The State of the FGC in 2021

The State of the FGC in 2021
Date Published: 26 May, 2021

The Fighting Game Community (FGC) is no stranger to change. In it’s short history, the scene saw its roots planted in the arcades, transition over to home consoles, then eventually evolve into a legitimate online presence, which arguably prompted the community’s most recent evolution, one which inhabits the world of professional gaming, or what is better known as Esports.

However, as the FGC was quickly moving towards bigger and better, be it with larger crowds, larger prize pools, and a larger spotlight, it all came to a screeching halt, as while the FGC is known to quickly embrace change, even they were not impervious to what everyone experienced in the last year. As the world dealt with a global pandemic (COVID-19), normal everyday living became even more so of a privilege, and as each community in society had to find a way to live in an age of a pandemic, a small yet determined community dedicated to the love of fighting games found itself evolving once again.

Adjusting to a New Normal

Within the last five years alone, the fighting game community has been practically speed running through it’s Esports introduction phase. A cycle which saw circuit schedules releasing, to the gathering in large venues competing for points and standings, eventually culminating at a final showdown between top competitors, crowning a champion, only for a new fighting game season to be announced, thus repeating the cycle.

Albeit exciting for a small community to be finally getting it’s shine in the world of Esports, it was only when the world seemingly stopped early last year, that we could finally take time to look around and reflect, and in hindsight, while rushing to the top of the competitive mountain, the FGC failed to notice the need for some overshadowed, yet vital aspects in the community that needed to be addressed.

Suffice it to say that the FGC’s priorities changed quite dramatically during the pandemic. As we saw what was once the center focus on world tour standings and tournament chatter, turned to the need for clear communication between fighting game developers and fighting game consumers.

Leading by Example

While the pandemic imposed hardships on every fighting game in the landscape, there were a few that separated themselves from the pack by adapting to the times, with the help of clear messaging to their community through frequent communication, as well as overall improvements to the quality of their respective games.

These select games have all had a different narrative up to this point, however, the one which they all shared was their perseverance to deliver improvements despite difficult times, a factor that the FGC certainly took note of.

The State of the FGC WP 01Fighting Game: Tekken 7 (T7)
State in 2021: Globally active online, season 4 presumed game’s final
Positive: Improved balance from season 3, large roster
Negative: Inconsistent netcode
Recommended to: 3D Fighting game fans, Tekken fans

It is no secret that Tekken 7 arguably had it’s worst year in 2020 since launching in 2017. The game’s third season brought to light many balance inconsistencies, so severe that the development team were forced to issue an emergency patch only weeks prior to the Tekken World Tour Final in December of 2019.  

However, matters only worsened after a poor showcase of the game at EVO Japan 2020 with the event clouded by more balance issues, predominately the Leroy Smith launch debacle. Bandai Namco then proceeded to continuously need to balance patch the game, but never truly found its footing as it did in years prior.

Moving forward to mid-year, Tekken 7‘s future looked somewhat bleak, as Bandai Namco was forced to cancel the Tekken World Tour for 2020, and factors like poor netcode, roster imbalance, and no indication for change seemed to spell the beginning of the end of game’s long time reign at the top.

However, in late September of 2020, Bandai Namco took the initiative to communicate with the fans, and proceeded to explain the hardships of the pandemic and its effect on the game. However, after speaking to the delay of the game’s fourth season, the development team addressed the poorly executed third season, and decided to shift focus on improving Tekken 7‘s overall balance and netcode functionality, along with other quality of life changes such as a WiFi indicator and UI updates that had the community optimistic once again for the future of the game.

Fast forward to mid-November of 2020, and the long awaited fourth season finally launched. The reception for season 4 was mostly positive, though it was soon noticed that while there were areas which were improved upon, other areas were still the same, predominately the inconsistent netcode.

Although the inconsistencies the game experienced were addressed, the game still failed to capture overall balance, something it was much closer to capturing during the first two seasons of the game, however, achieving that feat with such a large and unique roster, was always going to be a challenge.

Tekken 7 then continued to move forward with it’s replacement for the Tekken World Tour 2020 circuit, with an online tournament format; The Tekken Online Challenge Open Tournament series, which crowned a winner in 10 different online regions for bragging rights.

Finally, as we move to present day, as of late May 2021, Tekken 7 is in a somewhat of an odd position, as it is an older fighting game title, albeit with an improved reputation after a tough year in 2020, however, it remains to be seen where it goes from here. The game’s fourth season is complete, and it reached an impressive milestone of selling over 7 million copies worldwide.

