The State of the FGC in 2019
Date Published: 22 May, 2019
The year 2018 in fighting games was perhaps the first time in a long while where the fighting game community’s outlook moved away from the traditional star of the show featuring a bunch of supporting roles, to it’s current outlook which better resembles an ensemble cast with a couple of big names.
However, unlike a changing of the guard, the landscape of the FGC in the year 2019 is one that is seemingly taking on both the new school approach to fighting games, yet still leaving a wide enough window for the old-school fighting game identity to fit into.
NOTE: Games mentioned in The State of the FGC in 2018 that are no longer “headliner” fighting games in 2019 will be excluded from this list, even though they are still relevant in smaller circles in the FGC.
Fighting Game: Dragon Ball FighterZ (DBFZ)
State in 2019: Globally active, expansive offline/online community
Positive: Iconic license, active developer support
Negative: Match pacing still a bit prolonged
Recommended to: Dragon Ball fans, anime fighting game veterans
It is without a doubt that Dragon Ball FighterZ is an established and well deserved fan favorite title in the FGC. After coming off one of the best debut years in fighting games in recent memory, Dragon Ball FighterZ has made even more improvements to the game in order to maintain it’s remarkable run of excellence so far.
Carrying the attributes the game was praised for at launch, such as its remarkable use of source material within in-game visualization, as well as it’s fitting vocal performances both in English and Japanese.
The overall gameplay in Dragon Ball FighterZ has made some changes from it’s freshman year, however, the game still very much relies on speed, ambiguity, and team chemistry. Fortunately enough, with the aid of developer support, and FGC communication, the game has seen updates which helped with it’s early homogeneous feel.
Match pacing can still be an issue due to the 3v3 nature of the game, however, with more characters and varied gameplay styles and defensive options available, the “drag-out” feeling of sets are no longer as big of a problem as they were initially, helping the spectating portion of the game.
Lastly, with perhaps one of the more unique formats for a professional fighting game circuit, the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour season and finale went about as well as both fans and players could have hoped in its first year.
It is to be seen what other improvements may come in the future, both to its gameplay, and professional circuit, however, as a fighting game product, Dragon Ball FighterZ is already quite a force to be reckoned with in the FGC, and rightfully so.
Fighting Game: Mortal Kombat 11 (MK11)
State in 2019: Active in NA, growing community
Positive: Return of variations, fan favorite characters
Negative: Microtransaction system
Recommended to: NRS players, Mortal Kombat series fans
After one of its most well received iterations in the series with Mortal Kombat X, Netherrealm Studios seemingly adopted the philosophy of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Enter Mortal Kombat 11, featuring the same gruesome depictions, the return of some fan favorite characters, along with interesting newcomers.
However, perhaps most importantly Mortal Kombat 11 continues to deliver on aspects of the series such as showcasing a clear identity with both classic fatalities and creative brutalities, as well as one area in fighting games of which NRS truly separates itself from the pack, being the game’s story mode.
The return of the classic hybrid 3-D gameplay on a 2-D plane along with stage interactions, character variations, new defensive options such as flawless blocking, and offensive mechanics such as fatal blows, all speak to the series’ constant innovation without needless subtraction.
The only real criticism the game has received in its short time since its release has been less so from an FGC perspective, but rather from the average consumer with the game’s unfavorable practice of in-game currency for additional content or otherwise the need for downloadable content.
It is a relationship Netherrealm Studios fans are long accustomed to, it may not be in writing, but the two year relevancy contract for Mortal Kombat 11 is underway, and with the announcement of Final Kombat 2020, and early positive feedback, MK11 is off to a pretty good start.
Fighting Game: Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late[st] (UNIST)
State in 2019: Active, experienced major spike in player base
Positive: Intricate gameplay mechanics
Negative: Plateau stage comes early for beginners
Recommended to: Experienced fighting game players
After getting over the hurdle of last year’s console exclusivity, Under Night In-Birth EXE: Late[st] experienced the growth in player numbers it rightfully deserved. As previously mentioned last year, the update from UNIEL to UNIST is one of the best examples of rejuvenation I have seen a fighting game series experience.
UNIST‘s unique gameplay speaks for itself as it is one of the few fighting games that incorporates direct elements of neutral play affecting match pacing, and the emphasis on controlling momentum, an extremely underrated factor in fighting games.
The depth UNIST provides with not only its character diversity and universal gameplay mechanics, but also with its conscious effort of signifying defense. At high levels, gameplay is not only dictated with the regular understanding of character match-up and execution, but also the consequence of lack of situational understanding, creating the sense of a true chess match like setting.
Lastly, the thing many fans appreciate with UNIST, and perhaps a factor for its impressive growth in 2019, is that while it may seem a bit out of sync with regards to traditional fighting game mechanics, the game’s structure is true to the rules it set out for itself. Both defensively and offensively, it is one of the best examples of self accountability explored in a fighting game.
