The State of the FGC in 2017
Date Published: May 22, 2017
The Fighting Game Community (FGC) has experienced quite the change as of recent years, with 2015 perhaps having some of the most memorable moments in the competitive landscape, and 2016 elevating the exposure of fighting games primarily due to increased marketing and financial support from Sony and Capcom in regards to the release of Street Fighter V.
While we’re only at the midpoint of the year, how things play out in the second half of 2017, could very well be a tell on what the future holds for the FGC. Therefore, it would be a good time to take a closer look at the fighting games that headline the FGC in 2017, and how they impact the landscape, be it for better or for worse.
Fighting Game: Killer Instinct (KI)
State in 2017: Active, but small community
Positive: Character variety, unique playstyle
Negative: Intermediate difficulty, platform isolation (XBOX ONE/PC)
Recommended to: Experienced players, patient players willing to learn the basics
Killer Instinct is among the most intriguing games in the FGC as it has a lot of traditional aspects of other fighting games, yet separates itself from the rest with its art style, metagame, and overall approach to how fighting games work.
Character design in KI is the definition of unique, no character looks, plays, or feels the same. The variation in size, mobility, and specialized play style is perhaps among no other active game in the FGC. While there are a few more traditional options, KI hasn’t been shy with constantly innovating in different designs and ways to pit two contrasting styles against one another with a maintained balance.
The unfortunate tale of KI is that while it’s community is tight-knit, and strong within a small circle, there is a barrier to entry. Due to the game only being available on XBOX ONE and PC, it failed to reach a wider audience, and its unique playstyle is not tailor-made for those who are novices to the concept of fighting games.
Fighting Game: Persona 4 Arena Ultimax (P4AU/P4U2)
State in 2017: Community near complete extinction
Positive: Beginner friendly, high ceiling
Negative: Anime lifespan, heavy match-up knowledge
Recommended to: Experienced players, new players interested in offline modes
P4U2 could be best described as the middle between the two spectrums that are the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue games from Arc System Works. The game from a mechanical sense is very similar to the BlazBlue franchise, if not even simpler from an execution standpoint. Yet, from a competitive ceiling, P4U2 is more akin to the Guilty Gear series as the creative nature of the game takes over, producing some of the highest level of competitive play available.
Where P4U2 holds the edge over its two mentioned counterparts is with its characters. The playable cast, whom many are familiar with due to the success of Persona 3 and Persona 4, are more attracting to casual players considering the cache of the already well-known roster.
However, despite the beginner friendly nature, memorable cast, and high competitive ceiling of the game, lack of developer support has all but killed the game’s hardcore community. In January of 2015 the 2.0 update of the game only reached the Japanese arcade market, leaving console players behind. The shelf life of anime fighting games is not a long one but, without updates and backing from developers, demise comes all that much sooner.
Fighting Game: Tekken 7 (T7)
State in 2017: Community pending ascension with console release
Positive: Attending developer, rewarding gameplay
Negative: Legacy skill heavy, intimidating to learn
Recommended to: Previous Tekken players, experienced players willing to step out of 2-D element
The final chapter on Tekken 7 hasn’t been written yet, but if I were to choose one fighting game to play in 2017, Tekken 7 would be my clear-cut choice. The game has gone through more than two years of stress testing, and evolved primarily with to the critique of the community in mind.
Simplifying Tekken 7 was a huge move by Bandai Namco and one that was necessary after difficulty was the main obstacle for new players trying to play Tekken Tag Tournament 2. The return of 1v1, introduction of Rage Arts, and a plethora of characters ranging in difficulty, design, and style—all bodes well for catering to a new audience, yet still maintaining its old one.
The only element that may hinder Tekken 7 is the amount of legacy skill required in order to really compete at a high level. While execution is not nearly as difficult as some other games, the simple act of third dimensional movement can be a hurdle, and that’s without even mentioning the necessity of knowing the Korean back-dash technique, as well as being well versed in frame data not only for your character, but everyone else’s.
