Katsuhiro Harada shares his candid thoughts on the state of fighting games today.
When asked upfront about the topic in a recent interview, here is what Harada had to say:
“Well, that’s an interesting question because fighting games are maybe the most famous for the period from mid-late ’80s up until the end of the 20th century…Some of the younger players now have this impression, although inaccurate, that the fighting game audience has shrunk because there are fewer titles, but that’s not necessarily the case. We used to have a lot more middle sized fighting game titles that came out back in that time that maybe you don’t see that particular group anymore. It’s gone mostly to a lot of much smaller indie titles that are doing maybe 2D fighting games or something like that, or just these huge IPs like Tekken and Street Fighter.
So it’s not like Tekken or Street Fighter or any of the big ones are selling less copies. Oftentimes they sell more. It’s just the impression of some of the fans that that is the case. And then there’s other changes in the genre as well from a business model perspective. A lot of these titles were in the arcades, and then gradually we saw some titles that would not do an arcade release and would just go straight to console. So there was that shift of how do we go from an arcade game where you’re putting in a hundred yen…to selling a console version. It’s a full package that has everything that entails.”
The earliest most notable fighting games like Jordan Mechner’s Karateka debuted in 1984, but the genre changed and leveled up dramatically with the release of Street Fighter II in 1991. Fighting games dominated the arcades in the 1990s, but really it only breathed new life to that industry as game consoles were coming into their own as even bigger markets. 1997 saw the PlayStation releases of both Tekken 3, the groundbreaking sequel that put the Tekken franchise on the map, and Final Fantasy VII, the even bigger and more important game for Final Fantasy, Japanese RPGs, and video games in general, that augured a time when consoles would bring video game experiences that arcades would not be able to match.
By the seventh generation of consoles, the tide had completely turned for the genre. While Tekken notably managed to persist, there were considerably less fighting games being made, and more importantly, they were now far behind their peers in the 90s, such as first person shooters, and action RPGs, and there were newer genres, like open world games, that accounted for a bigger segment of video games. Street Fighter had not had a new game for a decade when Capcom released Street Fighter IV.
As Harada had noted, it wasn’t like individual titles for fighting games sold considerably less compared to previous years. However, what he hadn’t talked about is that the genre once dominated the industry, and has now become its own dedicated niche. What are good sales for Tekken and Street Fighter to this day, are dwarfed by the monumental sales and profit margins of modern day hits like Grand Theft Auto 5, Animal Crossing, and Fortnite.
Irregardless of how big fighting games are or how they could be or could have been, Tekken 8 remains a highly anticipated sequel in a franchise that has lasted through the console generations. There will always be Tekken fans looking forward to playing the next sequel in the newest platforms available.
Tekken 8 is planned for release on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows via Steam. You can read our prior Tekken 8 coverage below.