Street Fighter V, the fifth official entry in the Street Fighter franchise, hits store shelves on Tuesday, February 16. With its release comes high hopes from players who wish to see the franchise revolutionize the fighting game genre again.
To say their goodbyes to its predecessor, Street Fighter IV, 16 players from around San Antonio came to Ultra Arcade (5946 Blanco Rd., 210-858-2028) on February 6 for one last tournament.
Since its release for arcades in 2008 and then home consoles in 2009, Street Fighter IV revitalized the fighting game genre after taking a nine-year hiatus. Jokingly called the “dark days of fighting games,” the absence of a new Street Fighter game made the genre go stagnant and almost fade out of existence.
“Street Fighter IV brought back the fighting game community in San Antonio,” said Rudy “Sinister X” Alaniz, 27. “For awhile, I was worried that it would die out with only old guys like me left.”
In 2008, the Japanese arcades were booming with the release of Street Fighter IV, and it was a year later when the U.S. received a proper release when the game landed on PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. Gamers old and new flocked to the series, which ultimately sold more than three million copies.
Developer Capcom’s timing for the game's release was impeccable. At the time of release, streaming video games was just starting. The 2009 Evolution Championship Series, or Evo, live streamed the Street Fighter IV finals to thousands, and in 2015, the competition received more than 18 million views.
Another business looming on the horizon in 2009 was competitive gaming, or eSports. Tournament with cash prizes started, interestingly enough, with Street Fighter II. Years afterward, tournaments grew in players, but not in money due to a lack of sponsorships.
But in recent years, the money for tournaments skyrocketed. The 2015 Capcom Cup winner, Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue, took home $125,000, the largest tournament win for Street Fighter iV.
The players at the San Antonio tournament, however, are not playing for that kind of money. They range from long-time fighting game competitors to players who are brand new to the scene. Competitors sit two by two at custom Ultra Arcade cabinets. Each player focuses on their screen while they input commands into their arcade sticks in their laps, with the exception of one player who prefers a controller.
They pay their respects to the game that not only saved a video game genre, but also brought together a community of gamers here in San Antonio.
“When I moved to San Antonio from Indiana, I didn’t have a social group,” said Paul “Christian Ken” Zimmy, 24. “Once I met the fighting game community, I found a group of people to hang out and fill a social void in my life.”
For some players, Street Fighter IV wasn’t just a game: It was an opportunity to travel across the country and showcase their skills to thousands in attendance and watching via live stream.
“Street Fighter IV came out while I was in college where I was a competitive Madden player,” said Devoy “Flash” House, 27. “When I moved to San Antonio, I was getting beat by everyone in Street Fighter IV. Now I’m going to tournaments in different states to compete.”
As the tournament progressed and players were knocked out of contention, including yours truly, the talk of the arcade wasn’t the matches, but rather it was all about Street Fighter V. Players discussed with one another on which character they were going to use once the game comes out. Conversations would be interrupted by the occasional exciting match, but the focus for everyone was the future.
“I hope that Street Fighter V will do what Street Fighter IV did, which was not only increase the size of the Street Fighter scene, but by osmosis, spread out to other games and increase those scenes, too,” explained David “Ultradavid Graham, fighting game commentator and attorney, via telephone.”
After three hours of fighting, the final Street Fighter IV tournament winner in San Antonio was Brandon Sida, whose Evil Ryu play was too much for the other competitors. His prize for the day was a little more than $100, which is more than enough to pay for his copy of Street Fighter V.