Nevertheless, despite some more technical requirements, Tekken 7 is looking to be the one of the most complete and polished products on the fighting game market upon its much anticipated release. It is perhaps the best-looking fighting game in motion, only second to Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2. However, with the addition of the series’ always intriguing story mode, new characters, player friendly tools, and continuous developer support, Tekken 7 could very well be shaping up as the new darling of the FGC.
Fighting Game: BlazBlue: Central Fiction (BBCF)
State in 2017: Active, average size anime FGC
Positive: Character variety, accessible to new players
Negative: Anime lifecycle, heavy fan service
Recommended to: Anime fighting game players, fans of Japanese characterization
It’s active now, but the narrative of BlazBlue games is one that repeats itself, it lives until a patch arrives, and by the time the patch reaches the NA market, a new game in the franchise is being announced. Though, despite it’s frustrating lifecycle, BBCF lives up to the standard of the BlazBlue franchise, it has a good balance of ‘heel’ and ‘face’ characters, its gameplay is fairly simple to start, and gets harder as you advance higher into the deeper intricacies of the game, those mostly having to do with defensive and counter options.
There isn’t much BBCF can add to the FGC, despite it being another solid title in a long running franchise, which has shown itself to being a fun spectator experience after the events of EVO 2014 with Dogura facing Garireo in a fighting game set for the ages. However, even with that momentum behind the franchise, the community numbers stayed relatively the same.
The only personal gripe I have with BBCF and the franchise as a whole, is the overuse of fan service. While many welcome it, there is still a prejudice in the FGC against titles like BBCF for being ‘too anime’ and the BlazBlue franchise hasn’t been shy with making fan service its calling card. Which, while it attracts the casual market player and everyday anime fan, it also has a repelling effect on the hardcore fighting game audience.
Fighting Game: Street Fighter V (SFV)
State in 2017: Active large community, yet with a steady decline
Positive: Well-known characters, beginner friendly
Negative: Over-simplified scheme, awkward looking character design
Recommended to: Casual market, novice players, online community
Street Fighter V is by far one of the most spectated, and played games in the FGC since its release in early 2016. Though, the reason SFV has held the mindshare of the fighting game scene is not because of how well it was received by the FGC, rather it is the marketing push by Capcom and Sony, who’ve invested a lot of money into the production of the Capcom Pro Tour.
SFV stumbled out of the game, delivering an incomplete game to start, however Capcom has made some amends with Season 2 of the game, releasing some interesting stages and a couple of popular characters, yet it wasn’t enough to earn back the respect lost from the hardcore audience.
The awkward looking character designs, the simplicity of mechanics, and overall non ‘footsie’ orientated meta the game has adapted, Capcom is looking at a long road of getting back the FGC on their good side, as they have spent their time to date only on the marketing and promotion of Capcom Pro Tour as well as only catering to the casual market player.
Currently the game and the community feel to be at a crossroads, the game is seemingly alive and well only because of the marketing push, and pro player participation in Capcom Pro Tour, however declining numbers on Steam and PSN show that the fighting game is losing its grasp on its amateur community, and with impressive titles like Tekken 7 and Guilty Gear Revelator 2 on the horizon, the decline of SFV could become its demise if the non-competitive scene abandons the product for more complete experiences before a significant change is made to the game.
Fighting Game: Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code (MBAACC)
State in 2017: Modest, but dedicated community
Positive: Beginner friendly, traditional mechanics
Negative: Small competitive presence, graphically outdated
Recommended to: Anyone who likes to have fun
If the FGC gave a fan favorite award, MCAACC would most likely be its recipient. In 2017, the Melty Blood series is nothing more than a side tournament game, however be it as small as it is, its community is dedicated and the game is always spectator friendly.
With traditional inputs, relatively beginner friendly execution, plenty of different characters to choose from, it is the perfect game for those interested in just having a fun time. Of course, the game is much deeper than meets the eye once taken the time to understand all of its defensive mechanics, as well as the air/ground juggling combo system.