Although Tekken 7 does not carry the same momentum it had during its early years, it should be credited for attempting to restore its reputation and regain fan’s goodwill, by addressing pertinent issues, especially during a difficult time for it’s developers. The refocus on netcode and balance is something that could set a precedent for an upcoming Tekken project, and perhaps carry Bandai Namco to develop yet another stellar Tekken game in the future.

The State of the FGC WP 02Fighting Game: Guilty Gear: Strive (GGST)
State in 2021: Multiple open betas, global launch in summer of 2021
Positive: Rollback netcode, immaculate visuals
Negative: Unfavorable new lobby system
Recommended to: Newcomers to fighting games, GG fans

Guilty Gear: Strive is not out just yet, however, it is already safe to say it is one of the most talked about fighting games in the FGC this year. The game has perhaps the most potential of any fighting game in the landscape since the launch of Dragon Ball FighterZ to truly make a mainstream impact.

Visually the game is practically unrivaled in its overall presentation. Be it character models, animations, and stage design, Guilty Gear: Strive is remarkable to say the least. The game features a balanced roster of new coming characters as well as legacy staples from previous Guilty Gear games, and perhaps most importantly, it is packaged with one of the most impressive implementations of rollback netcode to date.

While the game was initially delayed out of 2020, and then later to summer of 2021 instead of a previously planned spring release date, when it came to candid communication, Arc System Works were arguably second to none. In each step of the way, be it through interviews, developer blogs, and social media posts, the messaging with regards to Guilty Gear: Strive has been transparent.

It has taken to heart the feedback from the community with regards to unfavorable changes such as the user interface, the constant network issues, primarily with it’s R-Code system, and the switch to the pixel lobby system, which although was not completely reverted to the legacy style Arc System Works lobby system, was in fact improved with each iteration.

They have also kept fans up to date with regards to why certain decisions have been made to elements of the game such as the gatling system, the way in which tutorials are constructed, as well as aspects such as air dashing and the newly established wall break.

To put it simply, Guilty Gear: Strive is not meant to be just another game in the series, but rather it is meant to be a game that grows the series. It also may help Arc System Works reach levels of interest it has not garnered previously. The focus on superb presentation, excellent netcode, and less of a focus on complex mechanics, are all factors that could see Guilty Gear: Strive reach the level of success and mainstream popularity of other prominent titles such as Tekken and Street Fighter.

With the game only being weeks away from its official release, it has some of the most crucial elements necessary for fighting game success already down pat. The jury is still out on how far Arc System Works will be able to take the game, and if it will be able to maintain casual interest, along with appeasing legacy fans considering the game’s significant change in direction.

However, with continued polish, correct marketing, and increased momentum from a potential return of a World Tour post pandemic, Guilty Gear: Strive may find itself ascending to a position which accompanies other fighting game mainstay titles.

The State of the FGC WP 03Fighting Game: Street Fighter V: Champion Edition (SFV:CE)
State in 2021: Globally active online, final season planned for the game
Positive: Improved communications with season 5
Negative: Inconsistent netcode
Recommended to: Fighting game newcomers, SF fans

It is a well known fact in the FGC that Street Fighter V has had a long and polarizing journey since it’s initial launch in early 2016. The game has gone through too many ups and downs to keep track of, however, it could be said that in somewhat of an ironic fashion, while other fighting games it’s age are trending downwards, Street Fighter V is peaking late.

Capcom is perhaps the only fighting game publisher this year who managed to turn an incredibly bad situation, into arguably one of it’s best years to date, a feat made even more so impressive considering the awful timing of a global pandemic.

Releasing the game’s third expansion—Street Fighter V: Champion Edition after concluding it’s fourth season in the early months of 2020, it seemed as if Capcom was content with closing the book on the game, and moving on to the presumed Street Fighter VI.

However, after some months, fans received the news that the game will in fact go head with a final fifth season, something which only became clearer as to why, after the somewhat unceremonious exit of longtime Street Fighter producer—Yoshinori Ono.

In what initially seemed as a half-hearted attempt to buy time for the newly envisioned Street Fighter VI, Capcom’s effort on season 5 was something the FGC immediately took note of. For the first time in a longtime, the communication between Capcom and it’s fanbase seemed to be restored in good faith.

Capcom’s fighting game division under a new leadership so far has paid early dividends similar to Arc System Works and Guilty Gear: Strive, in the fact that they have been nothing but candid and transparent through the entire release of it’s fifth and final season.

