Capcom Should Make Street Fighter 6 Free-To-Play

by John Carson on May 19, 2022 at 04:35 PM

Street Fighter 6 was announced late last night, and I can’t stop watching the short trailer that debuted the title. Ryu’s new model looks very impressive, and wow, is he a wide dude. He’s becoming one thick, square, sweaty muscle. Luke, on the other hand, looks way different from his recent debut in SFV, sporting a much more realistic hairstyle and veiny arms that would make John Cena jealous. We have almost no information on the game as of now, but that won’t stop us from thinking about the possibilities of what may come with SF6 or what we want the next big chapter in the series to be.

Capcom is no stranger to live service games, nor do they lack experience in seasonal content. Street Fighter V had plenty of both, with four seasons of new characters, plenty of costumes, and new stages. New bundles were created to sell content for big tournaments like Evo or Capcom Pro Tour that would add even more cosmetics to the game. For all intents and purposes, Street Fighter has been running like a free-to-play game for years, and I’d like to see the series lean harder into that model, at least for this upcoming entry.

In many ways, Street Fighter V felt like a beta test for a future free-to-play system. Capcom implemented ways for players to either buy new characters or cosmetics with real money or choose to earn Fight Money by playing various modes in the game, which could be spent on these same items. Other costumes were doled out in Extra Battles, where you’d earn “costume pieces” week-to-week to build a cool Capcom collaboration costume. This actually brought me back to SFV several times so I could get Rashid’s awesome Air Man suit or Kage’s Asura’s Wrath gear. Unfortunately, missing a week for a certain piece would leave you with an incomplete cosmetic that couldn’t be earned until the event came around again. It wasn’t a perfect system, with Fight Money being a grind to earn, but it did lay the groundwork for what could be possible if SF6 went free-to-play.

What would be revolutionary for SF6 is a battle pass system. I know, I know. Not every game needs a battle pass. But implementing one here would do huge things for the game. First, it would promote player retention, giving people a reason to come back to the game over time to climb that personal ladder. Players seem to drop off of fighting games pretty quick, but incentivizing sticking with it and giving rewards like customizations, unlockable characters, or new music to play while fighting might be a good way to keep people playing the game. Much like Dota 2's The International, a portion of the money brought in by the battle passes can and should go into a pool for the Capcom Pro Tour or supporting a variety of local tournaments around the world, giving players a reason to strive to become a better combatant.

Street Fighter is a pretty big name in video games, but if you look at sales numbers for the most recent entry (selling around 6 million copies across PS4 and PC), it falls far short of titles like Mortal Kombat 11 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. If successful, a free model supported by cosmetic sales and a battle pass can give Capcom a recurring source of income, allowing for more content and characters to be created, and we all know that’s what will really drive the company to support the game in the long term. 

On the other hand, shipping a complete game with an arcade mode on day one, a compelling story mode, training, and functional online with reliable (preferably rollback) netcode would also go a long way to topping SFV’s sales. Games like MK11 prove that fighting games can still sell as a full-priced premium product. Maybe now is the time for Capcom to sidestep the traditional sales model and innovate in a way bigger fighting games have rarely done. Whichever route Capcom decides to go with the new entry of the Street Fighter series, I hope it's fun to play and brings more eyes onto the fighting game scene. I believe we’re on the verge of a very exciting time for fighting games, and like its predecessors, SF6 can easily be the centerpiece of the genre for this new generation.

What do you want from Street Fighter 6? We have a reader discussion up for just that very question. Head over there to talk it over with the Game Informer community!

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