The State of the FGC in 2018
Date Published On: June 14, 2018
After what could be described as one of the most interesting years in the Fighting Game Community (FGC), 2017 not only delivered great moments and growth, but in hindsight also laid the groundwork for what the FGC in 2018 and beyond may turn into.
Similar to any longtime passionate community or organization, a changing of the guard is an inevitable element that happens, and while the FGC is not known for taking a unanimous count of votes, the sense of change certainly was present in 2017, and the road that the FGC is on in 2018, only further confirmed that same perception.
NOTE: Games mentioned in The State of the FGC in 2017 that are no longer “headliner” fighting games in 2018 will be excluded from this list, even though I still consider them an important part of FGC.
Fighting Game: Tekken 7 (T7)
State in 2018: Globally active, large community still experiencing growth
Positive: Mechanically exceptional, active developer support
Negative: Input delay adjustment required per platform played (XBOX ONE, PC, and PS4)
Recommended to: Any and all players willing to learn by trial and error
As I mentioned in 2017, I believed that Tekken 7 had the potential to be the most important game on last year’s list, and looking back, I still stand by that statement.
Considering I spoke about Tekken 7’s technical depth ad nauseam on many occasions, there is no need for me to continue to praise the game. As it is the case in many of the legacy games on this list, the games are what they are, and as of 2018, we know that Tekken 7 is exceptional.
The game’s proven quality not only showcased itself with critical reviews, online metrics, and global player numbers, but also as an enjoyable spectating experience noted by both professional and casual gameplay, and overall the word on Tekken around the community is usually a good.
The only real additions that can be mentioned, is the implementation of guest characters from various different franchises, most notably Akuma from Street Fighter, Geese Howard from The King of Fighters, and somewhat of an unexpected one, Noctis from Final Fantasy.
While opinions of the guest characters vary depending on the person that is questioned, the conceptual idea is an interesting one. However, the true revelation that we discovered regarding Tekken 7 in 2018, is that Bandai Namco’s attentiveness is something we should not take for granted.
While as Tekken community members, we joke about the developer of the game to fix certain aspects of the game. Bandai Namco led by leading game producer Katsuhiro Harada, has truly stayed on task when it came to delivering a continuous satisfying experience as fighting game consumers exemplified by things like the Tekken World Tour, constant arcade-to-console DLC updates, etc.
Lastly, this is not to say that the Tekken team does not make mistakes, but its proven track record of both communicating with and solving its community’s concerns, is one the Tekken community greatly appreciates.
Fighting Game: Dragon Ball FighterZ (DBFZ)
State in 2018: Arguably the most popular fighting game on the market
Positive: Beginner friendly, large and wide appeal
Negative: Technical depth plateaus early
Recommended to: All walks of fighting game fans, Dragon Ball fans
It would be safe to say that prior to its release, no one foresaw Dragon Ball FighterZ becoming the juggernaut presence in the FGC that it has turned into. While there was a good reason to believe that the game would be popular, considering the three way partnership of one of the most popular licenses ever in Dragon Ball, an A-grade developer that is Arc System Works, to go along with a proven publishing arm that is Bandai Namco, the game certainly eclipsed its initial goal.
Visually, as it pertains to any license adaptation in a video game, Dragon Ball FighterZ uncanny graphical achievement is truly one to be applauded. Character models, voice acting, source material references, and all of the little things in-between, when it comes to its presentation, Dragon Ball FighterZ absolutely hit it out of the park.
Mechanically, as true for nearly every Arc System Works developed game, DBFZ is responsive, well adjusted, and creative. The 3v3 aspect of the game is one we don’t see very often, if ever in anime games, especially not with mechanics like assists, Ki charge, and many other game specific options.
The final word on Dragon Ball FighterZ is not nearly close to being uttered, however, the only true concern the game has had in its infancy stage, is its unclear meta. The game’s technical depth is an interesting one, as it seems to plateau fairly early, with strategy heavily prioritizing chaotic offense, “turn taking combos”, and somewhat of a similar playstyle for most of the cast with a reliance of team chemistry and assists.
