Will Street Fighter 6 Be 2023’s Biggest Fighting Game?
Capcom's Street Fighter is more-or-less unbeatable when it comes to fighting games. It's been that way since the 1980s. While the first Street Fighter game fell short of setting the world on fire, Street Fighter 2 set a new standard for the genre when it came out in 1991, and the series has never looked back since. More than twenty Street Fighter games have been released since 1991, which makes it a little odd that we're talking about Street Fighter 6 as "the next" Street Fighter game, with an as-yet-unknown release date in 2023. We could write a whole article about the way that Street Fighter games are launched and numbered, but if you're here and reading this article, we'll assume you're familiar with the franchise already.
Street Fighter games have a long life cycle. We're not talking quite as long as Grand Theft Auto V here - it feels like no game franchise in history has clung on to a specific entry in the series for as long as that one has - but it is pretty close. Street Fighter V came out in 2016. By the time its successor comes out next year, it will have been the "current" version of the game for seven years, during which time it's been kept alive by a seemingly never-ending stream of downloadable content. It's been a long shift, but the shift is over. Street Fighter 6 is coming. The question is whether it will be the biggest fighting game of the year when it lands.
Beating out the Competition
We could cut this article very short by simply saying "yes." Street Fighter is almost guaranteed to be the biggest fighting game of the year when a new version of it launches. Quite often, it's one of the biggest games of the year of any kind, never mind within its own genre. Other pretenders have come along since the early 1990s and might briefly seize the crown, but Street Fighter always seizes it back. The only potential threat to its dominance would be if one of those "other pretenders" had a big launch of its own lined up for 2023 - and it does.
The only fighting game franchises that can hold a candle to Street Fighter when it comes to fan loyalty and sales figures are Mortal Kombat and Tekken. Mortal Kombat 11 is still the current version of that franchise and was released in 2019. The team behind the game at NetherRealm studios has confirmed that it will be doing "something" to mark the 30th anniversary of the first game before the year comes to an end, but it won’t be announcing Mortal Kombat 12. Based on past form and the amount of time that goes into developing such a major name, we suspect that we won’t see the next game until 2024 at the earliest. However, the story is different for Tekken. Bandai Namco announced on November 16th that Tekken 8 is finally entering the final stages of production - and it’s going to be a 2023 release. Not only that, but the developer has such high expectations for its flagship fighting game that it genuinely believes that it could give Street Fighter 6 a run for its money.
If Bandai goes ahead with a 2023 launch for Tekken 8, it would be akin to a declaration of war on Capcom. No previous version of Tekken has ever been released in the same year as a version of Street Fighter. The two companies have studiously stayed out of each others' way so as to avoid forcing players on limited budgets to pick between the two titanic AAA games. It would be a bold move - but would it be a smart one?
Why Street Fighter Still Wins
From the tone of this article and the conclusion we reached as early as the third paragraph, you can tell what we think of Bandai's chances. We have no doubt that Tekken 8 will perform very well, but it won't hit Street Fighter's numbers. We have three pieces of evidence we can point to in support of that statement. The first is the sheer popularity of the Street Fighter 6 beta, which concluded in October. It was such a smash hit with the lucky players who had access to it that modders and hackers worked out a way to keep playing it after the trial officially closed. Capcom eventually had to pull the executable file off Steam to break the mod and stop people from playing. Players only go to such extremes if they're in love with the game.
The second factor that we can point to is the popularity of the Street Fighter franchise in other areas, and we're talking about iGaming in particular. The most popular online slots game based on a video game ever made is the official Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior game. It's more than two years old now but still ranks highly at the online casinos that offer it. Any casino operator that populates the official Street Fighter game throughout its sister sites tends to make money by doing so. Wherever the game is listed, it tends to appear in the “top slots” or “top games” section rather than being buried in its archives. That’s despite the fact that there are several popular franchises and series of casino games that are exclusive to that format. The popularity of Street Fighter breaks through in a way that other casino games based on video games don’t.
Finally, there's the games' potential for the future. We have no doubt that Tekken 8 will be supported by downloadable content both at launch and well into the future. It's a given that Street Fighter 6 will do the same, but there may be substantial differences between the types of downloadable content that players of each game get. Tekken 8 players will likely get new fighters, new arenas and perhaps further story mode content. Street Fighter 6 players might - and we'll emphasise the word "might" - get a crossover between Street Fighter and characters from either the Marvel or DC Comics universe. Shuhei Matsumoto and Takayuki Nakayama, both of whom work on the Street Fighter series in a senior capacity, recently gave an interview in which they said they'd love to make it happen and they're looking into it. If they can do it, that would be a unique selling point that Tekken could only dream of.
Tekken 8 will be a big game even if it comes out in the same year as Street Fighter 6. Mortal Kombat 12 will be a huge deal whenever it’s released. Street Fighter remains undefeated, though - and so long as Capcom provides us with a quality product, it will probably always remain so.