After moving from mass to specialty, Street Fighter is ready to come full circle with new video game releases and a live-action film in 2008.
Street Fighter first launched as an arcade game in Japan in 1987, followed soon after by a U.S. version. It was novel, says Capcom Entertainment, Inc., Vice President of Licensing Tommy Yoshida, in that it included hydraulic buttons that sensed the strength of a player's punch. In 1991, Capcom released Street Fighter II, with a six-button head-to-head system that revolutionized the fighting game genre and went on to inspire a host of similar games from competitors.
When the game was first introduced in arcades, licensing was not contemplated, says Marc Mostman, president of Capcom's North American licensing agency, Most Management. But, he adds, "The lines in the arcades in the early '90s indicated Capcom had hit on something big." Capcom initially began licensing Street Fighter content for other game platforms, such as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1992 and SEGA Genesis in 1993. "Once it was clear there were legions of Street Fighter fans, Capcom went further with licensing initiatives and ultimately produced and self-financed the Street Fighter live-action feature film in 1994, which grossed more than $100 million worldwide," says Yoshida. At the time, there were more than 30 licensees in the U.S. alone—including master toy partner Hasbro—with products ranging from board games and puzzles to sleeping bags and lunch boxes, making it a true mass-market brand.
Partners in Crime
"Street Fighter licensing was quiet for a few years after the film, until Capcom released a series of crossover games, including X-Men vs. Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom. Those games spawned a Marvel/Toy Biz line of action figures, and renewed interest in the Street Fighter brand," Mostman notes. Shortly after that deal, Capcom partnered with ReSaurus to produce a stand-alone line of 7-inch action figures. The line was carried by Toys "R" Us, K B Toys, and other specialty toy retailers. "Unfortunately, with the success of Street Fighter, ReSaurus grew too fast and eventually imploded, so Capcom took the Street Fighter license back, allowed it to cool, and then, in 2003, partnered with S.O.T.A. Toys for articulated Street Fighter figures," explains Mostman. "The initial idea," he continues, "was to create a line of figures that could be positioned so they could perform fighting moves from the games. S.O.T.A. also includes alternate hands and heads, and character-specific accessories seen in the game." S.O.T.A. allowed fans to vote online on the assortments, and fan favorites were included in each wave. The products are targeted only to the specialty market, carrying a slightly higher price point than mass-market action figures. "In early 2007," reveals Mostman, "S.O.T.A. is rereleasing three of the most popular characters, with an official fifth and sixth wave slated for mid- and late 2007, respectively."
One of the keys to re-establishing Street Fighter's success in the new millennium was Capcom's comic book deal with Udon Entertainment. Udon's team of writers and artists launched an all-new Street Fighter comic book series at the 2003 International Comic Convention in San Diego. In addition to the regular Udon team, guest artists were utilized for back-up stories at the end of every issue, as well as alternate covers. Udon also commissioned Capcom artists to create several collectors covers throughout the run of the series. Street Fighter comics initially were selling between 35,000 and 45,000 issues per month and continue to place high on comic sales lists. The Udon comic also acts as an effective cross-promotion, devoting one or two pages of advertising to upcoming Street Fighter games and other licensed products such as toys, posters, and apparel. Having recently translated the Street Fighter: Eternal Challenge art book into English, Udon now is translating several of the Street Fighter manga stories.
One of the most recent surprise hits is the Street Fighter collectible card game (CCG) from Sabertooth Games, which raked in $1 million-plus in retail sales since its launch in mid-2006, making it one of the top five CCG's of the year. Sabertooth released two separate Street Fighter assortments and developed three more releases for 2007.
Other new categories being tapped in 2007 include novelty products such as Street Fighter energy drinks from Boston America. Named after one of the main character's signature moves, "Dragon Punch" will be the first flavor on shelves. According to Mostman, Capcom also will roll out products from MjC, Logotel, and Great Eastern Entertainment including loungewear, apparel, messenger bags, and key chains based on the Super-D versions of the Street Fighter characters featured in Capcom video games Super Gem Fighter Minimax and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.
In the mid-1990s, Street Fighter products were available at mass-market retailers and primarily were geared toward a younger demographic with GI Joe-scale figures from Hasbro, board games, and puzzles. More recently, though, says Yoshida, "Street Fighter's success has been at the specialty level including Hot Topic, Spencer's, K B Toys, Toys "R" Us, and comic book shops."
That, he adds, will change in 2008—Street Fighter's 20th anniversary—with the release of a new live-action movie that will serve as a reintroduction to the Street Fighter world and a reboot of the live-action franchise. "We expect this film will be the first in a series of Street Fighter movies that explore the origins of some of the franchise's favorite characters," says Yoshida.
In addition, says Mostman, "Capcom will launch a coordinated licensing program around the anniversary, including a new push at retail for action figures, apparel, accessories, and other categories for mid-tier and mass that will take advantage of the exposure from the Street Fighter feature film and upcoming video game releases." Capcom also is looking for a 2008 QSR partner, and exploring the possibility of doing exclusive products for different retailers.