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Appealing to casual gamers keeps Tekken alive while other fighting games take major hits

Harada-san says 70% of Tekken’s fan base is casual and only 30% is dedicated.

Recently Tekken’s game director Katsuhiro Harada has granted an interview with PlayStation Blog where he discussed the history and future of fighting games. He raised an interesting point that we thought needed more attention.

In the interview he states that 70% of Tekken’s fan base is casual, and only 30% is dedicated. In this era of esports and online competition this could sound strange to some, but it’s quite normal. A lot of games, not only video games, need a casual audience to keep the sales high and support the development of sequels. In the end, for most players a game is a way to enjoy free time, to have a break and relax. A lesser percentage is willing to train hard to become a competitive player.

The success of Tekken (an enduring one, since it’s almost twenty-plus years from the first chapter) is due to a mix of three factors. Those are the facts that it’s very technical, accessible, and has a wonderful lore. Two of these things can be alluring for every audience and help to bring new gamers. A lot of people have played the arcade mode to watch the cinematics and discover the outcome of the Mishima rivalry, even if not being able to perform a 10-hit combo. They come for the story and stay for the gameplay. It worked also for SNK games in King of Fighters for the Orochi Saga.

During the first couple of years of the 2000’s there was a lack of interest around 2D fighting games and were many reasons for this. The arcade scene had entered its sunset era in the west,  and at the time, internet was not widespread on consoles. In Japan the situation was different, but we’re talking about a single country.

The portings for home systems offered less casual content, and the hardcore gamers (the primary market) were often unable to find opponents to play with – especially while missing arcades. It was a transition period between challenging opponents in person, to encountering your opponents online. But what kept Tekken ahead of the curve, even during that difficult time, was the casual-friendly part. It worked like a crutch. Since Tekken 3, there were also subgames like Tekken Force, Ball or Bowl that helped people buy and enjoy the titles without worrying about finding people to play with.

Another example can be found in Virtua Fighter. Despite being very balanced, technical and good to play for hardcore gamers, it missed the opportunity to create a casual audience and was always stuck as a niche.

To hear Harada say Tekken’s fanbase is 70 percent casual should not be too surprising. Maybe it was that share that helped Tekken come out unscathed from the fighting games crisis other titles faced.

Another stat is that half of the 44 millions of copies sold comes from Europe, which is very interesting because America is a wider market, and Japan is its home base. What made Tekken so popular in the “old continent” could be a good topic to debate for our readers and I’m curious to read your comments and opinions.

Read Harada’s interview with PlayStation Blog – Tekken 7 Out Today, Harada Talks History, Future of Fighting Games.

He’s a long-time Tekken player ever since someone told him, “Hey dude, there’s a new arcade in town,” back in 1995. After working as journalist in Italy for some time, he realized he wrote about everything, but rarely about games. Because he always plays games at “hard” difficulty, the choice to bring the same principle while treating about video games drove him to write in English even though he’s Italian.

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