Bandai Namco has recently announced upcoming content for Season 3 of Tekken 7. These include things like Punishment Training in Practice mode, My Replay and Tips which saves replays of your matches and suggests improvements. These are all very important and useful tools to help players improve. By far the most useful, but most difficult to use, is frame data. But controversially, that last one will be paid DLC as part of Season Pass 3 some time in winter 2019. The rest will be part of a free update slightly after that.
As you’d imagine, the community is split on the paid DLC part. I get the arguments on both sides, though I’d personally rather have it as a free update rather than paid DLC. But before we get into that, let me define some of the jargons mentioned above so that those who are not into fighting games can understand what I’m on about.
What is frame data and why is it important?
Tekken 7 runs at 60fps, so frames are usually used as a measure of speed. Frame data, therefore, helps players determine a move’s speed, and the amount of time spent recovering after performing it. Punishment, on the other hand, refers to taking advantage of the aforementioned recovery, and landing an attack of your own.
There are mainly two types of punishment. Whiff punishment is taking advantage of an opponent’s attack that didn’t connect at all. Then there’s block punishment, where you block a move and attack while the opponent is still in their recovery animation. Frame data is useful in helping players learn both, but especially the latter, for reasons I won’t go into.
Now that the complicated stuff is out of the way, let’s get to why the community is split on frame data being paid DLC. Those who are for it being a paid feature say that the developers need to be paid for their effort. On the flip side, others think that it should be a free update because other fighting games have done so. These are the basic arguments which require little to no context.
But context and nuance is required to better understand the situation, and to have a better opinion on this complicated subject. To start, the Tekken series is very unlike most other fighting games out there.
Tekken characters have longer movelists
Most fighting games have characters’ generic moves tied to each button, and a list of unique command moves that involve directional inputs. Tekken, on the other hand, has generic moves that lead into unique strings, as well as command moves that, while not as complex, can have strings of their own.
Compounding these two understandably makes displaying the frame data for Tekken 7 a lot more daunting a task compared to other fighting games. Making frame data a paid feature would mean that developers are paid for their work. This is especially deserving if it’s work that’s harder to do than others.
Does that justify locking a learning tool behind a paywall?
All that said, frame data is an important learning tool to complement the other free ones coming later. Punishment Training is indeed helpful, but frame data would help more creative players come up with more options like setting up a mix-up if and when possible, rather than just going for the punish option with optimal damage. Experienced players may have less use for this, but making this a paid feature would just mean not every new player is getting the optimal learning experience.
It doesn’t help that Tekken as a series is infamous for not having any form of tutorial in its games. One notable exception to this was Tekken Tag Tournament 2. And when Tekken 7 finally gets it like other fighting games, an important part of it is not available unless you pay up.
Making demanding basics less inaccessible
This beginner-friendly accessibility may also affect the perception of newcomers who are still deciding if they want to invest in the Tekken series. For someone who jumps in head first and buys the game alongside all three season passes, the overall quality of Tekken 7 will likely be enough to convince them to stay.
But the more cautious will likely buy the base game, maybe a character or two that catches their eye. These players may then find that they either enjoy the game enough to justify paying for a tool that helps them improve, or feels that it doesn’t have enough at its base to justify staying and investing.
This is also exacerbated by Tekken’s difficulty curve that quite unlike other fighting games. For many fighting games, the difficulty comes in the form of understanding your characters’ combos, and the execution required to input commands quickly and accurately. Tekken 7’s difficulty kicks in a lot earlier, as you have to worry about moving in a 3D space, nevermind the fact that even spacing has a high execution demand.
With that in mind, does it really help to present to a newcomer a training tool locked behind a paywall? It feels more like an additional barrier to entry rather than an open invitation.
Selling a convenience, or setting a precedent?
Prior to this announcement, online resources have been the go-to source of frame data. Tekken 7 having frame data as DLC isn’t going to change that. What it does change, is that you don’t need another screen showing you the frame data while playing. Bandai Namco is essentially selling a convenience, which is still contentious at best. The same couldn’t be said if all the other frame data resources were to suddenly vanish. But I trust the company won’t be heading in that direction just yet.
But on the flip side, this may be the first instance of a fighting game selling frame data as DLC. In today’s climate of heavy post-sale monetisation, the success of this practice may be used as a reference for other fighting games to do the same. In the same vein, this could be a slippery slope that may lead to other features currently available in Tekken 7 to be locked behind a paywall in its sequel. It’s this nuanced concern that is worrisome.
Tekken 7 producer Michael Murray said that the price of the frame data display has not been decided. He did estimate that it will likely be around the US$3-4 (~RM13-17) mark. It’s not exactly outrageous, as DLC characters are priced at RM20 (US$5.99). So in the eyes of some, the price is clearly not the issue. But the fact that it’s being sold, is.
DLC in fighting games is often contentious. This is the case with additional characters, and especially when it involves returning characters not part of the launch roster. Those who play them will have to, either willingly or begrudgingly, buy them. As for those who don’t, they’ll still have to buy them to learn to defend against them.
Now, people will also have to pay for a learning feature, which ends up being as contentious as expected. I am personally against monetising these two categories of content. At least regarding characters, Tekken series director Katsuhiro Harada thought the same too back in 2017. Something clearly changed somewhere down the line now that we end up with nine, with three more on the way.
Please read it –> https://t.co/htVPUj3AwY
RT@FEAROo1 why you changed your opinion about paid dlc ?
— Katsuhiro Harada (@Harada_TEKKEN) January 25, 2017
But when it comes to monetisation for Tekken 7, there are other options to go for. Just as Tekken Bowl mode was a paid DLC, Bandai Namco could add Tekken Ball or even (actually, especially) Tekken Force. That last one especially is something I would gladly pay money for.
Full-set costumes are also something that could be justifiably monetised. An upcoming update will feature one that makes Heihachi look like Harada, and another one that seems to make Kazuya look like Kazuma Kiryu from the Yakuza series. But oddly enough, these will be part of the free update instead.
Will I pay for in-game frame data? Maybe. I paid for the first two season passes for my PC copy of Tekken 7, but I haven’t been able to convince myself to do the same for PS4. It will likely be the reverse for the third season pass – if I pay for the frame data, it will be for the PS4, because Tekken Bot Prime is a thing for PC. Unless that suddenly becomes unavailable, for whatever reason.
And on that bombshell, adieu to y’all.
(Source: Bandai Namco / Twitch)
This is the writer’s own opinion, and does not reflect the views or opinions of Lowyat.NET, its affiliates or any other institution unless clearly stated.