However, despite it being technically less demanding than what we normally expect from the makers of the Guilty Gear franchise, DBFZ still has room to shape its meta in the future, with more time to emphasize defensive importance, ability to perhaps play the game differently than its current default erratic pace, yet oddly slow round closing build up, and lastly, but most importantly, an ability showcase a skill gap between veterans and newcomers, as currently the that gap is simply somewhat lost in the shuffle.
In conclusion, it’s not for everyone, but if there is a game that’s close to that, it has to be Dragon Ball FighterZ as it has demonstrated to reach audiences of many different communities, who either enjoy playing, spectating, or simply being a part of the conversation. The present is looking pretty good for DBFZ, and while I believe there is room for improvement, I don’t see it having a future that is any less favorable.
Fighting Game: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (BBTAG)
State in 2018: TBD, community interest trending up
Positive: Innovative tag system, balanced roster using 4 separate intellectual properties
Negative: TBD, possible standard short anime life-cycle depending on reception
Recommended to: Previous Arc System Works players, new players
It is less than a week old, therefore judging BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle at this point and time would hardly be of any use, as the game is nowhere near the polished product it will most likely be months down the road, however, speaking towards the innovation of BBTAG is still very much possible.
The 2v2 mechanic the game uses, in many aspects, was a risk, however as it currently stands, Arc System Works seemingly was able to implement what would seem to be chaotic pace inducing mechanics, while still maintaining the integrity of the meta we are used to in games like Persona 4 Arena, Under Night In-Birth, and traditional BlazBlue.
While it might not be able to appeal to the masses like Dragon Ball FighterZ has, the use of a license like RWBY is certainly an interesting one, and as it currently stands, the experiment seems to be a favorable one.
It is yet to be seen, however, the biggest potential BBTAG has, is not only demonstrating how a true tag anime game balances simplification without sacrificing it’s the middle-ground, but also it is a good test bed for potentially paving the way for other well-liked licenses to spin-off, or even re-opening one notable door especially—a new standalone Persona Arena fighting game.
Fighting Game: Soulcalibur VI (SCVI/SC6)
State in 2018: Still in development, TBD
Positive: Reliable and proven developer and publisher
Negative: TBD, possible meta change
Recommended to: Former SC players, players comfortable with 3-D movement fighting games
Even though we have some ideas, it’s way too early to speculate anything good or bad about Soulcalibur VI, especially since its delay announcement earlier this year. However, we can deduce a few things, the first is that delays are never a bad thing, giving more time for developers to polish a game before its release is a great fanfare move.
Secondly, Soulcalibur VI is brought to you by the makers of Tekken 7, and the publishers of Dragon Ball FighterZ which bodes well for the game’s quality. Whether the game turns out to be as highly touted as the two aforementioned is to be discovered, but at this point and time, Bandai Namco has proven itself as being first-rate and has shown us no reason recently not to trust the direction they have in mind for their games.
Lastly, despite its early showing and possible system changes, Soulcalibur VI looks promising enough when taking in its graphical fidelity, art direction, early roster choices, and somewhat inspired gameplay mechanics seen in Tekken 7, all whilst holding onto what sets the game apart, maintaining Soulcalibur as a unique experience.
Fighting Game: Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (SFV:AE)
State in 2017: Active stable community, very little fluctuation up or down
Positive: Well established meta, expanded roster
Negative: Polarizing gameplay as it pertains to traditional Street Fighter
Recommended to: Legacy SF character enthusiasts, Capcom Pro Tour competitors
When trying to compare Street Fighter V’s position this year compared to last year it’s tough to say that much has changed than what has already been established, perhaps even since the game’s release. Capcom’s narrative has been one of constant faltering, regaining balance, only to falter again.
The release of Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition was very much a step in the right direction as the game has opened up with more mechanical additions, characters, and much improved overall content and UI changes. However, even though the reception to SFV:AE was predominately a good one, its mere conception is one that proves that SFV’s original launch was a messy one.
In hindsight, the original plan for SFV, was for it to never have to see iterations like Arcade Edition or Ultra like SFIV had experienced, however, that plan simply didn’t work out after SFV’s initial poor reception, though with that said, SFV:AE’s state in 2018 is one where SFV’s position in 2016 and 2017 was not—and that is that the game is finally close to being called complete.