From the very beginning, the plans for the season were made known to fans, and through each seasonal update, they would not be shy divulging details as to how far development has progressed. It is not out of question that one could consider Street Fighter V‘s fifth season as it’s best season, something that is often uncommon in older titles.

Though, it also should be stated that while Street Fighter V: Champion Edition has gotten a lot right in its final development year, it also failed to address the issue that has haunted the game since it’s launch, that being the inconsistent netcode. 

Unfortunately, while Capcom attempted to improve the netcode after removing a fan made patch which greatly managed to do so on the PC side of the game, it has not been able to capture the same results with it’s own efforts.

On the competitive front, after trying to salvage what was left of the 2020 season by both moving to an online format and then moving the location of the final event from France to the Dominican Republic, Capcom decided to finally cancel Capcom Cup and the Street Fighter League in January of 2021, and elected to resume the online format of the season, which will culminate in 2022.

Despite the game still not being for every single fighting game fan, Capcom’s effort during the second of half of 2020 and the first half of 2021 of making Street Fighter V the best version of itself, netcode notwithstanding, should be commended. The game finally managed to eclipse it’s worldwide sales total to 5 million copies, and if anything, the new approach of Capcom’s fighting game division with it’s execution of Street Fighter V‘s final season, should at the very least lead to some optimism with regards to the upcoming Street Fighter VI.

Staying Afloat

As some fighting games in the landscape made the most of their situation during the pandemic, other games unfortunately were not able hold to on to the same momentum they had prior to it for various different reasons. Although it was a case by case basis, it is without question that certain games struggled to find their footing, be it early on, late, and some even at all.

As we look forward to the hopeful end of the pandemic, it will be interesting to see where these fighting game titles go from here, and if they are able to rebound and learn from a difficult year, or if they will look to close the chapter on one, and perhaps open a new chapter on another.

The State of the FGC WP 04Fighting Game: Dragon Ball FighterZ (DBFZ)
State in 2021: Globally active online, completed season 3
Positive: Improved overall balance, large roster
Negative: Lacking good netcode
Recommended to: Dragon Ball franchise fans, Versus fighting game fans

Being halfway through its third season, and wanting to avoid any loss of momentum from its 2019 competitive run, a global pandemic was most certainly not in the plans for Dragon Ball FighterZ. It could be argued that out of the major four fighting games in the landscape, Dragon Ball FighterZ is probably the one giant that struggled the most in the past year.

A truly unfortunate predicament to be in, considering the game from a balance and gameplay standpoint was the best it has been at since launching in 2018. It’s expansive roster only furthered the Dragon Ball brand, and with a pretty favorable cast of characters set to join the game in season 3, Dragon Ball FighterZ was set up for yet another successful year.

However, after making the decision to cancel the Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour in early July of 2020, it similar to many other fighting games, decided to shift focus to the online competitive space, an area in which the game struggles immensely considering it’s lack of rollback netcode.

The replacement of it’s traditional world tour came by way of the Dragon Ball FighterZ National Championship—online tournament decided through qualifications based by various regions. Although the competition did not have the same impact as it’s normal competitive circuit, it was still an entertaining product for the spectators of the game.

Although there was not much back and forth from the development team and the community, Dragon Ball FighterZ did manage to complete it’s season 3 pass. However, there are certain questions that have yet to be answered. Will the game continue moving forward with more seasons in its current form or will it explore the possibility of another iteration in the series?

Dragon Ball FighterZ in a way defied expectations, especially considering only being just over three years old. It managed to garner enough interest based on it’s popular IP, explosive gameplay, and stellar visuals, and as of late May 2021 it has already sold more than 6 million copies worldwide, and has done so impressively even with the lack of a proper netcode solution.

Considering Bandai Namco has already shot down the idea of incorporating rollback netcode into the current Dragon Ball FighterZ, it remains to be seen if perhaps the game is looking to return with a sequel that does. Suffice it to say that if a future project is in the works, the lessons learned from the original, along with rollback netcode, will most definitely insert Dragon Ball FigherZ right back into place as one of the premiere fighting game titles in the landscape.

The State of the FGC WP 05Fighting Game: Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (MK11U)
State in 2021: Regionally active online, Kombat Pack 2 complete
Positive: Rollback netcode, classic MK feel
Negative: Underwhelming single player modes
Recommended to: Mortal Kombat fans

Similar to most Netherrealm Studios titles, the FGC knows what Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate is. It is an extremely popular fighting game that generates a lot of interest from the casual market due to it’s immensely popular IP, particularly in the West.

