Well, EVO is done and it was incredible to see fighting games fans from all over the world travel to one spot to participate in the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. As per usual, there were a ton of reveals at EVO. Apparently, developers finally listened to the fighting game community at large as a lot of the announcements during the three day show was all about inserting rollback netcode into existing games. That’s a good thing as it makes playing online a much better experience.
But, for me, the biggest announcements at EVO will always go for the reveals of new games and new characters. Sadly, these were few and far in-between as a lot of games are a little too old to add new content. However, there were still a few neat reveals, such as Bridget for Arc System Works’ Guilty Gear Strive as well as Kimberly and Juri for Capcom’s upcoming Street Fighter 6. SNK also revealed the next team for the King of Fighters XV, showing off Team Samurai, featuring Haohmaru, Nakoruru and Darli Dagger. They even characters, like Shingo Yabuki and Kim Kaphwan, who are slated to be released way in the future.
I did see kind of a pattern and it’s a pattern that’s actually bugged me for a while. And that would be the practice of companies like Capcom and other fighting game developers releasing DLC characters piecemeal. What I mean is that they keep on releasing only one character per month instead of releasing a couple or more. And I think that has to change.
It’s not like I get the idea as to why companies do this. It actually makes good business sense as you keep the people who purchased the game with a slow and steady stream of additional content to keep them hooked on it. Additionally, as it’s only one character each month, it gives the developers enough time to fine tune them so they don’t get released to the general public as a buggy mess before they move on to the next character. Finally, as they usually plan who’s going to be released way ahead of time, it can build anticipation regarding who’s going to be next in line, especially if the next DLC character looks interesting or a fan favorite.
However, I think this idea of releasing a singular DLC fighter is already outdated and, in fact, SNK inadvertently proved this is kind of an outdated way of thinking. That’s because of their latest game, the King of Fighters XV, has been releasing three characters every three months. Granted, that’s because the King of Fighters series is rather unique as you have to choose a team of three fighters for each match. But it still shows how well it can work, especially if you have the right lineup of characters planned out.
If you look at the roadmap SNK put out for what’s on the horizon for the game, you can generally see a theme to their teams (pun intended). For example, Team Garou all come from Garou: Mark of the Wolves. Team South Town are all baddies from the Fatal Fury games. Team Awakened Orochi harkens back to the same team from King of Fighters ’97 and Team Samurai all come from the Samurai Shodown series of games. It just makes sense to pair them all that way. But this does show that it is possible to release characters in batches and still be able to whet the appetites of fans.
You may think releasing characters individually does benefit gamers, especially pro players, as it allows them to dissect each new fighter as they come out before the next one is made available. But there is an adverse effect to doing this and it generally leads to boredom if the character isn’t all that interesting in the first place. Sure, you may get excited when they’re released but, since you know there’s something new on the horizon, this just released character immediately becomes old news someone else is released. You’re never allowed a good stretch of time to really immerse yourself with that lone character before you feel the need to move to the next new DLC fighter because of this. Having a bunch of characters released all at once alleviates this kind of thinking.
I’m not even asking companies like Capcom to release several characters all at once each month. That would be terrible for the programmers as that would give them little time to fully test each proposed DLC character. I would give them some leeway and follow what SNK is doing with their release schedule of the DLC character packs for the King of Fighters XV. They’re basically releasing three character every three months and that’s just okay by me.
You may argue that it’s pretty much one character per month if that’s the case. But what I’m proposing has a big difference and that is you have a total of three months to get really acquainted with three characters. You get the time to see which characters fit your style and extensively test what things work for you. If we follow the same standard pattern of one character per month, you’ll pretty much get tired of that singular new character if he or she just doesn’t appeal to you or the way you play. I mean, I love the risk Capcom made when they made Menat but there’s no way a scrub like me was going to get exceptionally good at using her!
Will fighting game developers and publishers eventually make the change to releasing DLC characters in batches? I highly doubt that. The monthly approach has been working for companies like Capcom as it builds a steady stream of excitement whenever a new DLC fighter is released. Maybe I just prefer the way SNK is doing it with the King of Fighters XV, even if it is out of necessity. But I really do think a big batch of characters getting dumped at one time every three months would be more hype than what they’ve been doing so far.
How do you think fighting games should utilized bringing in DLC fighters? Should they be slowly streamed in or released in one big shot? Let me know in the comments section below!