Published: 04 August 2012
Street Fighter X Tekken's downloadable content has been a subject of much controversy. When it was discovered last March (before the game even came out) that the twelve bonus characters were already on the disc, the Internet Outrage Meter predictably shifted to DEFCON 3. Did Capcom have a right to include data in the retail package and then try to sell the player $20 unlock key six months down the road? Answer: Yes, yes they did.
The first supporting argument lies with the trials and tribulations of the downloadable content for 2011's reprise of Mortal Kombat. Numerous problems were reported when downloadable characters Rain, Kenshi, Skarlet, and Freddy Krueger were integrated into Mortal Kombat’s online multiplayer fabric. Players whom lacked data for those characters on their hardware had difficulty loading and completing matches against players who had purchased that data. Mortal Kombat's matchmaking system didn't account for this, effectively splitting the market with no real way to account for who had what. A patch would later smooth things over, however Mortal Kombat was effectively broken for a significant period of time. Including characters on the disc, as is the route chosen by Capcom with Tekken X Street Fighter, would solve that problem and theoretically allow players who had and had not paid for the extra content to occupying the same ecosystem.
The second argument is the reality of game development in 2012. Downloadable content has run the gamut from nefarious to incredible (Oblivion, for example, demonstrated both) and post-release content is the new normal. Developing games isn't a process that all wraps in neatly at the end of crunch time, as there will inevitably be personnel whose work on a particular game might be complete well before the product goes gold. More often than not a splinter group is tasked with formulating and developing post release content. Given major studios penchant for firing or laying off heaps of programmers after launch, that's certainly a good thing, right?
Except that, yes, Street Fighter X Tekken's content was obviously complete before the game hit retail. Another reality is the budget assigned to major studio releases. In the case of Street Fighter X Tekken Capcom likely budgeted for forty (40!) characters the various systems and balancing between them. The twelve downloadable characters only existed because it was determined an additional revenue stream down the road would make it worth their while. To put it bluntly these characters wouldn't exist if they weren't part of future paid content. You’re not entitled to that content even if it was completed before the game shipped.
And let’s not forget, you asked for this. With three retail version of Street Fighter IV, two releases of Marvel versus Capcom 3 in the same calendar year, and a sketchy history of double and triple dipping their fighting game franchise, Capcom finally obeyed their fans wishes and promised a singular retail release for one of their fighting games.
In reality Capcom made one huge mistake; they forgot that virtually anything can be hacked and, in most cases, used to punish people who play by the rules. Street Fighter X Tekken was successfully hacked a short time later and those players got to play and battle online with the DLC characters months before they were due to be released properly. DRM issues are an entirely separate matter, but the streams are crossed in this regard. People who hacked the Street Fighter X Tekken and did not pay for the characters were not only playing with them early, but also using them against other players online. That's an awful, pit-of-your-stomach sensation of betrayal and Capcom should have taken the L and admitted they done goofed (as the kids say). They also could have moved up the release date of Street Fighter X Tekken's DLC; however that was probably asking too much from an iron-clad business plan.
All of this is old news, but in lieu of the DLC’s now proper release on August 1st I’m eager to see how the fighting game community reacts. Water under the bridge? Appreciative all the same? Or still on the needling edge of upgrading to DEFCON 2? We’ll see.