However, it could be said that when it came to the year 2020, Mortal Kombat 11 stole the show. It never showed signs of slowing down due to the pandemic, and continued to support the game through updates, which eventually saw the completion of its second Kombat Pack, which then prompted it’s presumed final iteration—Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate in November of 2020, only five months apart from its previous Aftermath expansion.

The game has done a tremendous job of appealing to it’s fan base with additions of popular pop culture characters, as well as the return of some fan favorites, crossplay between rival consoles, as well as the patented Mortal Kombat action it has demonstrated all so well in the past.

From an FGC perspective, while Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate offers some interesting and unique ideas mechanically, it is still plagued by animations and an overall presentation that leaves much to be desired. Though, it’s netcode is still impressive, and it certainly meets it’s mark with roster diversity.

While it had a fantastic award winning second of the year 2020, in the first half of the year 2021 it is beginning to show signs of the Netherrealm Studio development cycle the FGC knows all too well. It is unlikely to reach a third year of continued support, as the game will likely be replaced by a new title from the studio, as they have done so many times in the past.

Currently the game is moving along with it’s online version of its professional circuit, the Mortal Kombat 11 Pro Kompetition, and it is presumed that at it’s culmination, the rumbling for a new NRS title will be afoot. Although, there is often a disconnect from the FGC with regards to many of Netherrealm Studios titles, the support for Mortal Kombat 11 in what has only been just a little over two years cannot be dismissed as the game has sold over 8 million copies worldwide.

It is not yet known what Netherrealm Studios has in store for it’s fans with its presumed upcoming project, however, if the past is any indication, it will most likely be something both the FGC and the casual fandom may come to enjoy.

The State of the FGC WP 06Fighting Game: Granblue Fantasy: Versus (GBVS)
State in 2021: Moderately active based on region, through season 2
Positive: Popular license, single player modes
Negative: Delay-based netcode, lack of appeal in the West
Recommended to: Granblue Fantasy fans

In what has been a combination of extreme bad luck, along with poor decision making in just what has been over 14 months since it’s North American release, Granblue Fantasy: Versus unfortunately never stood a chance. Although the game is derived from an extremely popular license in Granblue Fantasy, it had failed to truly capture a widespread interest in the West.

It’s string of bad luck began when it failed to get the exposure it needed during it’s honeymoon period, as it’s professional circuit was canceled as part of the Arc World Tour 2020 due to the global pandemic, in the very same month the game launched. To make matters worse, the game’s poor netcode solution did not leave many options for online tournament organizers, and despite the event eventually getting canceled for reasons unrelated to the pandemic, Granblue Fantasy: Versus was not even a consideration for EVO Online 2020.

Competitive plans notwithstanding, CyGames and Arc System Works did focus on continually building onto the game by introducing a second season pass as well as a couple of battle passes which expanded the game’s roster, customization options, and added to it’s single player campaign. With only one character set to be revealed later this summer, the game found itself in a good place content wise, and while it didn’t hit a home run with every single addition, it’s DLC efforts have been mostly favorable.

As it currently stands, Granblue Fantasy: Versus is in a precarious position, while it has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, it does not have nearly the same resonance with fans in the West as it does in the East, particularly in South East Asia.

Looking on the bright side, the game did in fact manage to run a smaller capacity regional online circuit for it’s world tour replacement, and it’s gameplay has done a credible job of attracting newcomers to fighting games considering it implements simpler controls, impressive visuals, and original offline modes including an RPG campaign like story mode.

However, as we near the home stretch of Granblue Fantasy: Versus‘ second season pass, we may get a clearer picture of where the game exactly fits in the FGC. It is without question that the game is held back by it’s lack of solid netcode, as well as a higher pricing model than many other games in the landscape. With multiple upcoming fighting game to rival it that do incorporate rollback netcode, and Granblue Fantasy: Versus‘ own director refusing to commit to the idea, the game will either have to find a way to reinvent itself, or concede it’s position in the FGC.

The State of the FGC WP 07Fighting Game: Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid (BFTG)
State in 2021: Active in small pockets, completed season 3
Positive: Rollback netcode, crossplay across five platforms
Negative: Lack of mainstream appeal
Recommended to: Power Rangers fans, Versus style fans

Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid had a quiet yet consistent year in the fighting game landscape. It may not have broke into the mainstream, or generated newsworthy headlines like some of the other games in the past 12 months, however, it quietly completed it’s third season pass, as well as added two unique guest characters from the mobile version of the game, to it’s console counterpart, those being Ranger versions of Street Fighter‘s Ryu and Chun-Li.