In a fighting game landscape filled with either high flying sequences and flashy visuals or slower paced gameplay with a higher priority to neutral, UNIST is perhaps the only fighting game in 2019 to successfully incorporate both traditional and modern elements of gameplay, and that reason, along with others previously mentioned is why UNIST may be the hidden gem of the FGC in 2019.
Fighting Game: Tekken 7 (T7)
State in 2019: Active, solid global player base
Positive: Diverse roster, high ceiling gameplay depth
Negative: No proper tutorial, intimidating for newcomers
Recommended to: 3-D fighting game fans, Tekken series veterans
Tekken 7 is arguably the most consistent fighting game since its launch with regards to everything the FGC in 2019 is looking for. Similar to the Mortal Kombat series, its gameplay has been innovated on without needless legacy changes, visually it still very much holds up when compared to its peers, and from a spectating standpoint, it is still as engaging as ever.
In hindsight, the early pre-launch years of Tekken 7 can now be seen as a well worthwhile investment as the polishing experienced in the years 2015 and 2016, allowed Bandai Namco to worry less so about troubleshooting the core gameplay, and instead allocate resources to improving the season-by-season experience, adding both creative guest characters, and returning characters, and of course, shifting focus to Tekken World Tour.
Although there were some bumps along the road with regards to rules and regulations, and most importantly monetary concerns from competitors in the short history of Tekken’s pro circuit, its rendition in 2019 both with new worldly locales, and an increased overall prize pot is definitely a step in the right direction to maintaining Tekken 7 as one of the most prominent fighting games the FGC has to offer in 2019.
Fighting Game: BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle (BBTAG)
State in 2019: Active, modest player base
Positive: Intricate tag mechanics
Negative: Individual character arsenal lacking
Recommended to: Tag fighting game fans, anime fighting game veterans
BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle‘s outlook is in a bit of a strange place considering it varies depending on whom is asked, however, the game has no real faults of its own speaking from a pure fighting game technical sense.
The tag mechanics and different variations of shifting and changing tag partners are quite innovate and intricate in aid to building offensive gameplans and even defensive shells or traps. The multiple properties or rather fates used in the game lend to some interesting combinations of tag partners.
However, on the other hand, considering that the majority of the game’s roster already hails from well established fighting game franchises, the individual version of the characters in BBTAG feel quite rudimentary and stripped out compared to their original forms which are equipped with deep arsenals and varied options.
Unfortunately, the sacrifice for character individuality for better tag chemistry and overall fighting composition was a decision BBTAG elected to go with, and considering the uniqueness and effectiveness of its tag mechanics, it is understandable, albeit still a bit disappointing.
The only true shortcoming the game has faced has been with the lack of additional RWBY characters joining the fray, however, otherwise, the future for BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle seems to still be trending up, as the game continues to expand the roster with additional characters from its current fates, as well as introducing new fates to the already diverse cast of characters, and lastly being one of the main three titles a part of the ArcRevo World Tour.
Fighting Game: Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition (SFV:AE)
State in 2019: Active, large player base
Positive: Large roster, modern neutral gameplay
Negative: Lack of traditional Street Fighter gameplay elements
Recommended to: New age fighting game fans
It is currently unknown if a future iteration of the legacy franchise is in the works, especially considering SFV:AE fits the current mold of the new age FGC so well. It could be argued that Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition is still very much a pillar in the FGC, and as a fighting game product it still has a lot to offer even if it is to a more specific audience.
However, there is a bit of uncertainty with regards to the future of Street Fighter. Despite Capcom Pro Tour going on as usual in 2019, the lack of a proper season, and future content transparency has given the sense of the flame dimming a bit around Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition.
Though, regardless of its shaky launch in 2016, its rebound in 2018, Street Fighter‘s legacy has taken a slight hit, though it is still home to some of the most storied players, rivalries, and narratives in the FGC, and as long as SFV:AE remains consistent with its current structure, I don’t see the flame completely burning out anytime soon.
Fighting Game: Grandblue Fantasy: Versus (GBF:VS)
State in 2019: In development with planned release in 2019
Positive: Proven developer in Arc System Works
Recommended to: Arc System Works players, Grandblue: Fantasy fans
There is still a lot unknown about the upcoming Grandblue: Fantasy Versus, however, with Arc System Works at the helm on the development side, and the use of yet another popular license in Grandblue Fantasy, it is safe to suspect that the final product will be of quality.
The interesting approach of emphasizing slower paced gameplay, and less combo-oriented combat, yet still incorporating complexity within its mechanics, all while appealing to the new age esports audience is a trichotomy that is yet to be seen if it will be successful, however, if there is a developer that can make it work, it is without a doubt Arc System Works.
