On February 16th, Street Fighter V came out at a full price of $60. The big problem with that is Street Fighter V is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a fully finished game.
The just-released version of Street Fighter V feels like it was rushed out the door. The Battle Lounge multiplayer lobbies can only host two players at a time, as opposed to the standard eight, when the servers are stable enough for people to log on. If the online component of the game isn’t working, players only have a skimpy set of Story Mode levels and Survival Mode to play with. Street Fighter V doesn’t have an Arcade mode, another feature that tends to be standard with fighting games. And the fun customization options that have been staples of modern Street Fighter games, like different costumes, aren’t there at launch, either.
Yes, updates in March will be bringing some of these features to Street Fighter V. But Capcom’s asking players to wait anywhere from two weeks to a month for features that usually have been part of the bare minimum. In that span of time, people who’ve brought the game can leave in droves and others may decide not to pick it up at all. A release as maladroit as this one begs a big question: who is the priority here?
The most common, though unofficial, answer I’ve seen to that question is that, at launch, Street Fighter V is supposed to feed the franchise’s competitive community. Street Fighter V is going to be the foundation of Capcom’s 2016 pro tour—the first major event starts on March 18, just over a month after the game’s release.
But even if Capcom hustled SFV into the world so that pros and wannabes could start working on their skills, the game they released fails several key aspects of that mission, too. Despite built-in support, older fight sticks aren’t consistently working with the new game, and players have had to figure out workarounds to get the PS3 fight sticks working with the PS4 version of the game. Players have reported that at least one stage creates lag during play, making it cursed ground for competition. I’ve experienced this firsthand, watching the game stutter on M. Bison’s Lair of the Four Kings stage as I played an opponent online. Most surprisingly, Street Fighter V didn’t have a system in place to punish people who rage-quit and disconnect during online play.
The lack of features in the game’s offline mode matter, too. The absence of a traditional Arcade Mode makes it harder to get a feel for characters’ strengths and weaknesses when matched up against different opponents. Survival Mode doesn’t offer the kind of depth that invites long-term engagement. Mortal Kombat X’s launch last year had its own myriad problems, but that game had a full story mode and regular challenge updates to keep people happy. Deciding to release without a more robust Story Mode and with such paltry single-player options leaves out people who simply want a fun, full-featured game to play and aren’t training to be part of a competitive circuit.
Street Fighter V will evolve as the year goes on, with some DLC plans already detailed. Capcom’s made a point of saying that folks only have to pay once for Street Fighter V and that players will be able to earn the content from future updates solely by earning in-game cash. Nevertheless, they’re asking for a full $60 up front for a game that, at launch, doesn’t give players much reason to develop an ongoing relationship with it. Releasing a game in this state doesn’t engender much goodwill with either casual or hardcore fans.