Depending on who you ask, we’re either living in the golden age of fighting games or in a dry spell. From late 2020 to the present, fans have not been short of games to keep them occupied, but many of the genre’s big developments have been complementary. Over the last few years we’ve seen a number of definitive updates for street fighter 5two betas for street fighter 6and the publication of King of Fighters XV, Guilty Gear struts, Melting blood type luminaand more.
It’s an extensive list, but you might notice a lack of massive new releases from franchises like Mortal Kombat or Tekken. That put die-hard fans of the genre in an awkward position in 2022 as they searched for a new competitive game to fill their time while waiting for the next genre-changing heavy hitter. Thankfully, relief is on the horizon in 2023, which is shaping up to be one of the biggest years for fighters in quite some time. In that context, 2022 was a much-needed breather for a genre that will demand a lot of attention from now on.
A quick breather
In early 2022, it was common to hear the words “golden age” used to describe the fighting game landscape. Several games have been discontinued, each with multiple game modes and stable online play thanks to rollback netcode. This online infrastructure trend proved extremely crucial as netplay competition became possible for more than a handful of established titles. It felt like the fighting scene was much broader than in previous years, with more viable competitive games to choose from.
This momentum slowed quickly over the course of 2022. While the genre looked healthy from the outside, hardcore fans felt a drought of excitement. games like DNF duel, Melting blood type luminaand The King of Fighters XVarguably the best fighter of 2022, were plagued by mechanical design and balancing errors that hampered their long-term potential. Dragon Ball Fighter Z announced a rollback update to make online play feel better, but fans have since heard nothing but radio silence as to when that’s coming. Stunning developments like this were made worse as fans looked ahead to titles like this street fighter 6 and Tekken 8both of which are scheduled to hit the market in 2023. Even with so much paper to play, there was a sense of boredom with a core player base that couldn’t sink their hooks in a great game.
However, this feeling is not a cause for alarm. In fact, 2022 finds itself in a common pattern not alien to the fighting genre. Fighting game tournament organizer Bum1Six3 tweeted important historical context last month that puts the current doldrums into perspective. “I feel like I used to [Street Fighter 4] Era when fighting games were really dry,” he tweeted. “Then we’re going to get a crazy barrage of content that’s going to generate a lot of hype.”
This time is significant for fans of the genre as it happened just before Capcom got back on the map street fighter 4 in 2008 and ushered in a new era for the entire genre. In the break before this pivotal moment, players played in a similar fashion with titles such as Street Fighter 3 Third Strike, Marvel vs Capcom 2, and other now retro titles. Those years before street fighter 4reflects the early 2020s, especially as we work towards what could be a hugely successful launch street fighter 6.
Like 2008, 2023 has the potential to be a landmark year for the genre. More characters and updates for KOF15, DNF duel, melting bloodand Guilty Gear struts are on the way, which will help these titles grow, although it’s the influx of high-profile new titles that will have the biggest impact. With releases like street fighter 6 and Tekken 8 coming soon and rumors of a new title coming from NetherRealm Studios, the recent dry spell could end up being a bit of a blessing. Despite the burnout some fans have faced this year, fighting games are in an incredible position in terms of access to competition, community, and education. if street fighter 6‘s fantastic beta is all you need, we’re in good hands for 2023.