Why Fighting Games Aren’t as Popular as Other Games
“Bro, this character is unbelievably busted that it’s getting on my nerves! At this rate I’m gonna get demoted from my rank again!”
My younger brother just ranted to me again over his match against an unfamiliar character in online rank game of Tekken 7, one of the well-known fighting game out there in the gaming market.
I can’t help but to sympathized with his struggle as it reminded me of the hardship I went through before, back when I was also in the same rank as him.
It has been over a years since both of us started being involved in the “fighting game” genre along with a couple of our friends. However at this present day, more than 70% of them already quit playing and moved on to trying other games like the FPS or MOBA games which are arguably two of the most popular genres out there in the current market.
It was sad to see people I used to play with quitting the games we used to play together but can I really blame them? Obviously, I can not.
I’m fully aware that fighting game is already difficult to get into and even harder to keep playing until you are considered to be decent at it and to fully enjoy the game.
What I said now sounded just no difference from other games isn’t it? Because there is no easy path to achieve anything in this world and certainly it is no exception also when it comes to gaming.
Yes, that might be correct on surface level but there are still more of the underlying details out there that can explain why the fighting game genre is not as popular as other type of games available in this modern day.
Understanding the Fighting game genre
A fighting games usually have two characters on screen battling against each other in one on one combat. Player can choose to play against AI (Artificial Intelligence) or versus another real player either in online or offline matches.
Basically, fighting game is like simulating a real life martial fight like boxing, wrestling or even street brawling into a video games. Winner of the game is the side that wins all rounds in that particular match by being the first one to reduce the opponent’s life point down to zero.
But of course, each games have their own mixes and twists to make the game unique from its competitor.
To give out a few example, some fighting games may lean toward an anime style of character’s design and combining martial arts with supernatural abilities like in Street Fighter, one of the most popular fighting game franchise out there under the ownership of Capcom.
On the other hand, there are games like Tekken and Mortal Kombat franchises that focuses more on presenting the realistic graphic and a more traditionally grounded combat style.
While each game has it’s own spices, difference art direction and theme, they still very much share a plenty of mechanics that is just similar or even the same on one another.
They all include a basic movement on the character like moving forward and backward, the guarding system to block an incoming attack from the opponent and the most important one that is arguably the unique selling point of this genre : the combo system.
The Most Satisfying Mechanic of Fighting Game
Combo is a mechanic found in all fight games. It’s a multiple attacking moves joined together to create a consecutive hits, resulting in a huge damage dealt to the opponent.
Some are easy to perform while some requires mastery and a long practicing time to successfully make it worked as intended.
The real challenge is will you be able to pull it out in the real match, just as you did in training mode.
As a fighting game player myself, there is nothing more enjoyable that landing a big combo on my opponent after spending dozen of hours practicing it.
Well, unless you are the one getting bodied by the opponent’s combo which in that case is another story.
Combo always bring excitement out of the crowd and instantly become a legendary moment everyone talks about whenever it happens in the professional tournament. Just like in the video below.
And that’s pretty much the core features of fighting game genres. Pick up your favourite character and fight off to death against your opponent. Sounds fun and all isn’t it? What could possibly go wrong here?
Fighting game does give a lots of enjoyment to the player and sense of satisfaction when winning the match. But this genre certainly have a plenties of reasons why it doesn’t really pop off the way FPS and MOBA games do to the mass audiences.
Now, it’s time to dig into the “not so pretty side” fighting game genre.
Newcomer’s struggle and hardship
Fighting game might as well as be one of or if not, the least beginner friendly game genre of all.
As much as an over exaggerated it may sounds like, unfortunately it is not. There are just a lots of nuances and suffering that are ready to welcome the new players that just started trying out the game.
Fighting game is not a team-based game
There is no coincidence that the current most popular games in the world like Valorant, League of Legend, Overwatch 2, Dota 2 are all a team-based game.
Because that’s becoming a formula to success in creating video games already.
We all love to have a good time with our friends and family, and even to a greater extend if we can share the game we played and enjoy it together with them.
