Why Did Capcom Release Three Versions of Street Fighter III?
Sam Stone
With Street Fighter V wrapping up its final season of DLC and another crossover with Fortnite set to bring franchise mainstays Guile and Cammy to the game as guest characters, it is a fantastic time to be a Street Fighter fan. However, as Capcom's landmark fighting game franchise continues to chart its future, one particular era in Street Fighter's extensive history saw the series endure a significant commercial setback: Street Fighter III.
Nowhere near as successful as its predecessor and subsequent later iterations, Street Fighter III still put out two additional versions within 27 months after its launch. Here's why Capcom moved forward with three distinctly different versions of Street Fighter III during the game's initial life cycle.
Launched in 1997, Street Fighter III: The New Generation was released in arcades after a three-year-long development period that cost approximately $8 million. With only Ryu and Ken returning to the lineup, Street Fighter III boasted a new combat system, including a parry mechanic, and expanded on the Super Combo mechanic with the Super Art system. While the production value, especially regarding technical presentation, was praised, contemporary critics were overall mixed on The New Generation. As a result, it sold just a fraction of what its predecessor did, with Street Fighter II selling over 50,000 arcade cabinets worldwide while The New Generation sold less than 10,000.
Seven months after The New Generation's launch, Capcom released Street Fighter III: Second Impact - Giant Attack in arcades worldwide as the second title in the Street Fighter III series. Adding two new fighters, making returning brothers Yun and Yang distinctly different characters, and bringing back Akuma as a secret boss, Second Impact also rebalanced gameplay, tweaked mechanics and improved the animation and frame rate.
Received more favorably than its predecessor, Capcom concluded the Street Fighter III series with 1999's Street Fighter III: Third Strike - Fight for the Future. Third Strike was heralded as an all-around improvement and the pinnacle of the Street Fighter III titles, with a significantly larger playable roster and even more refined gameplay and technical presentation.
Even with the more considerable critical acclaim for the latter two Street Fighter III titles, the game was never a particular commercial success during its initial life cycle, especially in comparison to Street Fighter II. The earlier games didn't receive a home console port until two years after their arcade release.
With The New Generation pretty much dead-on-arrival, Second Impact and Third Strike were Capcom's attempts to recoup losses by reusing and improving upon The New Generation's assets, with the bulk of production having been completed by the first game. This strategy was similar to Street Fighter II putting out a new title with every update, with Street Fighter II receiving four updated titles from 1991 to 1994 during its initial life cycle that kept the game alive and well for years.
In the years since its launch, the fighting game community has warmed up to Street Fighter III, with praise for Third Strike only growing in the 22 years since its initial release. All three arcade versions of Street Fighter III are available in the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection, giving a new generation of players the opportunity to experience this overlooked period in the franchise's history. While Street Fighter III wasn't as commercially successful as Capcom hoped, the company's dedication to improving upon its legacy helped lead to one of the greatest fighting games of all time in Third Strike.