Street Fighter 4 brought the fighting game scene to the forefront of eSports, with entry numbers exceeding 2,000 people in the largest tournaments. Next year Capcom and Sony will release Street Fighter 5 to the masses, but will the competitive scene hold up as well as it has over the course of Street Fighter 4? Join us as we take an in-depth look at how the competitive scene will change, and what will likely stay the same.
One aspect of Street Fighter 5 that should help more people get into the tournament scene is the fact that it’s much easier to pick up an play. Gone are the overly difficult one-frame links that created skill barriers between novice and high-level players. Most characters in SF5 don’t even require the dexterity of a Dragon Punch into a Focus Attack Dash Cancel (FADC). This makes it much easier for new or beginner-level players to get into the game and have fun with it while their skill increases.
It also helps that you can no longer lose a round to chip damage unless it comes from a Super Move. In previous Street Fighter games, once your health was low enough, it was a guaranteed loss thanks to chip damage from a special move (the small amount of damage inflicted when a special move is blocked). In Street Fighter 5 you can block special moves all day with only a sliver of health remaining and you will not lose the round. You’ll only have to worry about losing to chip damage if you block a Super Move, which requires the opponent to have a fully stocked Super Meter. This makes chip damage wins far less frequent, which should help novice players hang around a little longer and maybe want to get better at the game.
The advanced net code that Capcom has been working on should also give rise to more competitive players. While the SF4 net code wasn’t terrible, it was a far cry from playing offline. While it will be some time before net code and internet limitations can mimic offline play (with no latency), the net code in Street Fighter 5 is some of the best we’ve seen in fighting games. It’s rivaled only by the Killer Instinct and Namco fighting game net code. Again, it’s not quite an offline experience, but it’s close enough for online warriors to get proper practice and transfer their skills to offline tournaments.
Between the Capcom Pro Tour and the Evolution Fighting Game Championship (Evo), some could argue that fighting games have already entered the eSports arena. Looking forward to 2016, we know the Capcom Pro Tour will feature Street Fighter 5 this time around, and it’s a safe bet that Evo will also feature the title. The only real question when it comes to Evo is will Street Fighter 4 also be featured. The assumption is that we’ll see both titles (similar to how Super Smash Bros. Melee and Wii U were featured this year), but at the very least Street Fighter 5 is all but guaranteed.
While the Capcom Pro Tour and Evo both offers great avenues for competitive players, most consider ESL, MLG and similar tournament circuits to represent eSports. ESL had a heavy focus on Mortal Kombat, but word is that a lot of the funding game from Warner Bros. With Capcom and Sony sponsoring the Capcom Pro Tour, it seems unlikely we’ll see additional sponsorship for something like ESL.
Major League Gaming has been relatively quiet over the last few years. In 2016 the once dominate tournament series will focus almost exclusively on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) with a bit of Halo thrown in for good measure. In fact, CS: GO is also featured in the new Turner Broadcasting eSports league which will air on the TBS channel next year. While the executives behind the new Turner league have stated other games will be featured, we only know of CS: GO at the moment. A brand new fighting game such as Street Fighter 5 would fit well in a televised league, but no official announcements have been made.
The competitive fighting game scene has been fueled by grassroots events for decades and that won’t change with the introduction of Street Fighter 5. If anything it will just cause more people to come out to events, making the grassroots tournaments rise in number. Expect larger events such as Final Round and Northeast Championships to feature 500 or more players for Street Fighter 5, especially with Final Round falling so close to the release date (March 18-20).
Make sure you take a look at our coverage of the Street Fighter 5 announcements at the PlayStation Experience, as well as what to expect when the game launches. We’ll have more on SF5 as the February 16, 2016 launch approaches.