The game is still held by its cornerstones of fun Versus style gameplay, rollback netcode, and something no other fighting game can claim for itself, cross platform play across the board. It’s only shortcoming has come by way of not truly grabbing onto a wider audience in the FGC, however, it is still very much consistent in smaller player pools.

The game’s professional circuit, the Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid League, similar to others, had to switch from offline to online competitions, though implemented a unique way of working with local tournament organizers around the world as designated sanctioned events for it’s tour.

It is currently unknown if the game is planning continued development, however, albeit quiet, Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid put itself in position to handle the global pandemic better than most, and although it may not receive an enormous spotlight, it is one that has not dimmed once the entire year.

The State of the FGC WP 08Fighting Game: Samurai Shodown (SamSho)
State in 2021: Active in small pockets, halfway through season 3
Positive: Unique gameplay, diverse roster
Negative: Delay-based netcode,
Recommended to: Legacy SNK players, slower gameplay fans

Samurai Shodown can either be seen as glass half empty or glass half full. The game continues it’s tradition of impeccable unique gameplay, especially for the current fighting game era, it has one of the best rosters in fighting games, especially with the new additions of it’s third season pass, which include favorable experiments with guest characters, and lastly, it has made it’s way over to the 9th console generation, with the Xbox Series consoles.

However, the game has also been home to two major shortcomings. The first is its use of delay-based netcode, which has been reported to cause many issues in various regions, and the other being its lack of Steam support, a platform which holds a large portion of the SNK audience, although, as of recently SNK finally managed to address one of it’s shortcomings as they announced that a Steam version of the game will be coming later in the summer of 2021.

Approaching two full years since it’s NA release, Samurai Shodown has done a lot right, and it is not far from getting it all right. Competitively, it’s planned professional SNK sponsored world tour in the form of the Neo Geo World Tour was canceled due to the global pandemic, and it is to be seen if it is resurrected upon the return to offline events.

With SNK positioning it’s fighting game titles to return to the fold of competitions in the FGC, it remains to be seen if the implementation of rollback netcode to Samurai Shodown could come in the near future, to truly maximize the game’s potential.

The State of the FGC WP 09Fighting Game: Soulcalibur VI (SCVI)
State in 2021: Active in small pockets, completed season 2
Positive: Sword style gameplay, unique 3-D options
Negative: Delay-based netcode
Recommended to: Legacy Soulcalibur players

After finally getting it’s due with a professional circuit announcement nearly 18 months after the game’s release, Soulcalibur VI had to have a global pandemic stop it’s fleeting momentum. Although it has somewhat been in the shadow of it’s Bandai Namco developed counterpart in Tekken 7, Soulcalibur VI has done a fairly nice job of moving forward during a tough year.

The game completed its second season pass which included favorable additions to it’s roster and customization options, as well as provided some balance changes to maintain newfound interest, and helped rejuvenate the game to a degree, and despite it not being the traditional game Soulcalibur fans are accustomed to, it still has much to offer, especially with it’s more modernized gameplay.

As it did with Tekken 7, Bandai Namco elected to change the format of the game’s world tour, and ran the tournaments online specified by region, however, considering the game’s lack of rollback netcode, similar to many other games in the landscape, the tournaments came and went with no real impact.

It is no secret which child is the golden one in the Bandai Namco family of games, and approaching three years since it’s NA release, the chatter of continued development for Soulcalibur VI has been quiet after the completion of it’s second season. 

As we currently stand, and considering the game’s age, it is unlikely to see a scenario in which Soulcalibur VI gets another shot at a world tour, and as unfortunate as it is, it may very well become the game that deserved it’s flowers, but due to wrong place, wrong time, and bad luck, never got them.

The State of the FGC WP 10Fighting Game: Skullgirls 2nd Encore (SG)
State in 2021: Active in small pockets, announced first season pass
Positive: Rollback netcode, fast paced Versus style gameplay
Negative: Expensive season pass
Recommended to: Versus style fans

As the longest reigning game in the FGC currently, Skullgirls has been a part of many narratives and storylines in the last 9 years, however, none of them have been as much of a rollercoaster ride as the one which continued to cloud the game within the last 12 months.

After finally getting it’s chance to grace the EVO grand stage albeit figuratively, with an invite to EVO Online 2020 in what was supposed to be a redemption filled storyline after the game’s failure to capture the moment in 2013, was taken away from it after the event’s cancellation.

To make matters worse, the game had an event filled summer as it saw its lead developer wrapped up in multiple controversies online, which eventually led to the disbandment of Lab Zero Games, and an uncertain future ahead. However, fast-forwarding a few months, and the game has adopted a new studio in Future Club, comprised of former Lab Zero Games staff, and in even more of a surprising turn, the announcement of the game’s first ever season pass.

