Is Free-To-Play The Future of Fighting Games?

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Project L and other free to play games may be the future of fighting games


With the release of MultiVersus, people are discussing whether free-to-play fighting games are the future of the genre.

MultiVersus currently has the most concurrent players on steam, well over 100,000 players. This is on Steam alone, MultiVersus is available on consoles as well like PS4/PS5, and Xbox consoles. Many free-to-play fighting games have been offering rollback and crossplay, which fans consider essential. However, games like Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Granblue Fantasy: Versus are still missing them.

So when new free-to-play fighters release, some fans may wonder, is it even worth purchasing fighting games with worse a worse online experience?

Fighting Games still have a dedicated fanbase that is eager for more and a variety of fighting games. Riot Games seems to realize this with their addition to the fighting game genre. 

Project L is a fighting game set in the League of Legends world Runterra. Riot Games has been expanding its roster of games, delving into genres such as first-person shooter, and card games genres with Valorant and Legends of Runterra. Project L will fill as an entry to the fighting game community for Riot. 

The gameplay reveal shows Project L will be a 2v2 tag fighting game. Taking place in Runeterra, the characters are all familiar and popular champions from League of Legends. Champions such as Ekko, Jinx, and Darius have been prominently shown in a gameplay trailer. The trailer also shows promises from lead developers and co-founders of Radiant Entertainment, Tom Cannon and Tony Cannon.

Tom Cannon, on Aug. 1, announced Illaoi is joining the roster, and that Project L will be free-to-play.

Who are Tom and Tony Cannon

Tom Cannon and Tony Cannon, are twin brothers who are co-founders of EVO Championship Series, and rollback netcode technology, GGPO. The brothers and Radiant Entertainment were previously working on Rising Thunder before its cancelation. 

Riot Games in 2016 were able to acquire the team to focus on the new Project L. 

Rising Thunder was planning to be free-to-play and Riot Games are known for publishing free-to-play games it’ll likely follow the same model. 

Project L might make an appearance at EVO 2022, as one of the major reveals. Reveals such as more champions, an official name, and release date. Or possibly it’ll be on hold until near the end of the year around Worlds.

The fighting game community is expecting Project L to be one of the new big additions to the genre. From the bigger budget Riot Games can provide, the accessibility free-to-play has, and bigger prize pools. 

The last major 2v2 assist fighting game was Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle, by Arc System Works. Project L is likely to be very popular at launch, servicing fans of assist fighters and fans of League of Legends. 

What Makes Project L stand out?

Just like with their other endeavors, Riot Games are going to want to reach for the widest demographic. Fighting games have been criticized for being too hard to get into, and complicated to learn and compete in. However, Project L also promises to feature simple commands. Removing motion inputs such as quarter circles, and favoring one-button specials that change with different directional inputs.

Tom and Tony Cannon state the game is meant to be “easy to learn, hard to master.” The game will be attempting to target both casual and hardcore fans, promising a new player won’t be able to defeat the pros.

There is no information on how the game will handle monetization. As a free-to-play game, Riot Games will still expect money. As a developer that strictly makes free-to-play games yet still is one of the most successful, they’ll likely rely on skins. It’s also likely they’ll handle it via needing to unlock characters while rotating who is free-to-play, similar to MultiVersus. 

Project L won’t be the first free-to-play fighting game attempting to make it accessible for new players either. Fantasy Strike from Sirlin Games is also a free-to-play fighting game that uses simple inputs and easy-to-learn mechanics. However, the game was not able to make much of a name for itself for various reasons.

League of Legends on the other hand has a higher budget, a bigger fanbase, recognizable characters, and two lead developers who are experts in fighting games. 

It’s too early to decide whether free-to-play is the future of fighting games, but they exist for a reason. Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Arc System Works may never go free-to-play. However, more will likely come in the future and will expand the fighting game community further.


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