Gaming titans SEGA made a special announcement that the venerable Virtua Fighter franchise will be making a comeback, and not only that, it’s looking like it’ll be an esports flagship vehicle.
You can tell, because of the subtle way the video that SEGA released screams “Virtua Fighter X esports” at you at the end, just to ensure you didn’t miss out on anything. After all, videos of people playing esports followed by new footage of Virtua Fighter might’ve been open to interpretation.
Virtua Fighter was a fighting game series that began way back in 1993 and has been the subject of pretty high critical acclaim all its life, even as it made the transition from arcades to consoles and went quiet after Virtua Fighter 5 on the PlayStation 3, back in 2007. Since then there’s only been a couple of nondescript entries for mobile phones, but despite the recent radio silence, VF has still kept its reputation as the father of fighting games, inspiring other classics like Tekken and doing a lot to pioneer early 3D graphics.
And now it’s back. SEGA released a video (which you can see below) showing a series of images of esports through the ages, followed by a new cinematic of series protagonist Akiri Yuki standing with his back to the camera. It’s pretty basic stuff, but the message is loud and clear: Virtua Fighter is coming back, and it’s going to be SEGA’s hot ticket to the next generation of esports, with the game presumably defined and constructed with that purpose in mind.
And speaking a little cautiously, this seems like a smart move on SEGA’s behalf. Virtua Fighter hasn’t made a proper appearance in over a decade, but nobody’s lost affection for it. Bringing it back is big news, and if there’s any genre that pairs well with esports, it’s fighting games.
The only problem is that while Virtua Fighter is certainly beloved, it’s got a LOT of competition to stack up against, especially against games that outweigh it commercially, if not always critically. Smash Bros, Street Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, Mortal Kombat, Tekken – these are all big hitters in fighting game esports, and even then fighting games is kind of a B-tier genre in esports overall, especially right now when most of it feels dominated by shooters and MOBAs. Also, there’s a history of games shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to trying to chase modern trends (remember Borderlands 3’s obsession with streaming?), but we’d have to see any amount of gameplay before we start worrying about that.
After all, it’s very early to make firm predictions, and despite being a bit late to the party, SEGA is clearly invested in making this work. If it can translate an old legacy into modern excitement, this could turn into a real knockout.