While it didn’t not close the chapter on 2020 great, the first half of 2021 has certainly returned some normalcy to Skullgirls 2nd Encore. The game continues to sport it’s chaotic Versus style gameplay, and still incorporates rollback netcode, however, it hasn’t been completely smooth sailing since turning over the calendar year.

Despite the excitement of a new season pass, as well as the addition of new characters, the game has been the subject of criticism with the pricing model of the new season, as well as introducing many in-game issues which are quite uncharacteristic, some which include, frequent gameplay bugs, network instability, and odd roster balancing choices. However, considering the game is resuming development under a new studio, a transition period should be expected.

Competitively, the game has also made strides by announcing the Skullgirls Championship Series which will be held online, and use a point system with qualifiers, eventually culminating with a final championship to be held at the end of the year.

Even in it’s 9th year post launch, the game continues to surprise the FGC, and while it had a bit of a rocky path to get there, it’s community led efforts have carried Skullgirls 2nd Encore to still being a relevant fighting game title in 2021.

The State of the FGC WP 11Fighting Game: Them’s Fightin’ Herds (TFH)
State in 2021: Active in small pockets, released first DLC
Positive: Rollback netcode, superb offline modes
Negative: Small roster, lack of multi-platform exposure
Recommended to: Fast gameplay players, MLP fans

If there was a hidden gem in the FGC in 2021, it was most definitely Them’s Fightin’ Herds. The game is filled with innovation, from it’s tutorial structure, it’s offline modes, and it is already ahead of the curve with the use of rollback netcode.

Although the game is limited in it’s roster size, it has recently upgraded to it’s 2.0 phase, and has introduced a brand new original character, along with some presentation polish, and balance changes. As unfortunate as it is, it was unable to showcase itself at EVO Online 2020 due to the event’s cancellation, however, the game did run it’s own competitive event in the Grand Stampede, and is set up for another great competitive year with the Stampede Tournament Circuit which will culminate at the end of 2021.

The game is only truly set back by not being available on more platforms outside of PC, as well as the stigma labeled against it as a My Little Pony fighting game, as opposed to the traditional model of human or humanoid type characters.

In an era of fighting games which has struggled to find the balance of simplicity for the sake of maintaining a newcomers’ retention, yet still be intricate enough for the sake of a veteran’s search for depth, Them’s Fightin’ Herds arguably toes that line better than any other fighting game currently available.

As the game continues to build upon itself, and perhaps expand to various other platforms, it may in fact find itself being heralded by more than just it’s dedicated circle, and perhaps even recognized by wider ones in the FGC.

The State of the FGC WP 12Fighting Game: The King of Fighters XV (KOFXV)
State in 2021: Set to release by end of year
Positive: Return of legacy characters
Negative: Graphical inconsistencies
Recommended to: Fans of previous KOF games

After being dormant for nearly an entire year since first showcasing its in-development announcement trailer, The King of Fighters XV has made it’s presence known in 2021. SNK’s promotion of the game has included weekly trailers which are assumed to continue up until the release of the game.

While there is still not much known about the game, The King of Fighters fans can anticipate yet another traditional one versus one character battle styled game incorporating a team of three characters. It has also become apparent via it’s latest character trailers that many of its legacy fighters from older titles have made their return, which is all more so exciting for fans of the series.

Although it is still too early to judge, there have been some graphical inconsistencies with character models, as well as the overall graphical fidelity of the game which include certain animations, and battle effects on screen in need of more polish.

A big question that has yet to be answered with The King of Fighters XV however, has been with it’s netcode. While it’s development team has acknowledged the role in which rollback netcode has played in the FGC within the last year, they have still not completely committed to the idea of its implementation as of yet.  

The King of Fighters XV has a lot of potential to play an important role in the fighting game landscape moving forward. It is to be seen if it will listen to early community feedback, and address the inconsistencies and questions it’s community is currently providing, however, with still plenty of time left, KOFXV may very well become a fighting game mainstay for the foreseeable future.

The State of the FGC WP 13Fighting Game: Melty Blood Type Lumina (MBTL)
State in 2021: Set to release by end of year
Positive: Return of Melty Blood
Negative: TBD
Recommended to: Fans of Tsukihime and Melty Blood

After it’s trademark renewed in October of 2020, there were rumblings of a new Melty Blood fighting game planned in the future, however, it wasn’t until the official announcement of Melty Blood Type Lumina did fans finally believe that the long awaited return of the franchise was near.