Fighting Game: Soulcalibur VI (SCVI)
State in 2019: Active, solid player base
Positive: Modern-style 3-D mechanics, small, but varied roster
Negative: Not as engaging as previous iterations
Recommended to: Soulcalibur legacy players, fans of guest characters
Soulcalibur VI‘s narrative in the FGC is one of the most interesting in 2019. With regards to its gameplay, SCVI is responsive, offers innovation from previous iterations of the series, and also showcases faster pacing which bodes well for the modern fighting game era.
The Soulcalibur franchise has always walked to the beat of its own drum with regards to 3-D mechanics, however, even with being consistently unique, the feeling of legacy skill, although still there, is less so apparent this time around with SCVI.
However, perhaps the biggest thing that is missing, especially in the North American market, is the engagement from players and fans compared to what we have seen in the past with the series.
It is difficult to pin-point why the game has resonated primarily in regions like Europe and Japan, however, outside of the move to of a more modern-styled gameplay, a possible cause for the lack of widespread interest is the absence of a professional circuit.
It is to be seen if Soulcalibur VI receives the same treatment as many other games of its stature in the future, however, unfortunately, in an era dominated by the spotlight of professional tours, SCVI‘s offering of unique gameplay, and well implemented modern elements such as guest characters and faster pacing, is currently only enough to appeal to its hardcore fanbase.
Fighting Game: Samurai Shodown (SamSho/SS)
State in 2019: In development
Positive: Traditional-style gameplay
Recommended to: Old-school fighting game players, samurai Shodown fans
Similar to the perceived practice of Grandblue Fantasy: Versus, Samurai Shodown is looking to turn back the clock, and feature old-school neutral-focused gameplay, with perhaps less speed, but with just as much impact.
It is still early to judge, as its release is slated for June of this year, however, with what little footage and information at our disposal, the FGC can deduce that Samurai Shodown is going to be unique to say the least.
What has been apparent is that the focus of the game is on more traditional fundamentals with regards to gameplay, artistic 2.5D visuals throughout, and a significantly more mature nature for a fighting game.
It is to be seen how the classical approach to fighting games integrates itself within the new era of the FGC, however, considering that SNK is at the helm, and their fans are once again the direct target market, Samurai Shodown‘s future seems to be in good hands.
Fighting Game: The King of Fighters XIV (KOFXIV)
State in 2019: Active in small SNK circles, probable last year of competitive play
Positive: Diverse, expansive roster
Negative: Visually underwhelming for console era
Recommended to: Traditional fighting game players, SNK fans
The King of Fighters XIV is likely seeing its last year of competitive relevancy in 2019, as there have been rumblings of a new game in the franchise to surface sometime in 2020. However, quietly enough, KOFXIV‘s legacy has turned out to be one of the more impressive ones to date.
After an underwhelming launch in 2016, particularly from the graphical fidelity side of things, KOFXIV turned out to be an integral part of the FGC’s competitive landscape, despite being less heralded than others.
SNK’s continued effort to both enhance the visual experience of the game, as well as assembling one of the most diverse and expansive rosters in a fighting game to date, speaks to true fighting game dedication from a development standpoint.
Despite it only having a brief tenure with regards to an official professional circuit, KOFXIV has been home to some of the most memorable moments in the FGC in recent memory, namely those coming both from EVO 2017 and the KOFXIV World Championship.
Lastly, KOFXIV should be commended for its perseverance to become the fighting game product it is today. Despite not being what fans originally expected both from the traditional aspect of gameplay, as well as its initial graphical woes, SNK’s effort to turn around the ship certainly paid dividends in the end.
Fighting Game: Million Arthur: Arcana Blood (MA:AB)
State in 2019: In development
Positive: Unique incorporation of traditional 2-D and anime fighting game elements
Recommended to: Million Arthur fans, anime fighting game players
Although we have seen a bit of what Million Arthur: Arcana Blood has to offer, it is still to be seen how it is received in a crowded pool of similar titles in 2019. The few things that MA:AB has going for it to separate itself from the herd, is the unique use of the elements such as ice, fire, and others to work around match strategy.
However, perhaps its most unique aspect is its use of non-tag based gameplay, with the incorporation of assists, which is a take of gameplay like no other in the FGC currently. Lastly, the pace of gameplay in MA:AB very much resembles Under Night In-Birth with the use of both traditional 2-D damage scaling, along with anime speed and air mobility.
It is still too early to judge, especially considering it is slated to come out sometime in the summer of 2019, however, with the initial positive reception, Million Arthur: Arcana Blood very much could turn into the modern comfort fighting game, something a la an ode to the beloved Melty Blood.
