In short, the free-to-play PS3 Tekken Revolution is a depressing preview of things that just might happen in the fighting game genre. In long, keep reading.
(I don't know the entire Tekken series and didn't really play Tekken Tag 2 for any length, only watched tourney matches and read about it, so I might get some technical stuff wrong here.)
Revolution is a free copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 with the tag part (along with other more advanced, overwhelming game systems) removed and with far fewer characters. Its target, boldly, greedily, is the perceived "casual market". The game design screams "Scrubs and cell phones!"
When we look at fighting games, the scene, the people who come out to tournaments, we have to really keep in mind that these are the most dedicated and diehard genre lovers around. They like fighting games so much they're willing to get on a plane and spend a weekend on it. And games following Street Fighter IV, a game designed around (MOSTLY) exactly what the scene wants, have followed its example. Even the boring games, like KI or Injustice, are sophisticated, balanced, and tournament-ready. An idea like RPG stat-leveling-- around which Revolution is based-- is rightfully considered treason against good fighting game design.
But this mindset forgets that the majority of players really doesn't give a shit about that kind of thing and would be perfectly happy to level up their fighter's stats and grind until the game does the work of winning for them. That's what Tekken Revolution is about: a fundamentally unfair and deeply cynical system where the house is selling the advantage.
There are two separate ladders in this game's system: you can win matches or you can keep playing.If you win matches against players at your approximate level, you'll quickly rise in the ranks like in any other competitive game. Whether you win or not, on the other hand, you will always rise in the experience ladder.
Gaining XP, levels, and stats is actually a very clever handicap system; if you lose a lot, the game will have you face players in the same rank but with much lower stats. If you win a lot, you'll see things from the other end as your low-stat character goes up against characters with huge advantages in raw stats, but who are played by people who aren't skilled enough to make anything of them.
No matter how bad you are at the game, the game will keep leveling you up, and somewhere in there your overpowered character has got to start winning already and break out of "Grand Master" rank -- note that in this game a weakling rank is GRAND MASTER.
(The stats are attack power, HP, and the nebulous "vigor", offering miniscule bonuses in each category.)
And you can level faster if you pay for it. The free-to-play bite in the ass comes immediately: Namco will allow you to play five ranked matches and two arcade mode runs in the space of about two hours, but after that you'll have to wait.
What Namco wants you to do is to pay for each individual play, like you would at the arcade, by buying their Premium Coins. $1 for 4 plays, $2 for 10 plays, $5 for 30 plays so obviously that's the only one you'd pick. Benefits? That's easy: you get the coin back if you win (so it's really $5 for 30 losses, incentivizing the strong player), and your prize money and XP are tripled over free play. That's right, not doubled, tripled. So this is the roundabout moment at which we reach "pay to win." Buy Namco Quarters and you'll get an unfair competitive advantage over the plebes in return. At least practice mode is free.
You can't tell whether a player has paid for their stats. You'd be easily able to suss it out if you could see total matches played versus level, but in service to the player's ego, Revolution only shows number of wins. Like I said, it's very clever. Nobody has to know you're paying them for a leg up.
Because this isn't enough, Revolution actually has even more pay items, like the Namco Bandai bosses heard about every possible monetization scheme and decided to put them all in one game. Costumes from TTT2 are $2, hell, hit effects from TTT2 are $2. Additional characters might be unlocked or might cost $7: it depends on how far back in the order they are. If you're a Tekken head and "your character" isn't in the first few to unlock, welp that'll be seven bucks.One day there's going to be a fighting game that works like DOTA 2 or League of Legends; free and supported entirely by purchasing characters, expensive hats, or whatever. It solves the genre's perpetual problem of getting people to pay for game upgrades in a single stroke. It's just a matter of the consoles supporting that infrastructure, and some developer being smart enough to get there. We'd be dumb not to assume everybody is already working on it. It'll probably be Street Fighter V, because from my extensive experience with fighting games I can tell you that most people won't play any game where they can't pick Ryu/Ken and do Shoryukens over and over again.
(Did I mention that Tekken Revolution adds Shoryukens, by the way? To fucking Tekken? Because it makes a complete mess of the game!)Anyway, Tekken Revolution is unlikely to be that game, the one that wins over the tourney people as well as the scrubs, because it's made firmly for the latter group. But you should look at it-- if not play it-- and think about it, because it is one place the future can go.