstream? :D

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#8 Posted by Martian_Bars (18 posts) -

@onemanarmyy: Not to show my cards, but I am actually in the camp that believes they are not niche. So I would agree with you! Among my friends; some of them also believe that they are pretty mainstream, (just not as popular). I would consider visual novels or simulators niche, by comparison. But the other half of my friends think otherwise. A lot of people according to the reddit posts I've been getting seem to think otherwise as well. I'm still getting varied answers though, which is interesting.

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#9 Posted by FrostyRyan (2922 posts) -

That's a pretty interesting question because it would get a hard no back in the arcade days but now? Probably.

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#10 Posted by nutter (2185 posts) -

It depends on the decade.

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#11 Edited by TreeTrunk (617 posts) -
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#12 Posted by BigSocrates (1966 posts) -

Fighting games definitely were not niche in the 90s, when Street Fighter II was ubiquitous and there was a whole console (the Neo Geo) more or less dedicated to them. The Tekken games are some of the biggest selling PlayStation games of all time, and you have to remember that the Saturn came with Virtua Fighter as a pack in.

I think any game that's a pack in is by definition not niche. Soul Caliber was also the biggest game at the Dreamcast's launch.

However by the 2000s there was a serious fighting game slump and I think they became niche during that time. This happened because the reasons behind fighting games being so popular became less compelling. Fighting games got big in part because of technical limitations. When you limited a game to 2 characters you could show a lot more detail and have better AI on the RAM and storage strapped systems of the 90s. The other reason fighting games got huge is because of the multi-player aspect. They were perfect games to play with friends.

By the launch of the Xbox 360/PS3 era the systems were powerful enough that you could show a lot of detail in games with a lot more characters so fighting games lost their "spectacle" edge to something like Uncharted or Gears of War, with huge high-def environments. Meanwhile the rise of online gaming meant that there wasn't as big an appetite for 2 player only games where you more or less had to be in the same room (remember that playing fighting games online sucked for a long time until it got...slightly better.) So fighting games fell off. During that time you basically only saw niche releases, and mainstream gaming ignored fighting games, with the exception of Super Smash Brothers, which is its own thing.

Then came Street Fighter IV, and while it didn't revitalize the genre to its prior heights, it did renew interest. Plus all the 30-something dudes who grew up with Street Fighter II found they missed fighting games, so the market rebounded. Then came Mortal Kombat 9. and the rebirth of that second pillar franchise, and at this point I think fighting games are in a good place. The interest in graphics in general is less than it used to be (because almost all graphics are good these days) and online play is...somewhat I think the fighting game slump is effectively over. We're 10 years past Street Fighter IV and there are new huge fighting games releasing every year that sell millions of copies.

So I would say :

1992-2003 or so - Not niche

2004-May 2008 - Falls back to being a niche genre

2008 - Present - Not as huge as they used to be, but no longer niche

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#13 Edited by Ares42 (4362 posts) -

In an age where we see thousands of new games every year if a genre only has two franchises, and basically no stand-alone games, that has mainstream appeal I would call it niche. Comparatively it's just very small. Even when you consider the fact that Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat games sells a good handful millions of copies it's not really that big when we see like 10-20 games per year selling as much or more. The market is just so big now that our perception of what's niche or not doesn't quite match up with reality.

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#14 Posted by Rigas (842 posts) -

RTS are niche these days. Fighting games are not.

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#15 Edited by Humanity (18846 posts) -

Not niche but they cater to a very specific crowd. Like I think someone can enjoy a single player First Person Shooter and even to a degree parts of the multiplayer on a completely casual level that simply doesn't exist with fighting games. The ones that do have a single player story mode have the AI either be too easy or too difficult for casual play and online is just like forget it. If you're not going to dedicate the time and effort to learn a whole lot of not only moves but mechanics that have sometimes been grandfathered in from game to game for over a decade then you might as well not even bother. Even then you just might not succeed. I remember one day sitting down and saying OK I'm going to learn Street Fighter because it really fascinates me and I watched a lot of high level play that looked like an amazing game of chess. I trained for days, I read the forums, I even bought a low grade fighting stick to make sure nothing is holding me back - and still I simply could not get some of those moves out. No matter how hard I tried there were certain combos and "strats" that I just couldn't pull off, I don't know what it is.

I can play any other game fairly competitively or at least have a fun time doing so. Fighting games just elude me and honestly I don't think they are meant for casual play.

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#16 Edited by blackiyto (4 posts) -

I guess how harsh is your criteria between niche and mainstream.


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#17 Posted by FacelessVixen (2633 posts) -

I'd say that they're about as niche or "niche" as racing games.

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#18 Posted by SSully (5632 posts) -

I'd say that they're about as niche or "niche" as racing games.

I think they are even more niche then that. My litmus test used to be (3 years ago, before I graduated college) seeing what games people would play around dorms. You would always see the obvious stuff like shooters, rpgs (mainly Skyrim, Fallout), and other random stuff (Forza). I was typically the only person who would play fighters and I pretty much only buy NetherRealm games. The only fighter I ever saw played outside my room was occasionally playing Smash on an old Gamecube.

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#19 Posted by itsmejerry04 (1 posts) -

They are extremely niche. They have high barriers to entry, are inherently competitive and require a huge knowledge and mechanical burden to be competent.

While some games are putting way more effort into the single-player campaigns like Injustice and Mortal Kombat and that may get some more people interested, those same people aren't necessarily going to get heavily involved in the multiplayer part of the game.

Other games such as Overwatch, Fortnite, and so on are team based so it's easy to say.