Season 4 will not begin in January as originally planned. In fact, there will not be another season of the SFCCL. There are two main reasons for this, both of which involve interest on two different levels.
First, interest in whatever version of Street Fighter IV is simply dying out. Not withstanding the latest update from Capcom (a free patch called AE Version. 2012), which is scheduled for release finally on December 13th, we are playing a game that is practically 3 years old. Like any other game, the gaming population floods to new games every month. As long as Capcom released a game with new characters, no matter if they were rehashed or brand new, interest in the game would increase even if the game itself at the core wasn’t different. With the latest version doing nothing more than “re-balancing”, I don’t expect anyone to rush out and buy SSFIV:AE just to play Version 2012. That patch is basically for us hardcore, loyal SF members. The current level of interest will slowly continue to decline for this game. That, of course, has a direct effect on the league.
I can attest to the fact that I’ve seen interest in the league from new players drastically go down over the past 6 months. We started the league with 45 members (30 Americas / 15 Europeans). Despite asking the original members for a 6-month commitment, I had to replace 6 members after the season began. The 6 new members were taken from the short Waiting List I compiled as the season began. One more member quit the league in the European Region, and I was unable to find another player to fill his spot. So his matches were simply forfeited, which only left 14 ‘active’ members in the European Region. I use the word ‘active’ generously (more on that later). Since the beginning of the season, I’ve had little interest from new players. Those that did signup, I notified each of them there were no openings this season, but their name would be placed on the Waiting List. Only 5 names remain on that list to this day. The previous two seasons of the SFCCL, which did take place over a longer time period, had nearly 200 players come thru the league. This season, we will have about 51 total players. Perhaps interest is down in part to the fact that enrollment this season was restricted, but that wouldn’t explain away the dead spot in the European Region nor the small Waiting List.
The second reason I’m deciding to cancel the 4th season is due to the specific interest in the league among current existing members. Below is a spreadsheet I put together this past week. It may look like a bunch of numbers and percentages, but it is a basic snapshot of which members are playing and which aren’t.
The European Region’s numbers are basically the same. They started two weeks later, so five weeks remain in their regular season. Each member should have played 19 matches thus far, or 9 of their fighter’s 14 matches. Of the 15 members, only 3 have played above that number. One of those 3 is the dead spot which has all matches completed (forfeited). Only 1 of the 3 has completed their schedule (Subes88). That is only 20% of the region.
Now it is possible that the other 35 members in both regions combined are just waiting for these final weeks to finish their schedules…but I doubt it. It is clear to see who is and who isn’t playing. For all those members who are or at least trying to play, I personally thank you. You are the reason I keep this league going. I greatly appreciate your commitment to the league. Please understand that this announcement does not reflect my gratitude for your participation. But unfortunately, we (I include myself in this group) are the clear minority now.
Based on the messages I’ve received from members, I understand that some members don’t respond to messages asking to play or set a time to play. I can’t force anyone to play. I had hoped that asking everyone to honor a short 6-month commitment in advance of the season would be enough encouragement for everyone to play. I had hoped meeting up with 14 different members over an 18-week period would be plenty of time for everyone to play. I had hoped grouping members by location & time zone would benefit the league. On these 3 objectives, the league has failed. If someone doesn’t want to play anymore, then there is nothing I nor the league can do to change that. I simply don’t have the patience anymore to send a message to members asking them to contact their opponents. I should never have to do that in the first place since everyone voluntarily signed up to play in the league. No one was forced to signup. I understand that members hold me in higher esteem since I run the league, but if I can play all of my matches despite my tight daily schedule, then so should everyone else.
The new format this season was designed to give everyone more freedom to play their matches. It also made my job easier as I didn’t have to do a massive website update every two weeks. The open-ended schedules allowed for members to take time off without any penalty. That may have backfired as some members disappeared completely.
The interest is simply not there to continue the league. Here's another example. If you include the 6 original members that dropped after the season began, only 9 members of 51 total members may finish their season as planned. That is a sad 18% of the league. If only 18% of the league is honoring their commitment, it gives me little motivation to continue the league. Even a small league composed of only those that finish their schedules wouldn’t be much fun. I would grow tired of VON kicking my butt every other week!
Now, with all that being said, I’ve had plenty of fun playing all the members that I’ve encountered this season. While my regular season record of 14-14 confirms my average skill level, I’ve had fun with this new format. I’ve taken time away while also playing 3 different members in one night. Specifically, the 3 live events that I’ve hosted this season have been a riot! Those members that participated I’m sure will agree.
In making this decision, I did consider different formats for a possible 4th season. Bringing back the format of the first two seasons was considered. Continuing this current format was also considered. Another idea included a hybrid version of this season’s format that could have anywhere between 15 to 58 possible matches per fighter. No matter the format, each had the same weakness…having enough members to fill the league. In my opinion, the league would be challenged to have another 45 members signup for next season. The loyal members would return, I’m sure, but the league would most likely be smaller. Based on the fun had at the live events, I’ve also considered making the SFCCL a live-event-only-type of league. In other words, advertise the various types of tournaments we play throughout the year. Anyone could play as the league would be more like a community. The events would still be online and players could signup in advance. This is something I’m still considering because it would be a lot of fun, and only involve players that actually want to play. No more pestering people to play. You either show up to play, or you don’t. However, the live events would need a lot of advertisement to get a good crowd. Having 4 or 5 events a year would help maintain a loyal following.
Thanx again to all who have made this league and season successful. Good luck to all members, especially those trying to get a couple more wins to qualify for the tournament in these final weeks. Hopefully, we can finish the season strong! I still plan to post a final SFCCL Reflections blog during Super Brawl.
On a final note, I can positively say that I will be running some type of league or clan online in the future. This stuff is just too much fun! Who knows…maybe even another SFCCL season on a different Street Fighter game. Street Fighter V, anyone? As long as there is an interest in this stuff, I will be there! That you can count on that.