Street Fighter II's place in video game history

The 2017 Video Game Hall of Fame class was announced Thursday, and among the inductees is Street Fighter II. The world of esports today owes a lot to the release of this game in arcades in 1991.

Release and history

On Feb. 6, 1991, Street Fighter II was released as an arcade game in North America. The game is credited with beginning a renaissance in the world of fighting games, along with leading the boom of fighting games in arcades in the 1990s.

In “For Amusement Only: the life and death of the American arcade,” author Laura June wrote:

“A massive success, Street Fighter II sold more than 60,000 cabinets worldwide, which was unheard of by the early '90s. Japanese fighting games weren’t new, but its combination of novel characters, hand-to-hand combat, and secret moves formed the foundation of fighting games as we still know them.”

Street Fighter II included a roster of eight playable characters, the most notable of them being Ryu, whose image rests in the middle of the game’s official artwork.

The game is credited with being the first to cause a shift in how competitive video games were played. Before its release, high scores were used in arcades to determine the best players. Street Fighter II allowed players to face each other in one-on-one competition.

The game had such widespread appeal that it led to official tournaments sanctioned by Capcom (the game’s creator). In 1991 at Milpitas Golfland (California), the first U.S. Street Fighter tournament sponsored by Capcom was organized by James Goddard. A few weeks later, the grand finals were held in San Diego, with the winner earning a Street Fighter II Coin-Op (coin-operated) Machine.

Impact and the current state of Street Fighter

Street Fighter II serves as the basis for modern fighting games. In the current esports landscape, that includes the modern version of Street Fighter (Street Fighter V), Super Smash Bros., Marvel vs. Capcom, Tekken and Mortal Kombat.

From July 14 to 16, the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) will be held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. EVO is the longest-running fighting game tournament in the world and features thousands of players playing the aforementioned games. The largest tournament at the event will be for Street Fighter V.

The 2016 edition of the event’s Street Fighter V tournament featured a prize pool of $101,070, with $50,642 going to the winner (Infiltration). To date, over $750,000 has been awarded to Street Fighter V players since the game’s release, including $360,000 at Capcom Cup 2016.