Fighting games are now a niche sector of competitive gaming, a far cry from the pre-internet 90s when FGs were one of the dominant competitive genres. To add insult to injury, FGs are primarily developed by japanese devs, who traditionally suck at understanding Online, UI, community building, dev-player interaction, etc. All competitive games become more enjoyable with a larger playerbase. When you have enough players, you get to do things like Starcraft 2’s league system, which gives a powerful incentive to improve, as well as providing good matchmaking against players of similar skill. When you have enough players, you get things like DoTA or Counterstrike, game mods that have become successful competitive games in their own right.
Gameplay-wise, and even graphics-wise, most FG fans are quite happy with games of the present and past. They dont need new and more mechanics or fancier graphics. Most veteran players have been crying out for something more traditional, and newer players havent seen enough to desire change or innovation anyways.
If japanese devs could see the light, they would understand the future of FGs, just like the future of all competitive games, lies in social and community features:
- Things that help players find each other, either in-game (regional chat rooms) or out-of-game (official tournaments, events, etc.)
- Things that help players play each other. (better netcode, better matchmaking)
- Things that help new players discover the community. (in game links to community websites, news, tournament streams)
- Things that help new players learn to play. (tutorials, single-player modes that teach skills in fun ways, professionally updated wikis with top level info, etc.)
- Things that encourage new players to play. (as much as we hate them, things like Achievements, XP points, Battle Points, unlockables, etc provide the WoW-style “numbers going up” crack that can addict certain kinds of people.)
- Things that lower the barrier to entry. (clearer and easier UI, button config UI that works well, online/social UI that is convenient and integrated, etc.)
- Things that lower the cost of entry. (if you are going to release DLC or patches, at least have the decency to do GOTY-style final releases on disc.)
- Things that give skilled players something to aim for. (professional competition)
- Things that connect casual players with the competitive scene (streams and videos, events, news sites, etc.)
Western games, like LoL, DoTA, BF3, COD-MW3, SC2 etc, have started to learn these lessons and they have adopted many of these sorts of things. And western developers, since they are usually from a PC background, were better at these things to begin with. In this modern world of the internet, Japan needs to play catch up. Fan sites like SRK have been taking up the slack, but without ingame support for what they are trying to do, the devs are ignoring the benefits of the internet and sticking to old fashioned telephones and snail mail.