2D Fighters are Back, but Not in the Arcades of America

With the recent announcement of Street Fighter X Tekken, the highly anticipated Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and the overwhelming success of Street Fighter IV, it’s hard not to acknowledge that 2D fighters are once again on top of the world.  Nearly 20 years ago, every arcade, laundromat, and Boys & Girls Club would have large crowds forming around 25-inch screens waiting with a quarter, ready to jump in as the new challenger.  Now you can’t even find a decent arcade, let alone a Street Fighter IV cabinet in a Dave and Busters’. So what happened to one of Geekdom’s greatest pastime?

The year was 1991, Comedy Central was just launched, Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested, and we were at war with Iraq.  Arcades were once again popular due to overwhelming success surrounding the hit 2D fighter Street Fighter 2.  To many industry eyes, Street Fighter 2 was responsible for the huge boom in arcade fighters that would lead to the beginning of series like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Virtual Fighter, King of Fighters and Samurai Showdown.  Street Fighter 2’s success would produce many sequels and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, Street Fighter 2 holds the record for “Biggest-Selling Coin-Operated Fighting Game,” but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. In the mid 90’s, there was a huge shift in the video game media.

The home consoles PlayStation and N64 were released. For the first time ever, consoles rivaled arcade machines graphically. The American way is convenience and more people found it easier to play the games at home rather than go to an arcade.  Maintenance for cabinets had also become more costly as it became harder to find someone who knows how to fix them. Many arcade enthusiasts now refer to it now as a dying art form.  However, today, the 2D fighting community has never been stronger.

This year the EVO Championship Series reported a record breaking 1,800 admissions for 2010’s tournament. Many retailers have reported high sales for both Street Fighter 4 , Super Street Fighter 4, as well as Tournament Arcade Sticks. Recently, Capcom implemented a new Tournament Mode DLC for Super Street Fighter 4. The mode was created to mimic playing in a Arcade setting with single elimination brackets.  Players that are waiting for their turn are able to talk amongst themselves and comment on the action.  Maybe it’s not same as putting a quarter on an arcade panel and saying you got next, but it’s better than nothing. There may not be as many physical cabinets as there once were, but that does not mean it reflects the popularity of the genre. There is still a huge following for the genre. It’s just now online and with every new title, it gets bigger and bigger.

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