Fighting Game: Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator 2 (GGXRD R2)
State in 2019: Active in smaller dedicated circles
Positive: Most comprehensive anime fighting game available
Negative: Aging title, smaller community
Recommended to: Dedicated legacy players, Guilty Gear fans
Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator 2 is an aging title, and although it is still very much in the fold in the FGC, especially with its inclusion in the ArcRevo World Tour, 2019 could possibly be the last year of its heightened relevancy.
However, despite being around for nearly five years with its Xrd iteration, GGXRD R2 is still one of the premiere anime fighting games on the market and arguably the most entertaining one from a spectators standpoint.
It is to be seen what the future holds for the Guilty Gear franchise, however, as a fighting game product there was no doubt that GGXRD R2 certainly delivered excellence both from a player’s and a fan point of view.
Fighting Game: Fighting EX Layer (FEXL)
State in 2019: Modest player pool size, active in small circles
Positive: Unique hybrid 2-D gameplay
Negative: Extremely niche target market, lack of resonance with fans
Recommended to: Fans of Street Fighter EX series
As unfortunate as it may be, the state of Fighting EX Layer does not look bright, however, the cause for its lack of resonance in the FGC is by no fault of its gameplay, rather its delivery.
What started as a passion project, and continued on as a game catered to nostalgic fans of the Street Fighter EX series, Fighting EX Layer simply came out at a time that seemingly sealed its fate almost instantly.
Early factors such as being only playable on console for a stretch post launch, having gameplay a bit foreign to the modern style fighting game era, and using a license that doesn’t have much resonance to the younger crowd in the FGC, all played a part in the game’s slow start out of the gate.
However, with a release on PC, DLC which included balancing and character additions did help the momentum of the game move in the right direction, however, even with that said, FEXL‘s humble journey is overshadowed by an era nearly overpopulated with juggernaut titles whom are bolstered with grand world tours and constant development revisions.
It may have been a wrong place, wrong time situation for FEXL for it to become a major player in the FGC, however, to a dedicated audience interested in a unique hybrid of traditional 2-D gameplay with some innovative mechanics, FEXL is very much suited to occupy such space.
Fighting Game: Dead or Alive 6 (DOA6)
State in 2019: Smallest 3-D player base in 2019
Positive: Grounded 3-D gameplay, visual appeal
Negative: Poor marketing, target market confusion
Recommended to: Dead or Alive series fans, other 3-D players
As the case been with the Dead or Alive series in recent years, the buzz about the game has been outside of its core gameplay, and Dead or Alive 6 follows that same unfortunate suit.
After initially indicating a change of direction with regards to the focus of the competitive side of Dead or Alive, DOA6 followed up with yet another disastrous campaign to promote the game as such product.
However, outside of the poor marketing and a less than desirable DLC model for things like customization options, as it concerns the FGC, the 3-D mechanics and overall gameplay of Dead or Alive 6 is quite grounded and fluid.
New innovations to the meter system and more appropriate transition interaction with the 3-D environment has been overshadowed by the same stigma the franchise has dealt with in recent years.
In a similar situation as Soulcalibur 6, for different reasons, it is unclear how DOA6 turns around the ship in order to be taken seriously as a competitive title in the FGC landscape especially considering a lack of a pro circuit, and an unfavorable first impression.
In a day an age where solid fighting gameplay mechanics don’t seem to be enough to pull ahead, DOA6 may very well be left with the label of the forgotten 3-D title in the Tekken 7 and Soulcalibur 6 era.
Closing thoughts – As we stand at the midway mark of the year 2019, the FGC can be perceived in multiple ways. The exposure for fighting games has never been more grand, with the aid of solid fighting game titles who are spotlighted with professional circuits and marked dates on the calendar.
The movement towards fast paced mechanics, and focus on speed, high volume, and damage, and less so about the traditional approach of a more moderate pace has been a apparent change in games a la Dragon Ball FighterZ, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, etc.
However, while catering to the new age FGC has turned out well with regards to engaging a new audience, the wave of the upcoming traditional style titles such as Samurai Shodown and Grandblue Fantasy: Versus to name a few, is an indication that there is enough room in the FGC for both schools of thought.
Lastly, and perhaps the most glaring factor in the FGC is the relationship of player and spectator engagement and interest for games that are a part of a professional circuit of some sort.
2019 has seen many fighting game titles fall by wayside, whether due to fault of their own, or simply by not offering any sort of significance in the competitive landscape of the FGC.
It is seemingly that titles, be it legacy or otherwise, are only visible in dedicated circles as opposed to years past, prior to larger games incorporating circuits. Which begs the question, what is the fate of some of the upcoming fighting games on the horizon if they don’t follow the current model of a professional tour?
There are a few uncertainties in the FGC’s landscape going forward, however, the one thing that is for certain, the year 2019 in the FGC is filled with perhaps the most diverse selection of fighting titles in recent memory, and whether coupled with a professional circuit or not, newcomers and veterans in the FGC should certainly have no problem finding the one game to call their own.