Grinding for goodies is what makes fighting games great

Perhaps it’s silly to get excited about how things used
to be, unless we’re talking about medieval banquets or penny-farthings,
but by doing precisely this Capcom is making the PS4-exclusive Street Fighter 5 better
than I ever dared imagine. Instead of endlessly belched-out updates and
premium costume packs, the game will allow you to unlock all the extras
Read that again. No paid DLC. No new Ultra editions.
All ‘gameplay related content’ – which we can assume includes costumes,
stages and characters – will be earnable with in-game Fight Money,
although you can pay for unlocks if you want them faster. Now let’s
focus on why it’s the Best Thing Ever. 

Unlocking characters is in the DNA of all fighting games.
They rarely have stories – at least, not in any meaningful sense.
Sticking an animated cutscene at the end of a game which has you
resolving every conflict with knees to the head doesn’t count as a
narrative journey; it’s violence with explanation written on the
knuckles. Instead, competitive beat-’em-ups can keep us interested with
the promise of unlockables. Every battle is a small step towards some
indistinct goal. Ideally, you’ll play Street Fighter 5 because you love
it, then head online with the loungewear Bison outfit you unlocked to
amaze and humiliate your opponents.
Extra characters, stages and
costumes are great – we know this, because people have already been
paying for them. For hardcore fight fans, balancing updates are more
crucial. But more than this, it’s that hopeful sense there’s still
something left to uncover; some hitherto unforeseen treat, bestowed only
upon the devoted. 

It’s a feeling that we’ve almost lost in games, because we know
everything in them months before release, often with the best stuff
hidden behind a plush, pre-release curtain. The simple, immediate thrill
of discovering you’ve unlocked something is part of the rhythm of
fighting games. Here’s an example: I spent an entire weekend unlocking
all the outfits in a rental copy of Dead or Alive. As shameful as it
was, it kept me playing. I’d argue that I was motivated by the constant
sense there was something else left to discover, rather than the numbing
pursuit of digitised embonpoint. 
In many ways, this is an even
better deal that the one we had in the early, iterative days of Street
Fighter 2. Being able to earn small, locked DLC updates purely through
playing the game will keep people scrapping, grinding away for some
as-yet unrevealed goal. It’ll keep the community alive, in the same way
that fresh content invigorates all online games. More people equals more
reasons to play: more matches, more people at your skill level and less
time lingering in lobbies. 

Yes, people will make the free-to-play analogy, whining like
partially-deflated balloons, but they’re wrong. This is how it used to
be, but better. There was always grind in fighting games, but we didn’t
call it that back then. It was part of the process; one that sharpened
your skills and made every beat ’em up feel complete. It’s that label,
F2P, which is new, and it doesn’t accurately describe what Capcom and
Sony are doing. 
This isn’t the advent of games as a ‘service’.
This is Capcom giving you a reason to play Street Fighter 5 for the next
five years. The only thing that needs changing is the name: which idiot
called the in-game currency ‘Fight Money’ instead of Bison dollars?
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