SFV:AE at this point in time is perhaps what the FGC initially expected content wise back during the game’s launch, and though we had to wait a little over two years for it to happen, late is always better than never.
However, despite the mechanical and presentational changes made to SFV with its Arcade Edition update, the game and everything it encompasses, be it technicality, meta, pacing, graphical fidelity and overall design, is already too far along to completely shift to something different.
Personally speaking, I believe that SFV:AE is a comprehensive fighting game experience, and while it’s unfortunate, its past faltering still haunts it, and the shadow of its legacy is seemingly one that is growing out of reach. Whether the game is good or not, is subjective on the individual, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is what it is in 2018, and although it might not be ideal, perhaps that’s not a bad position to be in.
Despite it being derived from somewhat of an unfortunate circumstance, in 2018, it finally feels as if the pressure of carrying the FGC is no longer solely on Street Fighter’s shoulders to bear. As seen with the successful campaigns Dragon Ball FighterZ and Tekken 7 had experienced in their freshman year, SFV:AE, while still having an important role, has become a part of the pack, rather than the one forced to lead it.
Fighting Game: Fighting EX Layer (FEXL)
State in 2018: TBD, nearing console release
Positive: Niche nostalgia, unique mechanics
Negative: Console exclusive until further notice
Recommended to: Fighting Layer, Street Fighter EX, and Street Fighter X Tekken fans
Considering it started as a passion project, and turned into a fully-fledged game upon initial exposure, it’s tough to gauge how to feel about the upcoming Fighting EX Layer. It’s certainly a feel-good story when considering the trials its developer—Arika had to go through in order to make it happen, however there are concerns regarding FEXL.
However, looking on the bright side, FEXL does offer a style and mechanical aspects that aren’t currently a part of any of the mainstage fighting games, already showcasing its uniqueness. The game incorporates mechanics from games such as Street Fighter EX, Fighting Layer, and most recently Street Fighter X Tekken.
Although there is a bit of obscurity with regards to the license, as the characters aren’t too well known unless you’re a part of the hardcore fighting game community, perhaps FEXL’s biggest hurdle may be that the combination of relying on nostalgia to go along with only releasing on one platform, may severely hurt the game’s ability to reach a wider audience, even if the its core gameplay turns out to be of quality.
Fighting Game: The King of Fighters XIV (KOFXIV)
State in 2018: Small, yet active community
Positive: High skill cap, attending developer
Negative: Intimidating for beginners, average graphics for console era
Recommended to: Players not deterred by a challenge
Despite it perhaps not being a headlining game at most tournaments in 2018, as well as being highlighted in last year’s state of the FGC, King of Fighters XIV quality is too good to simply go unnoticed and that aspect alone, secures it a spot on this year’s list.
Similar to Street Fighter V’s case, it’s tough to say that KOFXIV’s position changed much compared to last year, but it didn’t necessarily need to. We know what KOFXIV brings to the table. It’s a legacy fighting game catered to somewhat the hardcore portion of the FGC, its developer is top notch with its DLC schedule and packaging, and last but certainly not least, they care about the players that play their game.
It’s definitely not for everyone, evident by it getting lost in the shuffle, but with everything that comes along with the ride that is KOFXIV, with regards to its storied legacy characters, its emphasis on technical gameplay, a small yet, inviting community, and SNK being a premier fighting game developer, KOFXIV is epitome of fighting game excellence.
Fighting Game: Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st] (UNIST)
State in 2018: Active community, on the smaller side
Positive: Unique fusion of traditional 2-D mechanics in an anime fighting game
Negative: Console exclusivity (PS4), hurting player numbers
Recommended to: Fans of traditional 2-D gameplay willing to step out of comfort zone
As an anime fighting game that somewhat goes against the grain by setting a traditional 2-D pace while still embracing the freedom of movement and creative mechanics seen in up-tempo anime fighters, Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late[st] certainly separates itself from the pack.
However, while separating from the pack is well and good with regards to maintaining a unique system, where it’s also separated from the pack is with its unfortunate console exclusivity, hurting the appeal of the game, not due to quality, but simple incapability of reaching a wider audience.
