Sega Announces Return of Virtua Fighter, Teases Esports Program

by in Fighting Game News | Sep, 25th 2020

If you grew up in the 90s, the name Virtua Fighter still carries a lot of weight. As one of the first 3D fighting games to be released, it holds a special place in the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere. Developer Sega knows this, and so they’ve announced that Virtua Fighter is set to return in a big way next year, complete with some sort of esports program.

In a teaser titled “Virtua Fighter x Esports”, big names of the past from Virtua Fighter tournaments were shown laughing, playing the game, competing, and generally participating in VF esports. Not much of the actual new title was shown off, but it is implied that this new title will focus on the competitive scene.

The last Virtua Fighter to be released was Virtua Fighter 5, with the last update for that being Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, released in 2010 with updates being released throughout the decade.

What is Virtua Fighter x Esports?

Sega announced the new project during the Tokyo Game Show livestream on September 25, but we don’t have any explicit details on what that entails. They didn’t confirm a new game per se, but the Sega website claims that Virtua Fighter “will be restarted as an esports title to commemorate the 60th anniversary of SEGA’s establishment.”

All we know at present is that the project seems to focus on the competitive angle. This isnt’ the first time that Sega has rebooted an old property with an esports bent, as they did with Puyo Puyo Esports, but this one at least seems to make a little more sense and takes some inspiration from fighting game contemporaries that have their own tours, like the Capcom Pro Tour, and Dragonball World Tour.

Sega has traditionally not been overly supportive of esports, so for them to take a purely competitive game and not just use esports as a marketing buzz word is at the very least encouraging.

Repeating Mistakes of the Past?

When a game is created that specifically focuses on esports from a development standpoint, there tend to be some issues, especially in fighting games. Take Street Fighter 5 for example – frame inputs were widened quite a bit, things were made much more spectator-friendly, and accessibility became king to attract new players.

This turned off quite a few of the older competitive fanbase, lessening the skill gap between excellent players and mediocre ones, and made it feel like anyone could win a match because the execution barrier wasn’t as high.

Should Virtua Fighter fall into this same trap, it’s possible that it could alienate the game’s fanbase. However, Virtua Fighter, especially these days, does not have the same level of standing competitive base, so it’s possible that the old hats and new players alike would adopt the new game’s systems as a sign of the changing times and evolution in game design since the last Virtua Fighter released.


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