Nevertheless, MBAACC is in a weird realm of technically being an anime fighting game, but not entirely playing like one. It is best described as the middle ground if you were to combine Super Street Fighter Turbo II and Guilty Gear XX, either way, it is guaranteed to be a fun time.
Fighting Game: The King of Fighters XIV (KOFXIV)
State in 2017: Active community, relative size to series’ average
Positive: Character diversity, unique playstyle
Negative: Intermediate execution skill, legacy skill reliance
Recommended to: Veteran players, players willing to hit training mode
Despite not being as demanding as its predecessor, KOFXIV is still known for its precise execution and the need for an extensive offensive knowledge, however the end certainly justifies the means with KOFXIV as it’s a fighting game title with a lot to offer both from a spectatorship and competitive standpoint.
The 3v3 format is back, and with over 50 playable characters, finding the right team should not be a problem for anyone. The metagame of KOFXIV is still very much intact as it rewards the players who prioritize correct spacing and ‘footsies’ with explosive punishes, granted if all the resources are available. As a beginner, KOFXIV may be the hardest game to learn, however if learned properly, it may grant the highest reward by instilling fighting game fundamentals which cross over to almost any other title in FGC.
Lastly, aside from the difficulty aspect of the game, the only knock on the game has been from a graphical sense, while not as impressive for the console generation, especially when compared to other titles on the market, SNK has made improvements with consistent updates to enhance the game, and maintain a high standard in order to compete with other FGC titles.
Fighting Game: Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] (UNIELST)
State in 2017: Active, relatively small for anime FGC
Positive: Considerably grounded, beginner friendly
Negative: Stale character design, overshadowed by other anime titles
Recommended to: Novice players, anime FGC
While it does offer a little bit more of a grounded style to the anime fighting game world, UNIELST is somewhat of a lesser version of BBCF or P4U2. The game does have a few interesting ideas, especially to do with fighting patterns, as while the roster isn’t very impressive in size, characters don’t mimic each other’s playstyle.
While I wouldn’t include it in the fan service circle like BBCF, UNIELST is a game I could see labeled as ‘too anime’ simply due to the art style and aesthetic design of its characters. The character variation is noticeable, but the unfortunate part of the game is that two of its most recognized and popular characters—Akatsuki and Eltnum do not even belong to the franchise as they are guest characters from the Akatsuki Blitzkampf and Melty Blood games respectively.
However, due to UNIELST unique design of looking like an anime fighting game, yet playing by more grounded rules, the game teaches some groundwork fundamentals that carry over to other alike titles. The game has also become a cult favorite among spectators due to its unique play design and offers a nice change of pace to the rest of the anime fighting game scene.
Fighting Game: Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 (GGXRD R2)
State in 2017: Active, largest anime FGC
Positive: Unique character design, high ceiling
Negative: Intermediate difficulty, match-up knowledge heavy
Recommended to: Experienced anime FGC, FGC veterans
It might be an anime fighting game, however the Guilty Gear series has never been about being easy mode. While it isn’t as difficult as learning the Korean back-dash in Tekken or the precise inputs needed for KOF, there is a lot of match-up familiarization and getting comfortable with the metagame, and ground rules of GGXRD R2 will take time.
However, if willing to put in the work, GGXRD R2 offers up some of the best characters, most rewarding playstyles, and arguably the best soundtracks in fighting games. Although there are some more traditional characters like Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske, the game rewards creativity, especially with characters who think outside the box.
From a spectatorship standpoint, while not having to know much about the game to enjoy watching it, there is also a learning process as far as understanding what is happening at any given moment, for ex: burst baits, option selects, etc. Though, there is an argument to be made that GGXRD R2 is perhaps the best looking game the FGC has to offer, consequently making it observer friendly even to the casual eye.