The few new mechanic implementations and characters added to UNIST without a doubt helped open up options, which was something necessary for the game’s prior iterations, and it’s overall balance finally seemed to reach a good point, however, until it opens up to more platforms, the game’s potential, while not wasted, is certainly not being maximized.
Fighting Game: Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 (GGXRD R2)
State in 2017: Active, stable community
Positive: Most intricate anime game available
Negative: Learning curve a bit steep if no legacy skill present
Recommended to: All-around quality seekers
Although Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2 is only in its sophomore year, GGXRD has been around for a while, and despite Arc System Works busy development the last year, I still maintain, as I did last year when I featured the game on this list, GGXRD R2 is the best offering that anime has for the FGC.
It’s technical, accessible for any type of player, polished with all of the standards and more, and even left room for some bells and whistles. In a similar predicament that KOFXIV is in, if GGXRD R2 doesn’t have you sold by now, it’s really you who’s missing out.
We don’t know how long this iteration of Guilty Gear is going to stick around, but the run it has had so far has been nothing short of exceptional. However long its community continues supporting the game, is as long as I see it sitting on the throne of all anime fighting games.
Fighting Game: Injustice 2 (INJ2)
State in 2018: Active, on par player base to previous NRS games
Positive: Popular characters from various licenses, classic NRS style gameplay
Negative: Poor DLC model, inability to appeal to the mainstream FGC
Recommended to: NRS veterans, fans of DC characters
Injustice 2 was only about a week old when it was referenced on last year’s list, and while changes were made to the game, their impact has been somewhat unnoticed if not a part of the hard core NRS community.
Similar to many other Netherrealm Studio games, the meta of Injustice 2 is somewhat understood by veteran players. The game emphasizes a heavy mix up of high-lows, chip damage, some stage awareness, and even a few gimmicks.
However, putting aside a less-than-favorable DLC model, and some graphical inconsistencies, Injustice 2 actually is one of the most accessible games for both veterans and beginners out on the current market. Featuring many recognizable and even some cult fan-favorite characters, along with some well thought out offline modes. In theory, the game is built to cater to a wide array of players.
However, Injustice 2, like many previous NRS games, just simply is unable to captivate the mainstream FGC for much longer than the initial honeymoon period. It’s unfortunate, however the thing that makes NRS games unique, Injustice 2 included, is also the probable cause for deterring some players from sticking with it.
Injustice 2 is somewhat between a rock and a hard place, because it’s not trying to be like anything else out there, however it’s also in the weird space of being both a traditional 2-D game, with 3-D mechanics. However, considering its hardcore audience is overall happy with it, perhaps widening the game’s horizon is not something all that necessary.
Fighting Game: Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite (MVCI)
State in 2018: Supported only by its hardcore audience
Positive: Classic MVC gameplay
Negative: Subpar graphical fidelity, no developer support/communication
Recommended to: Players passionate about the Marvel vs. Capcom series
I don’t know that I can think of a sadder narrative in the FGC when it comes to a legacy title, especially brought to you by a developer who helms the most recognizable title in fighting games.
There is no sugar-coating it, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is on life-support and it hasn’t even reached a year of being out. If there was a worst case scenario for MVCI it’s this one, evident by the game not even being able to secure a mainstage spot at EVO 2018.
To make matters worse, its developer—Capcom, has seemingly abandoned it, evident by the rare if any sort of communication with its player base, and no real future plans to further support the game. Taking aside its graphical woes, roster decisions, and online functionality, MVCI at its core is still a pretty decent Marvel game considering its technical side. It might not be what some expected, but considering everything it has been criticized for, its gameplay shouldn’t be on that list.
At this point and time, it’s unlikely to see how Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite makes a resurgence, it’s currently only staying afloat thanks to its hardcore community, and there is no reason to believe Capcom is going to come to its rescue anytime soon, a truly unfortunate case, however MVCI’s initial impression and negative outlook was seemingly too detrimental for the game to overcome.
Fighting Game: BlazBlue: Central Fiction
State in 2018: Active, future TBD
Positive: Technically savvy, diverse roster and playstyle
Negative: Anime fighting game life-cycle
Recommended to: Anime fans, Arc System Works players
BlazBlue: Central Fiction is no longer a mainstage game, however not because it can’t hold its own as the franchise has proven to deliver high level technical gameplay when the lights shine at their brightest. However, considering the release of BBTAG, a sacrifice unfortunately has to be made, and as I don’t see GGXRD R2 losing its spot, BBCF last year of highlighted relevancy is most likely 2018.
