So in the exciting conclusion of the "our game is never coming out" saga, Sega has finally unveiled Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown for consoles. What we know:
- Summer 2012 release
- Download-only game, no retail version
- DLC items
That's a year from now. Pretty rough, but when you look at the upcoming schedule for fighting games-- Ultimate Marvel 3 in the fall and Street Fighter x Tekken in the spring-- it makes some sense.
All of it's pretty sensible, really. We already know from previous series releases that all the good reviews and promotion in the world won't sell VF to a wide audience, so digital distro is obvious. Despite the fact that a passionate fanbase wants the new version, VF5 is still sitting on Gamestop shelves for $10 and they can't give it away.
As for DLC items, from 4 on Virtua Fighter has had the most advanced character customization in fighting games. There are hundreds of purely cosmetic items, and you can make your character look a little different or completely unrecognizable. (Note that the woman in both of those videos is Sarah!)
There are some things I'd like to suggest to Sega, though. This game needs to be sold to the hardcore genre fan crowd. VF's selling points are its high level of polish and balance, which are not points that matter to the average customer. It's a fighting game player's game, and even with SF4 coming out there just aren't a lot of us compared to mainstream sales numbers.
We have a really active fighting game scene right now, however, perhaps more active than it's ever been. Sega needs to look at what Capcom does. Every single big gaming event, Capcom is there with some early build of their upcoming game. They carefully work the crowd's excitement level with character reveals (of course the leak of the UMVC3 cast has stymied this, and VF doesn't have this advantage at all). Meanwhile, the most hardcore of the fans stay on the game they're interested in all day and do these insane hour-long footage dumps that pick at every detail of the early build, just because they want to. That's how passionate the Capcom scene is. Capcom had a lot of support coming in, but they've built even more of it all by themselves.
It's cool that Sega is bringing the Final Showdown arcade machines to PAX, but that's but one appearance in a venue where it won't get the notice it deserves. This game needs to be coming around to tournaments, there needs to be a spokesperson ala Seth Killian doing serious, in-depth and hands-on demos and showing people what this game is all about. VF doesn't have nearly as many flashy moves as a Capcom game, but they are there: see the Gamespot trailer for examples!
When the reviews come for VF, they're always A and A-plus reviews. They're always about the superlative polish and balance of the game. But that doesn't actually sell it, because it's very hard to express that idea to players without the player deciding they want to get into it already. It's very hard for players to be hooked by a game with just fundamentals. The players need to see the game in action and need to understand it a little bit in order to get excited about it. Capcom-style overexposure is the way to go here. (Hell, Skullgirls is doing this too.)
Hey Sega, do you know who won Evolution this year? Fuudo did. A Virtua Fighter player. This is something you should be pushing to the genre fans! Fuudo has been playing VF for years now. What drew him to this game? Why not talk to the guy, get some testimonials? Itabashi Zangief, another one of the best VF players in the world, has been coming to western SF4 majors for a while now. Why not get these legendary players in to show their stuff in exhibitions at major tourneys? Why not fly the others in? People here would love Chibita!
Speaking of Evo, summer 2012 is already probably too late a date to get the community ready for a proper Evolution tourney, but at the very least, it is imperative that Sega be there repping their game. You can't afford to ignore this community. Capcom didn't, the MK guys didn't, and they have all won big.
There are so many ways to push VF5, but I'm worried that Sega won't make them and that we'll have a repeat of past history: critical acclaim, no sales, no players, no hype. That'd be a damn shame.
In conclusion, Sega should just make me their PR guy for this title and I'll take care of everything. I'm not very busy, you know.