Fighting games used to be full of unlockable characters – now they’re full of locked characters

Unlockable characters are becoming a thing of the past in fighting games, replaced by expensive DLC options. Is this shift benefiting players or leaving them frustrated?

Fighting games used to be full of unlockable characters – now they’re full of locked characters
Published by Liam @ PC Game Spotlight 10 months ago

Unlockable Characters vs DLC: A Shift in Fighting Games

The fighting game character selection screen used to be filled with unlockable characters, but now you mostly see locked characters in fighting games, with most being DLC. The change is a result of the shift from full game DLC to micro-transactions, and it’s nice to see your hard-earned in-game achievements rewarded with new characters. However, now that everything is a paid DLC, it’s frustrating not to have access to all the content in a game, and the constant reminders of locked content make the game feel incomplete.

When you buy a game, most people want it to be the complete, finished product. The MTX model creates confusion about how to buy the game, with various bundles and options. It also adds possibilities and complexity, which can be overwhelming for players who just want to buy the game and play it.

The constant reminders of locked content, such as characters in the selection screen, make the game feel incomplete. Some games even send in-game notifications about new skins, which can be annoying. The characters being locked doesn’t create an urge to buy the DLC for many players. If you ask me, it’s a bit like going to a movie and being forced to pay extra for the characters.

Some argue that the removal of unlockable characters in fighting games is due to the desire to ensure all players have access to the same characters in competitive play. However, I miss the satisfaction of unlocking things, like costumes in older games. Now, the barrier of entry to competitive play is your wallet, rather than your in-game achievements.

Of course, I’m not denying that having the money to buy the DLC characters is advantageous, but time is a prerequisite for skill-building. Having money doesn’t automatically make you good at the game. In fact, the time you spend grinding for in-game currency and unlocking characters is an investment in your own time, which most people value more than money.

In games like Tekken 7, combos and matchups are character-specific, making it difficult to learn without purchasing all the expensive DLC characters. Some argue that learning matchups should be mandatory for an ethical game, and that DLC characters should be accessible for lab practice.

This approach is much better than the current state of affairs in games like Tekken 7, but it still creates an uneven playing field. For example, even though many fighting games allow you to face off against players who don’t own the DLC, it doesn’t necessarily create an unfair advantage. However, given the pricing of DLC characters in games like Tekken 7, with season passes costing twice the price of the base game, it feels like you’re paying excessively for incomplete content.

What do you think about the current state of the fighting game DLC model?

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