Capcom: The King of Fighters

By Adam Ma on August 11, 2010, 8:37PM EDT
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Capcom is, at the moment, the dominant force in the fighting game industry. There's no sense in denying it, regardless of what style of fighter you may prefer. From their popular Versus series of games (Marvel vs Capcom, Tatsunoko vs Capcom), to their original IPs such as Street Fighter, they're successfully holding a lead that most other developers would die for. But is their position really that hard to reach? Is there a secret formula to Capcom's success that no other developer can copy? Not really, it just takes a little bit of time and listening to a few of your fans to ensure a spot as number one.

Though there are many aspects in the fighting genre that are shared across all games, few have done more to assist the multiplayer community like Capcom has. They've set a high bar, an industry standard, but they shouldn't have been the first to do it. Tournament modes, solid netcode, and a few fan-requested updates are all that's really required to turn a 'great' game into an 'awesome' game. Yet despite these pretty basic concepts, other developers continue to mess things up. Leaving out fan favourite characters, or making their games launch with poor online-playability is embarrassing, and makes room for your competition to claim the glory.

It's also important to, much like FPS games, keep a steady stream of updates running. It's impressive how many companies just release a game and move onto the next one, like we're still living in the 90s. Online support of some fashion is a must, if anything to let your fanbase know you're still listening, and no developer does this better (in the fighting genre) than Capcom. This isn't to say that other developers don't try, or don't put content out on some level, just that there are far too many series still following some ancient form of the development cycle. Arc System Works is notorious for this, pushing out a second Blazblue and new Arcana Hearts while leaving Guilty Gear completely untouched and unmentioned.

Even worse is when a development team fears change, making only a few balance revisions or character tweaks in between each of their major launches. Looking at any games within the Versus series, they all contain very similar elements but ultimately play quite differently from one another. This constant expansion allows them to throw out games with an overall identifiable theme (team combat), but at the same time make enough difference between them all to make playing them enjoyable and unique. Street Fighter vs Tekken is a perfect example, which has an astounding amount of differences in it though it's clearly based off of the SSF4 system.

Size of the development studio shouldn't have anything to do with it either, although naturally Capcom does have an advantage in this. With a new fighting game to hit every few years, they're naturally set to make a good impression on the community, but this doesn't mean that smaller studios should rush out a game to compete. Sitting down to make genuinely meaningful changes, appreciated fan updates, and appropriate updates make releasing a game worthwhile. Minor character additions or tweaks that could otherwise be added as DLC may as well be changed as such.

Now this isn't to say Capcom has made their share of mistakes, nor that all their games are beacons of perfection to put all competitors into awe. However, they are doing something right, and the more time goes on the more they seem to refine the equation for a good fighting game. It's the sort of lesson that the industry should learn, that putting more thought into their games is worth the extra time and energy. With luck the competitive edge that Capcom has right now will do nothing but inspire other competitors to meet (and surpass) the current standards. It's a win/win situation for everyone really, and will only result in better, longer lasting multiplayer goodness.

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