While there isn’t much information regarding the game, Melty Blood Type Lumina is set to launch at the end of this year, and it will act as companion to the upcoming Tsukihime: -A Piece of Blue Glass Moon-. Considering the game has made it clear it will not be a direct sequel to the beloved Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code, it should be expected to see fewer returning characters in the game, at least for the time being.

The few details we are aware of is the inclusion of many characters from the upcoming Tsukihime remake, as well as the planned use of rollback netcode for it’s online infrastructure. Although still quite early, the anticipation for the game has been growing around the FGC, and it remains to be seen if the game will live up to the expectations set by its predecessor, especially considering over 10 years have passed since it’s last iteration.

A Year to Remember

The last 12 months in the FGC have been unprecedented. It was a year that was filled with on the fly adjustments, a need for perspective change, and push for innovation, albeit the difficult circumstances.

Although the narrative surrounding rollback netcode, remote ways of competing, and developer communication somewhat dominated the year as primary headlines, the secondary and tertiary headlines in the FGC were still observed closely, and could definitely affect the future of the fighting game landscape moving forward.

May 2020

  • Bandai Namco cancels the World Tour series for Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FigherZ, and Soulcalibur VI in 2020.

July 2020

  • EVO Online 2020 canceled in response to allegations against former CEO—Joey Cuellar.
  • Multiple allegations made against FGC members and Smash Community regarding indecent behavior.

August 2020

  • The first Japan Fighting Game Publisher Roundtable event.

    • Multiple premiere fighting game developers speak about the handling of the global pandemic, remote work limitations, and plans for the future.
  • Capcom brand manager and Street Fighter series game producer—Yoshinori Ono leaves Capcom after 22 years.

September 2020

  • Lab Zero Games officially disbands after multiple allegations made against the studio head—Mike Zaimont.
  • Former Lab Zero Games employees establish the new co-op studio—Future Club.

October 2020

  • The King of Fighters 2002 Unlimited Match and Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R receive updates in the form of rollback netcode on Steam.
  • “Melty Blood” trademark renewed by Type-Moon.

November 2020

  • Electronic Gaming Development Company, subsidiary of The Mohammed bin Salman Foundation (MiSK) acquires 33.3% of SNK.
  • Capcom faces company wide hacking.
    • Sensitive information including employee contacts, future developmental project details, and figures all compromised by hackers looking for ransom.
  • Twitch Rivals for Marvel vs. Capcom 3 garners 40,000 concurrent viewers.
  • French Bread game director prospects rollback netcode implementation for Under Under Night In-Birth EXE: [CL-R].

December 2020

  • Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate wins fighting game of the year at The Game Awards 2020.
  • Microsoft acquires the premiere tournament platform—

January 2021

  • Fighting Game Code of Conduct established.
    • A set of rules and guidelines which can be adopted by both offline and online communities in the FGC.
  • Twitch Rivals for Killer Instinct garners 40,000 concurrent viewers, marking back-to-back occasions for fighting games featured to hit mark.
  • Ultra Arcade announces Killer Instinct Cup 2021.
  • Capcom Cup 2020 offline event in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic officially canceled.
  • Combo Breaker 2021 canceled.
  • Twitch removes the emote “PogChamp” following statements made on twitter by the face of the emote and long time FGC community member—Ryan “gootecks” Gutierrez.
  • Capcom updates strict guidance on its content policy.

February 2021

  • The second Japan Fighting Game Publisher Roundtable event.
    • Multiple premiere fighting game developers speak about developmental progress of current projects, and the push for rollback netcode in the FGC.
  • Controversial disqualification of competitor—Titaniumtigerzz at MK11 Pro Kompetition due to custom variation name.
  • Media company—Vice, releases fighting game themed documentary—Inside the World of Fighting Games | RESET.
  • Dengeki Bunko Fighting Climax Ignition receives a community implemented rollback netcode update.

March 2021

  • Arc System Works delays Guilty Gear: Strive from April 9th to June 11th.
  • Sony and RTS acquire the largest fighting game tournament in the world—Evolution.
  • Melty Blood Type Lumina announced via Type-Moon Magazine in Japan.
  • Skullgirls announces first competitive professional circuit—Skullgirls Championship Series.
  • Dead or Alive series director—Yohei Shimbori announces departure from Koei Tecmo after 16 years.

April 2021

  • Yoshinori Ono appointed as new president and chief operating officer at Delightworks.
  • CEO 2021 Canceled.

