Saturday, March 11, 2006

Virtua Fighter - genius or insanity?

"If we ever wanted to do an online fighting game, it would have to be called something besides Virtua Fighter," Kataoka says recently in an interview with EGM. One of the most popular fighting game series of all time and yet refusing to join the online foray. Which seems like an odd choice with arcades being all but extinct in the world outside of Japan. Games like DOA4 are enjoying a whole new level of success never seen before by being online.

Games since the dawn of time have been about 'multiplayer'. Until videogames, most games were not single player games. Granted you will still be able to go to the arcade to play VF, however people outside of Jpn soon won't have that option. Maybe Sega just wants to focus on their Jpnese market only which would be an odd decision at how well VF4/Evo have sold in America.

Humans by nature are gregarious creatures - we seek one another out to have fun. Look at things like QuakeCon or Evo2k where thousands of people come together from all over the world. Some of these people bring huge equipment including monitors and joysticks. People want to get together and play games and when they can't their next option is to play online. Limiting that may very well limit the appeal that the game will have in the future, especially to those who have grown up with online games such as Halo.

Sega before has done other fighting games such as Fighting Vipers which wasn't met with that much success. However the gameplay wasn't as precise as VF and could very well be a good candidate for online play.

So how does everyone think - sega is playing it smart by staying offline or missing out on moving into the next realm of gaming by not bringing VF online?


Kamui said...

At first look, it seemed like an effort on the director's part to preserve the quality of the game. It sounds like he simply doesn't want competetive play to be dumbed down.

On a second look, it's possible that it's all just a ploy to keep the japanese going to arcades. It is, however, hard to believe that the increased player base for the arcade version would make up for the massive increase in sales world wide that online play could possibly bring.

omar kendall said...

I think it's flawed logic to assume that an online mode would somehow magically increase Virtua Fighter sales. Even when dubbed "The Greatest Fighting Game Ever Made" by several videogame publications online and off, VF has continued to struggle as a second-class citzen when compared to the Western juggernauts Soul Calibur and Tekken from a sales standpoint. Hell even the Dragon Ball fighting series destroys it here. Sega will probably treat the West as the West has treated VF in the past - as a low priority, and an online mode really is a Western feature.

And please, let's not dismiss the cost involved in creating a functional online mode. I've seen the troubles involved in developing network code firsthand, and it's not as trivial as everyone makes it out to be. I'm convinced that for Sega it's not a certainty that the investment would be rewarded with the increased sales that would be required to justify the implementation.

I'm both a huge Sega and Virtua Fighter fan. I would shit rainbows if VF was the premier fighting game all over the world, but I honestly think it's gonna take more than online to make that happen. Derek and I have discussed this in the past; VF just doesn't have what the West wants.

Anonymous said...

Personally I think that because of the infrastructure that they had to lay down for VF4 (all those fibre optic cables in every arcade in the country will add up eventually) that Sega is looking to finally recoup all of its losses, and start making a tidy profit on it. Of course, I really want VF5 to be online, but I realize that making tight netcode for a game that's as precise as VF would be almost next to impossible.

Andrew (Reno)

Derek Daniels said...

Japan themselves have had more fighting games online than US I would say. CvS1/2 were online as well as Zero 3 Upper.

Making the game online wouldn't be just for America, I imagine if they made the game for online they would be able to sell it in both markets. I honestly don't know how online play is in Europe right now though.

BTW, can't believe no one called me out for the dope Ryo Shenmue pic!

Javi said...

In Japan, a lot of competition can be had in the arcades, which practically eliminates the need for online play over there. Everywhere else, that's not so true.

I think the question should be, who is Sega catering to with Virtua Fighter? Japan, or elsewhere, or a both?

I think the criteria for a game to hit the PS2 Greatest Hits collection (in north america)is to have a game out for at least nine months, and to sell at least 400k. And last I saw, VF4 was a Greatest Hit. Not too shabby, compared to the Xbox live Capcom games who can't seem to sell all that much.

With those kind of figures, you think that Sega would push something out like that - it would create a vested interest in the game and keep the masses clamoring for more...

jchensor said...

I remember reading that the most recent VF4 being released as a Greatest Hits was something Sony forced upon Sega, not because it actually sold a lot. In fact, I think it was on Omar's blog. And in fact, yes it was.

omar kendall said...

To date, vanilla Virtua Fighter 4 has sold 624,918 copies. Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution - a game that Sega had no choice but to sell as a Greatest Hits game - sold 280,233. Remember, this is a game considered best of the best by several review sites and magazines. Tekken 4, widely considered to be the worst game in the series, sold 1,242,821 copies.

Incidentally, while some games go Greatest Hits, some never do. How many years did GTA3 and 4 stay at full price, despite selling 6 million copies plus each (Vice City, I believe, sold a million copies in its first month of sale alone)? Typically, a game goes Greatest Hits when sales starts to rapidly decline (and yes, the criteria that Javi mentioned is also correct, it's just not a rule). God of War, with sales close to 800,000 units, just went to Greatest Hits this month because it was doing just fine at full price for nearly a year.

Kicks said...

Online play is a western thing? Are people unfamiliar with Starcraft? That game is insane in the east especially Korea. Still not convinced? Have you heard of a little thing called MMORPG's? World of Warcraft definitely raised the bar and is western, but countless MMO's are produced in korea and japan because they do so well.