Fans who are eagerly awaiting the release of Street Fighter V on PS4 and PC next spring got a bit of a disappointment a couple of weeks ago when the game’s first betacrashed and burned. Available to customers who had already pre-ordered the upcoming game, the beta more or less failed on every level. An article in Geek made the point that while this is actually a good thing for Capcom, it wasn’t a whole lot of fun for gamers. The positive is that by experiencing failure, Capcom essentially achieved what a beta is actually meant for – a test run that can be used to work out the kinks.
But what’s caught my eye in the growing anticipation for Street Fighter V – the game, frankly, looks incredible – is just how much people want to play a game that at its core really hasn’t changed since its birth in the late-’80s. Sure, the systems on which we play Street Fighter have been updated, the graphics have gradually improved, and a few characters have come and gone; but really, we’re all getting excited about the upcoming release of a game we’ve been playing for 25 years!
This got me thinking about some of the other games we keep coming back to without pause, despite their familiarity and unchanging nature – and when I stopped to think about it, there were more than I would have thought.
Naturally, the first similar franchise that comes to mind when talking about Street Fighter is Mortal Kombat. It doesn’t have quite as long a history but, as the main counterpart to Capcom’s gold standard fighter, the series has remained similarly unchanged over the years. It’s also remained similarly popular. Just as the upcoming Street Fighter V release is starting to create something of a frenzy of anticipation, Gamerant recently reported that Mortal Kombat X – the latest game in the series that debuted earlier this year – is already the fastest-selling Mortal Kombat game ever!
So it seems that with some long-tenured games that don’t change the format too much, popularity can actually increase over time, as opposed to waning due to a lack of innovation. And it’s not something we only see in traditional fighters, where the characters keep players interested due to a certain nostalgia factor.
In console gaming, the best example outside of the fighter genre is perhaps in sports gaming, where various franchises – in particular the Madden NFL series – have lasted for decades. I wouldn’t point to iconic adventure games like Prince Of Persia or various Mario series, because while they’ve endured for many years, they have also survived via evolution. Madden, on the other hand, while adjusting to new graphics and systems as well as welcoming online multiplayer, has more or less been the same game for its entire existence.
Moving away from consoles to consider other branches of gaming, one of the first titles that came to mind was Sid Meier’s Civilization franchise. The series is built on a wonderfully engaging and addictive core concept that hasn’t changed through countless editions and mini-upgrades. The game now has a bigger focus on visual quality than it did in its earlier days, and players have more options when plotting out civilizations. The latest versions of the game (which you can download online) even allow specific focuses like outer space expansion or a world driven by religion. However, the basic idea of navigating a civilization through history has stood the test of time with astounding continuity.
Online gaming circles, too, have been a branch of gaming in which we see a lot of examples of games so pure and enjoyable that they don’t really need to adapt. In this category, the key player is perhaps the simplest arcade game in existence – simple, repetitive, thrilling blackjack. If you’re not one to play card games online, you probably think of this more as a live casino game that was eventually translated into a digital format, but the truth is online blackjack has been around for years. Intercasino‘s online gaming platform was established all the way back in 1996, at the inception of online casino gaming, and has a busy blackjack section. Years later with more than a dozen different versions and variations of blackjack being offered, the gaming practices have never changed.
And then, finally, there’s the timeless classics that are a true gamer’s best friends. These are the arcade titles that have stood the test of time, moving from independent machines to original game consoles and now into app form (perhaps the closest thing to a modern arcade). This category includes games like Tetris and Pac-Man, and it is perhaps the best demonstration of all of why a truly great game doesn’t need to be changed and refreshed to remain popular.
This is all just something to keep in mind in the wake of the Street Fighter V beta flop, and the inevitable negative press that has followed it. This is one of a handful of games that’s truly retained its original quality over the years – and there’s no reason to expect that to change!