May 2021

  • “P5U.JP” renewed by Atlus.
    • Presumed development of the third Persona themed fighting game—Persona 5 Arena.
  • Granblue Fantasy Director, Fukuhara Tetsuya refuses to commit to rollback implementation in Granblue Fantasy: Versus.
  • Fighting game developers cut ties with WePlay Esports after controversial betting sponsor surfaces.

On The Horizon

The fighting game landscape in 2021 is already stacking up to become one of the deeper years in quite some time. However, even with that being the case, there are many other fighting game titles in the works for the future, that may very well make an impact in the FGC upon their official release.

Fighting Game: Bayani
Slated Release: TBD (in early access)
Developer: Ranida Games
Known Information: 1-on-1, indie fighting game that is heavily inspired by the Philippines’ rich history, simplified 6 button controls with fast-paced gameplay.

Fighting Game: Phantom Breaker: Omnia
Slated Release: TBD (targeting 2021)
Developer: Rocket Panda Games
Known Information: Fast-paced 2-D anime fighting game that features 20 unique characters, the ability to choose between 3 fighting styles will appeal to seasoned gamers while making the game accessible to newcomers.

Fighting Game: Arcus Chroma
Slated Release: TBD
Developer: GxGrain Son
Known Information: 2-D fighting game using anime fighting game inspired mechanics such as move cancels and burst.

Fighting Game: Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown
Slated Release: 1 June, 2021
Developer: Sega
Known Information: UI remaster of  Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown along with multiple quality of life updates. 

Fighting Game: DNF Duel
Slated Release: TBD 
Developer: Arc System Works/Eighting
Known Information: 2-D anime style fighter using the popular MMO intellectual property Dungeon Fighter Online.

Fighting Game: Queen’s Conquest
Slated Release: TBD (in early access)
Developer: Comic Shake
Known Information: Fast paced 2-D hybrid traditional/anime style fighter using magic as main battle focus.

Fighting Game: Metal Revolution
Slated Release: TBD
Developer: NEXT Studios
Known Information: Minimalistic controls, deep gameplay, and the cyberpunk robot theme are designed to bring a fresh battle experience.

Fighting Game: Die by the Blade
Slated Release: TBD (targeting 2021)
Developer: Triple Hill Interactive
Known Information: 1-on-1 combat style with action adventure that features a one hit kill system and an emphasis on parry and counters.

Fighting Game: Hellish Quart
Slated Release: TBD (in early access)
Developer: Kubold
Known Information: A physics based, realistic, 3D sword dueling game set in the 17th century.

Fighting Game: Cereal Killaz
Slated Release: TBD
Developer: Mikhail Dingle
Known Information: 2-D style fighter using cereal mascots as the core of it’s fighting game roster.

Fighting Game: Punch Planet
Slated Release: TBD (in early access)
Developer: Sector-K Games
Known Information: 2-D fighter with a rich and immersive universe, spanning exotic planets, advanced cities, and alien races.

Fighting Game: E’s Laf 2
Slated Release: TBD (in early access)
Developer: Free
Known Information: 2-D anime fighter using Guilty Gear like mechanics which include Fatal Shift (Roman Cancel), Risk Gauge, (Negative Penalty), and air dashes.

Fighting Game: Pocket Bravery
Slated Release: TBD
Developer: Statera Studio
Known Information: Original fighting game in SD style, with charismatic characters, vibrant colors and a combat system based on the classics from the ‘90s.

Fighting Game: Project L
Slated Release: TBD
Developer: Riot Games
Known Information: A 2-D fighting game made in the League of Legends universe.

Bounce Back Year

Like much of the world, the FGC is looking to return to it’s normal routine from before the global pandemic, and although we are not quite there just yet, fighting game normalcy is looking at a possible return to form in the second half of 2021.

Although the circumstances were less than ideal, the FGC has grown a lot in the past 12 months, however, it was not the type of numerical growth it is accustomed to. The refocus on developer to player communication, the rise in awareness for substantial factors such as the need for rollback netcode, as well as the creative growth seen by it’s increased content creation avenues, were all areas the FGC greatly improved on.

As the competitive landscape returns to its traditional offline home, it remains to be seen if these newly introduced elements remain at the forefront in the FGC or if they will lose steam when the continued quest for Esports prominence returns.

In closing, regardless of how the FGC handles the next 12 months, it should be proud with how it handled the last 12 months. There were a few hiccups along the way, and it wasn’t always pretty, and while some developers and games shined brighter than others, the FGC most certainly rebounded.

It is without a doubt that once again, a small community dedicated to a small subgenre in the giant world of gaming made significant strides in becoming arguably the best community in gaming, a title that it may very well already own.

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