Way back in the early 1990’s the Sega Genesis was fighting a ferocious war with Nintendo and their SNES console. Things were somewhat of an uphill battle for Nintendo when they finally launched their 16-Bit console. Not only were they coming from the underdog position (not easy for them considering their dominance in the previous generation) but they were also receiving criticism from parents, and gamers alike, over the lack of backwards compatibility for the NES games. Sega was unique here, they had no such problems but were still quick to capitalize on Nintendo’s situation with the Power Base Converter. The Power Base Converter allowed Sega Master System (Sega’s 8-Bit console) games to be played on the newer Genesis console. Nintendo was making up some ground little by little but it was not enough. Nintendo needed a killer game, one that had cross appeal that Nintendo themselves did not have.
Capcom had released Street Fighter in the arcades to a semi popular response from fans. When it came to releasing Street Fighter II though, Capcom took into account all of the criticism that they received over the first game. They spruced things up and even ignored some bugs that turned into key pieces of fighting games (such as the combo system). Street Fighter II in the arcades was a phenomenon as people learned the new system, figured out combos and strategies. By the time Capcom was ready to bring SFII to the home it was a case of which system would they do it on? Sega Genesis or Super Nintendo?
Honestly, I don’t think the Genesis was even a contender for getting Street Fighter II first. There is no real information on what drove Capcom to the Super Nintendo when they started porting SFII but I have a feeling it had something to do with the relationship Capcom had with Nintendo at this time. When you are doing great business with one platform (Super Ghouls n Ghosts, Final Fight, etc) it just makes sense to stick with that platform.
Sega was not all in the dumps at this point though. They had released the first game in their mega popular series, Sonic the Hedgehog, the year prior to Street Fighter II coming to SNES. Sega was also poised to release Sonic 2 shortly after Street Fighter II was to grace the Nintendo console. This meant Sega was in quite a powerful position, had they been able to swing Street Fighter II also during this period, we might have been looking back at a slightly different 16-Bit war. Sega couldn’t and we aren’t.
Street Fighter II hit the Super Nintendo after tons of coverage from the magazines of the time. Take Electronic Gaming Monthly, who put Street Fighter II on the cover over 20 times, or Gamepro, who dedicated countless pages to move guides. Hype was not nearly a strong enough word for the fervor that was being worked up in gaming. This resulted in countless fans buying a Super Nintendo just for Street Fighter II, fans that might have been on the fence for this generation. The Super Nintendo version went on to sell over six million copies alone (source). The Sega Genesis, over its entire lifetime, across the globe, sold about 40 million consoles (source).
Street Fighter II, in the United States alone and not counting the subsequent releases, sold 15% of what Sega was able to sell of the Genesis console across the WHOLE planet. I believe that represents a good kick in the sales for Nintendo’s Super Nintendo. This makes Street Fighter II a game changer in the 16-Bit wars- no other game that was not made by the console manufacturer moved that many copies on any one platform.
Now, Capcom and Sony have announced that Street Fighter V will be a console exclusive for the Playstation 4. The only other platform it will appear on will be PC. The question is, will history repeat itself?
Right now, the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One are pretty neck-and-neck with each other, depending on whose numbers you are reading. The point is this console race is close, just like it was in the 16-Bit days when the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis were battling it out.
Specs for the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One make them appear closer in their silicon than the Genesis was to the Super Nintendo. That might explain why it took so long to get Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition ported to the Sega Genesis. That doesn’t explain the forced wait Capcom imposed while the next SNES version was finished though (remember that “good business” comment earlier? This is where it probably got a little murky).
The reason I bring this up is because history may indeed be repeating itself here. While Street Fighter V may be exclusive to the Playstation 4, that doesn’t mean subsequent releases won’t be eligible for release on the Xbox One or Nintendo Wii U. Remember, the original Street Fighter II was exclusive to the Super Nintendo, for the 16-Bit generation anyhow, while hitting many computer platforms (similar to what is happening with Street Fighter V).
What remains to be seen, though, is if Street Fighter V will result in an uptick of sales for the Playstation 4. The hype machine is different today than it was 22+ years ago. Gamers were not nearly as in touch with each other back in the 16-Bit days as they are today, it remains to be seen if that will work in favor of Street Fighter V and the Playstation 4 exclusivity. Whereas Street Fighter II’s popularity was displayed at newsstands on the cover of magazines, Street Fighter V will be in comments, likes, shares and banner ads on the Internet.
If any one company understands how to market a game, it is Capcom. For proof, just look at how many times they have convinced gamers to purchase Street Fighter II again and again over the last few decades.