Street Fighter V may have launched in what I would categorize as an Early Access state, but Evo 2016 registration show that Capcom may have made the right choice. In a tweet from the official Evo Championships account, it was revealed that competitive players are ready to jump onboard with SFV.
"In 4 days, SFV has broken the record for the most entrants at Evo in a single game! This is going to be a crazy year," said the tweet.
Last year for Evo 2015, Ultra Street Fighter IV hit 2,227 registrants, so this puts Street Fighter V somewhere above that number. The community must feel pretty good about Street Fighter V in order for the game to beat Ultra's numbers in only a few days.
Street Fighter V did not launch with the modes I'd expect from retail release. There's no Arcade Mode, the Story Mode is barebones, there's no CPU Versus mode, and Survival Mode is missing some quality of life features. Despite that, Street Fighter V works as a competitive fighter: the core of the game is strong, all the characters are available for the beginning, and the netcode is good when the servers are actually up.
Given the timing of release and Evo 2016's registration, it seems Capcom hedged and decided it needed SFV in players' hands now. The previous beta periods helped Capcom work out some kinks and balance hurdles, but it seems the real point was to get players used to SFV's core systems. Even before launch, PlayStation 4 and PC players already had a strong idea of what Street Fighter V was.
Of course, that doesn't help the casual players much. Those players are currently wandering around in the dark, if they picked up the game at all. Capcom has a robust content plan, but they can do that because there was so much missing for casual players in the first place.
I'm fine with Early Access games. I'm fine with paid betas or Founder's programs. I'm good with the games-as-a-service model. If a developer or publisher wants to ask for money in the middle of a game's development, rock out. That said, publishers and developers need to be transparent. They need to label these games as such. They need to come out and tell consumers, "Look, it's not done yet. It's a work-in-progress, here's what we're adding in the next few months, and this should be the shape of the completed game."
As an example, Square Enix and IO Interactive are releasing the new Hitman game in episodes. My guess is that's because those later levels aren't done yet and this model allows IO Interactive to make some money now and keep funding further development. The difference is, IO Interactive has said when those further levels are coming and the price of the initial chunk of content is $15. If you like it, you can buy subsequent episodes at $10 a pop, the full Upgrade Pack for $50, or simply buy the entire game outright for $60. You have options. They're upfront with what you're getting.
If Capcom had released Street Fighter V: Tournament-Ready Edition for $20 or let players choose to buy the full game outright for $60, I think that would've spun better for Capcom. Then players would know what they were in for, even if my guess is many would've just bought the $60 version regardless. The difference is in how it's framed and how many choices the consumer has available to them.
Either way, Street Fighter V is apparently going to rock the main stage at Evo 2016. It'll be interesting to see how the rankings pan out once the tournament starts.