Before explaining why this new arcade unit and The king of fighters dominate the minds of Latin American, Mexican and Chinese fighting game players, it is necessary to look at the origins of the legendary series. KOF wasn’t just another fully built from the ground up fighting game like street fighter, Mortal combat, or Tekken. The series is in fact among the initiators of one of the most popular concepts in the genre of fighting games: the “crossover fighter”.
SNK’s many game series that it developed for the MVS and its other cabinets and consoles shared a continuity. Although the ties between the story are rather loose, they presented the company with a genius idea: what if we put together characters from our different series to fight in a fighting tournament? Obviously everyone liked the idea and although it was conceptualized as a beat-’em-up title, it would later be made into the fighting game series that people now know and love. .
Money, bootlegs and the love of a game
Software installed, back on the hardware side, arcade machines were quite expensive. The popularity of Capcom’s titles has made the field competitive and difficult to access, but it has given SNK’s Neo Geo cabinets an edge in Mexico. They were much more profitable, especially compared to Capcom’s competing CPS2 units, which ran games like Street Fighter Alpha and Darkstalkers. Using the cartridge hardware, instead of ordering a brand new cabinet, owners could simply buy the cart and art and then throw them into an already owned system. Home console tariffs in Mexico and Latin America – which have put popular consoles in North America and Europe beyond the reach of Chinese, Mexican and Latin American gamers – have taken this love of arcades even further.
For example, Brazil has always been hit by extremely high tariffs on game consoles, going back to systems like the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis in the 1990s, because they are not recognized as “essential goods. When it was released in 2013, the PlayStation 4 cost $ 1,845 in Brazil due to import tariffs, and Nintendo has completely stopped the distribution of games in the country in 2015 due to import tariffs (although the company fortunately returned to bring the Switch to Brazil). According to Media piracy in emerging economies, a publication of the Social Science Research Council, the endemic piracy in these countries is often caused by these same high tariffs on media products, and often results in other surcharges. These price increases meant that most kids couldn’t afford and play games at home, but would instead make it to the arcades. So a lot of kids in communities already in love with the fighting game genre would be introduced to The king of fighters. Then, thanks to bootlegging and hacking, they would have more than enough chances to participate in this series of virtual fights.
On the other side of the world, another country would follow. China, like Brazil, Mexico, and the rest of Latin America, have also embraced Neo Geo arcade hardware due to space savings and lower prices. Much like these countries, China saw the potential for smuggling rather than going straight to SNK for more arcade hardware and more game cartridges. At that time, however, it was due to the aging of SNK’s hardware, and gamers with a DIY mind could reverse-engineer the cabinets. This resulted in tons of KOF counterfeit machines all over China, mirrored in Latin America and Mexico. But don’t think for a second that the hardware has done all of the heavy lifting in the popularity department.