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Shot One Fighters thinks it has what it takes to go head-to-head with fighting game royalty like Street Fighter and Tekken

Its ace in the hole is Justin Wong, an infamous lover of parries and consultant on the game.

custom header with Shot One fighters character crossed with pro player Justin Wong
Image credit: VG247

I don't believe it's absurd or particuarly outrageous to say that fighting games are a relatively niche genre. Yes games like Tekken 8 and Street Fighter 6 sell millions of copies, but compared to bigger hitters out there like the various FPS and MMO titles that dominate the industry, these games don't warrant a king's portion. Indie fighting games, made by smaller teams of nontheless talented and passionate people, are selling to an even smaller consumer base. These games have historically had to be fantastic from day one to garner a sizable community.

So how do you place your metaphorical hands on the popularity scale and increase the odds of such a success? Well, for the team behind Shot One Fighters the solution lands in the lap of one Justin Wong. You may recognise that name, even if you're not a fighting game afficionado. Legendary pro player, influencer, content creator, father, and occasional trash talker. He's been brought on as a sort of consultant for the game, a fact the Shot One Fighters team has been keen to publicise.

"They're like 'Go at it, break it, check it out and give us feedback on everything.' This includes characters, how they feel, how they should move, what they think we should add [...] I think that’s pretty cool because they obviously put their hearts out there online, and I have to basically tell them what it is,” states Wong over a Discord call. The sort of feedback he's giving ranges from firsthand impressions, to offering successful solutions to problems the team may be having. For example, one character in One Shot Fighters has a low-hitting projectile. Wong can then point to a similar move that Kung Lao from Mortal Kombat uses, why it works, how to keep it from being overly frustrating, etc. A well of knowledge for a team hoping to nail the eventual release of the game.

But, let's address the elephant in the room here. Is this a publicity stunt? Having pro players test out games behind closed doors isn't exactly a new phenomina in fighting game development - games including 2XKO, Marvel Vs Capcom: Infinite, and numerous games from the same genre have long benefited from such testing and feedback periods. For Justin this public-facing pro player involvement is a sign of the times, and makes sense in the current creator economy.

"Yeah I think it’s more common as of late. Shot One Fighters have come forward and announced this, but last week I was playing Akuma at Capcom’s office right? I was able to do that and make a video about it. So I think it’s more common that content creators are getting this opportunity to try these games out early and share their thoughts out with the world. I don’t think that’s too much of a surprise anymore. In the past there was always complaints like, ‘oh you’re a cheater, that’s taboo’, but now the game has changed in terms of content and everything surrounding that. People are more accepting of it, with the exception of illegal access."

There are some big hitters that Shot One Fighters will have to contest with. (Capcom)

This raises questions though. Whereas before players were brought in purely for their competitive mind - one that's able to pick apart a game and find all manner of busted and broken stuff that could threaten to unbalance it post-launch - what sort of perspective does Justin Wong bring? Is it a pro player perspective, or one from a content creation angle? Is he offering feedback based around modern trends and releases, or from his decades' long experience with games new and old? According to Wong, the answer appears to be an amalgamation of all of 'em.

"Obviously they’d like the community of Shot One Fighters at locals and stuff like that. I don’t think the game will make it to Evo or that kind of thing, at least not on the main stage, but it could be an official Evo side game! So you need that pro player meta perspective on it.”

"Also for the content creator side - it has to be fun! It has to look fun, feel fun. I feel like I’ve played so many fighting games in my life so I’d like to think I would know what people find fun in terms of fighting games. The one thing I recommended and I believe they’re going to try to add in is a parry! If you look at Street Fighter 6 people are complaining about how parrying is in that game - so we need to make it so parry isn’t a button. Parry has to be a direction - forward or down like Third Strike. It’s exciting and feels good, and it’s something that people really enjoy."

The big question that remains looming over the heads of the Stop One Fighters team is whether or not this approach will be successful. It's a rough time for indie fighting games right now, with giants like Tekken 8 and Street Fighter 6 grabbing up much of the attention from casuals and genre diehards alike. The developers behind Skullgirls and Them's Fighting Herds have been gutted, and many others such as Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid remain abandoned. Can an indie fighter do well enough in this environment to not only keep the studio afloat, but bring some level of success to the game?

Justin Wong believes that as long as people can see discussion and creation happening around a game, even in this environment, the players will come: "I did notice that as well. Before the existence of Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8, indie fighting games were just zooming. It was really sick, and I’ve played all of them! For me at least, I still want to play all the indie fighting games that come out. In terms of existing in competitive culture - you’ll have your community. You won’t beat SF6 or Tekken 8, but you’ll have those people who will play and post tech online. As long as people can see that, and creators give them a try, we’ll get them involved! When I make a fighting game video, I know it could either hit or miss in terms of views, whereas a Street Fighter 6 video will always hit.”

Whether or not he's right remains to be seen, but it's an interesting approach to publicly hold up a notable person like Justin Wong as a sort of badge of quality. Shot One Fighters hasn't got a release date yet - but it's popping up at various trade shows across the US right now. It might be one to keep an eye out for!

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