Now looking back at most fighting game, you are all on your own in a match like a boxer solely hopping into the arena against the opponent.
Unlike in team-based game, there is no one else to help you. No one to covered for your mistake and if you messed it up somehow, it’s nobody else but your fault.
I’m not trying to say that this is necessary a bad thing at all. I myself am a fan and enjoy playing single-player games a lot. It’s just when we try to look from the beginner’s perspective, they will likely to find a harder time in setting up their journey in fighting game than other team-based games.
Okay but some might argue then what about Battle royale games genre like Apex Legend, Fortnite and PUBG? Those games are also solo based game but why does it still thrive in the market unlike Fighting games? This then bring us to the next point of discussion.
Fighting games are niche by it’s nature
From business statistics, many of fighting games sell really well. The best selling game of all time for this genre, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in Nintendo Switch platform sold over 29.5 million units while other titles like Dragon Ball FighterZ, Mortal Kombat X and Tekken 7 got around 10 million copies sold worldwide.
However, that doesn’t represent the total amount of current remaining active players. People bought the game to just try it out then never touch it ever again, resulting in a small size player base left. The statistical data of active players on Steam can see from here .
So it’s not really an issue that fighting games can’t sell well enough, but rather that it can’t keep the players to stick through and keep on playing for a long time.
One of the issues in modern fighting game is the lack of variety in contents available other than traditional versus mode and training mode.
Single player gameplays like story campaign for example are becoming shorter and shorter in each title. The replay value then significantly got reduced furthermore. Players are only left with the options of to just hop on and fight other people or AI to enjoy themselves.
Obviously beating the AI in offline battle may grant some satisfaction but at some point, wouldn’t you feel a whole lot better if you can beat a real opponent? Of course most people would say yes in an instant but that also comes with the next issue and arguably the most important one.
There is always a bigger fish in the pond
Rank match in most of the other games often bring two sides with a similar skills level to compete against one another, which is what it should be.
Well that’s not always a case in fighting game.
You aren’t always getting paired up against an opponent as good as you, but instead it might be against someone twice better than you. Why so? Because of the small player size that result into this situation. You are likely to keep getting matched with the same face who could have just been humiliated you a few matches ago again.
Fighting game can be unbelievably hard for many reasons. It is not always about landing a big boy combo on the opponent and win flawlessly, it’s much deeper than that in which many newcomers don’t realize.
There are countless strategies available can be used to win the game.
To name a few, whiff punishing, poking, spacing, mid-combo cancelling, even mastering movement techniques and a lots more I haven’t mentioned. Just how many of these terms for someone who just started playing will really know and for them to then be put up against a veteran players who spent time learning and polishing their gameplay. It’s already a pain when think about the struggle that new players must have felt.
Surely, newcomers can just choose not to dwell themselves into online play and stick to the offline content against AI, but at the cost of stucking in that skill levels they will not be developing any furthermore.
It’s depends on them to whether or not leave that comfort zone. And in reality, only a few stay behind while the majority left to find a new experiences and never look back at fighting games ever again.
The Future of Fighting Games
As much of a pain fighting game can be, it is still extremely fun in its own way and have the fanbases to support the franchise.
The announcement of the upcoming new games like Street Fighter 6, Tekken 8 and Mortal Kombat 12 did well in hyping up the community and generate interests that potentially draw in newer faces to try it out.
Street Fighter 6 shows that the graphic and character’s art direction are greatly improved along with the open-world feature inside the game which is something we have never seen before in fighting game.
It now depends on the developers to push the contents for the game to offer in the right direction for players to experience. Sometimes, a brand new ideas are desperately needed to be feature in these new titles to keep it thing fresh and not end up just repeating the mistake from the previous titles.
If the games want to increase the size of the player base, then it should be appealing for the new players to start playing, be it in form of a better training mode and more single player contents to add more value to the game.
Whatever the future maybe waiting for us, it is still exciting and I have a hope that one day, fighting game will be just as popular as other genres. Only time will tell.
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