It’s to be determined what the future looks for not only for another standalone BlazBlue game, but all of Arc System Works’ games, as they seemingly have their hand in a lot of projects regarding the fighting game landscape.
It might take a little longer until BlazBlue returns to form as a standalone title, however excluding BBTAG’s reception, the latest memory fighting game fans will have of BlazBlue should be a favorable one, as personally, I have BlazBlue: Central Fiction only second to GGXRD R2, when it comes to the best anime titles currently available.
Fighting Game: Dead or Alive 6 (DOA6)
State in 2018: In development with release scheduled for early 2019
Positive: Series possibly changing direction to a more serious fighting game
Recommended to: 3-D players (pending series changes), DOA fans
We don’t know much of anything when it comes to Dead or Alive 6, so it’s position in 2018 is irrelevant considering it’s not scheduled to be out until early 2019, however the one thing that is somewhat eye catching with regards to the initial reveal trailer of the game is its possible hint at a complete thematic shift.
The Dead or Alive series for a long time has been somewhat dismissed by the FGC due to the fact that the technical portion of the games in the series were overshadowed by fan service, unappealing spin-offs, etc., however if DOA6 is an attempt to rededicate the franchise to becoming a serious player in the 3-D landscape, that only bodes well for the FGC.
Fighting Game: SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy (SNKH:TTF)
State in 2018: TBD, In development with upcoming release
Positive: SNK licensed characters
Negative: Fan service, marketed towards casual audience
Recommended to: Fans of SNK’s female characters
If I’m completely honest, I don’t believe SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy belongs on this list, considering I don’t factor it as a proper fighting game. However, considering its developer is a respected one in SNK, and it does make use of King of Fighters characters, the least I could do was give it the benefit of a doubt.
While I don’t see the game becoming a player in the FGC upon its release, as it seems to be targeting a more casual audience with perhaps the hope of bringing them over to KOFXIV, I don’t hate the idea of the game, and almost see it as a spin-off that has potential to open the door to a wider audience.
Time will tell what the impact of the game will have on the FGC, however, considering SNK made it clear out of the gate with the direction they had with SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy, whether it accomplishes it’s potential goal of increasing KOFXIV’s player base, or simply just becomes a standalone casual experience, there really isn’t a negative outcome as it pertains to the FGC.
Closing thoughts – Last year, I said that 2017 was a transitional year for the FGC, and while it had potential for some growth with some upcoming titles such as Tekken 7, there was no real way of knowing which direction the FGC was going to lean towards considering Street Fighter V’s position and the traditional thinking of how the ‘FGC only goes as far as Street Fighter does.’
However, if 2017 was the year to introduce and build the foundation for the fighting game community’s new direction, 2018 is taking that new direction and running full steam ahead to a future I’m not sure anyone had in-mind. I’ve previously mentioned that the FGC and Capcom were at a crossroads, and it was only a matter of time until a road was picked by either side, well the choice was finally made.
2018 is shaping up to be a year that is no longer focused on what Capcom and Street Fighter is doing, but rather what the FGC as a whole is doing. The emergence of Bandai Namco and Arc System Works especially have seemingly turned the tide, as the two have taken a significant portion of the mindshare within the FGC.
Furthermore, the rise of the anime, and 3-D movement games is something that I did not expect to have as big of an impact as it did, and while the traditional 2-D landscape is still doing well, it’s feeling of mindshare monopoly in the FGC is something that no longer seems to be a factor.
In closing, while it might have happened a little sooner than initially anticipated, the new look for the FGC is going to be one to watch, as I believe 2018 has become the year where the FGC no longer has to look at Street Fighter to carry the burden of leading the way, but rather it’s the combined effort of multiple games, each playing a significant part.
It’s to be determined if this new look for the FGC is sustainable, however if the first half of 2018 is any indication, I personally remain optimistic that if there is a community that can pull it off, it’s the fighting game community.