Fighting Game: Mortal Kombat X (MKX)
State in 2017: Active, slowly declining in players
Positive: Character variations, beginner friendly
Negative: Top tier reign, limited cross over skills to other games
Recommended to: NRS veterans, casual market, blood and gore enthusiasts
Aside from the Street Fighter series, Mortal Kombat owns some of the most recognized names in all of fighting games, and NetherRealm Studios made sure to include those names in MKX. It shouldn’t be a shock to fans of the series that MKX was meant to be more than just a competitive fighting game, but a spectacle. The fatalities, brutalities, and other gruesome aspects of the game are as much of a selling point to the casual market as anything else.
From the competitive side of things, MKX does offer plenty of variety by practically offering 3 characters in one with the introduction of character variations, while the core aspects of the character remain somewhat intact, different moves become available with each variation, and thus contrasting playstyles are invented for the same character.
While execution is considered easy at worst and match-ups knowledge isn’t as importantly emphasized compared to other games due to the block button, where MKX suffers its biggest problem is with balance, while as there is a long list of characters, the names at the top of the ladder are well known due to the difference in their risk/reward system. The metagame is somewhat only based on the revolving three aspects of throw breaks, blocking low, and blocking high. The characters who exploit the high/low game the best, are the ones who see the most success in a competitive environment.
Fighting Game: Injustice 2 (INJ2)
State in 2017: Active, steadily growing community
Positive: Beginner friendly, recognizable characters
Negative: Graphically inconsistent, in need for necessary balance updates
Recommended to: NRS veterans, fans of DC characters
It is way too early to judge Injustice 2 as it has only been out for a little over a week in the NA markets, however, the early impressions of the game, hold somewhat the same as they do in most NRS games; in need of balance changes. The Deadshot zoning army has risen, and its impending fall is only a matter of time until the next balance patch. The core aspects of gameplay are all there, as there has mostly been a positive response from the FGC, liking it to what made the original in the series interesting, with borrowed lessons from MKX.
Aesthetically, the game has been fairly inconsistent as it has moments when it could be mistaken as a scene from a movie, as well as some awkward executed frames and uninspiring character designs. However, with a few polishing efforts, DLC support, and balance changes, the game could very well be on its way as another successful title from NetherRealm Studios.
Fighting Game: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (MVCI)
State in 2017: TBD, trending up
Positive: Well-known characters, TBD
Negative: Graphically underwhelming, TBD
Recommended to: Veteran UMvC3 players, TBD
Similar to Injustice 2, there is still much unknown with MvC:I as its set to release in September of 2017, however the response from fans of the franchise and the FGC has been mostly positive after some early trailers, and limited information.
The few areas of concern in the early stages are the underwhelming visuals and the fact that Capcom is at the helm of the operation that is Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, and after over a whole year of PR failure with Street Fighter V, there is some warranted trepidation by the FGC considering MVCI will likely not be receiving the same financial and marketing support.
Closing thoughts – Although there are a lot of moving parts in the FGC, be it fair or not, the rise and fall of the community lie solely on the shoulders of Capcom and Street Fighter. As evidenced by the year 2015 with Ultra Street Fighter IV having had perhaps its most exhilarating competitive season with phenomenal finishes at both EVO 2015 and Capcom Cup 2015, the FGC thrived and the growing stream, sale, and player numbers had a positive effect not only on USFIV but other fighting games in the community as a whole.
Fast forward to mid-2017, Capcom and Street Fighter V is on a downtrend in every aspect there is, with the FGC faith being perhaps the most important. As dire and unfortunate as it may seem, it may be too late to change SFV, as no fan favorite character, additional mode, or any other enticing element can change the fact that it simply does not feel nor play like a proper Street Fighter title.
However, on the brighter look of things, the FGC does have many other quality games to turn to, and perhaps the community can rally around a new game like Tekken 7 or KOFXIV and shades of 2015 can return, and hopefully in the process, Capcom can return to its roots after seeing that the reason the SFIV era in fighting games was so special was because of the hardcore and dedicated audience known as the fighting game community, made it special.
I did not include the Super Smash Brothers titles and Pokkén Tournament because I don’t consider these titles as traditional fighting games, nor do those games interest the FGC proper.