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Capcom, Street Fighter 6 and the Pointlessness of Modern Games Marketing
It’s 2022, for crying out loud, stop wasting our time and follow these steps to get us hyped instead
Surprising absolutely no one, Capcom did what the countdown it had begun on the Web last week implied: it “revealed” or “announced” or “confirmed” — pick one based on your level of cynicism — Street Fighter 6. Some would argue that getting official word about a forthcoming product is always nice (even if that product was as sure to come as death and taxes) and they would probably be right. What is not nice — in fact, what is downright infuriating — is the way Capcom chose to let the world know about the next Street Fighter and the way it treated its fans. In 2022, we should not be OK with this anymore.
So… a “teaser trailer”. This one. All forty seconds of it. Just a prerendered sequence that looks nothing like what the actual game will look like, an SF-themed Tik-Tok that offers no new information about the game (all fans knew Ryu and Luke would be in it), a clip that, in essence, could have been made by anyone. This “teaser”, along with the vague promise of more information at some point during the summer, was what passes for “an official announcement of Street Fighter 6” in Capcom’s book.
The problem with the approach Capcom chose regarding Street Fighter 6 is that it tries to be very Apple-like without Capcom being Apple. It’s no secret that almost every company in the world is envious of Apple because the company has pulled off something admirable and contemptible in equal measure: to get consumers to do its marketing for it. It’s almost as if the Apple hype machine never slows down: speculation, opinions, leaks of various degrees of credibility, they all contribute to an Apple-centric news cycle that runs practically all year long. This is all free marketing, almost to the point that the company does not need to spend all that much on traditional advertising: Apple runs its hype machine on its own fans’ time and energy, without sharing anything it does not want to share, letting them build anticipation for its press events and product releases all on their own.
So Capcom would probably like us Street Fighter fans to do pretty much the same: give us a 40-second prerendered clip and then have us endlessly speculate, discuss and comment on what SF6 could, would or should bring to gamers. Get us to do that for the next four months while it’s working on the title, then offer us an early glimpse in July or August and then have us all aboard the hype train for a second time (with the occasional drop of information as fuel) all the way to the end of 2022 and beyond. All of this so that Capcom marketers can watch Street Fighter 6 maintain its momentum for a whole year, probably more. Twelve to fourteen months of free marketing kickstarted with a 40-second SF-themed Tik-Tok.
It’s an infuriating approach and a disservice to the loyal fanbase of Street Fighter because, frankly, it’s a waste of our time and energy. Want us to help you sell your game, Capcom? Then give us something to discuss, comment and get excited about. Show us early footage, announce what new features you’re thinking of offering, let us see what direction you’re taking. Share information that can be evaluated and, in return, receive valuable feedback from us. You’re not ready to do that yet? Great. Let’s hear from you when you are. But don’t just slap on our screens a pointless, meaningless clip like you’re throwing us a bone, just because you’d really like to have a whole year of hype for SF6 for free.
Being passionate about a game — or a product or service or about anything, really — does not mean that one is to be exploited. Fans are not sheep and companies like Apple, Sony, Tesla or Capcom need to understand and respect that. Sure, there will always be fanboys ready to do those companies’ bidding. But fanboys can only excite themselves, not others, and their numbers are — most of the time — not large enough to guarantee the commercial success of any product or service. Stunts like this meaningless Street Fighter 6 “trailer” are an insult, an offensive example of exploitative marketing that has no place in the consumer market of 2022. Here’s hope that we’ve seen the last such stunt, once and for all.