Capcom have announced, during a panel at Evo 2015 this weekend, that they're handling downloadable content differently for Street Fighter V. Rather than releasing 'super', 'ultra' or even 'hyper' versions of the game later, with balancing adjustments and additional characters, they're treating Street Fighter V as an "ever-evolving" service. That means there'll only be one disc version of the game, the original, with new characters, balancing adjustments and the like to be added regularly as DLC.
Oh, and you'll be able to unlock it just by playing the game.
Included in the initial purchase of the game: 16 characters, four of whom are making their series debut here. You'll also receive balancing updates for free when they appear. When additional characters and so on are made available as DLC, you'll be able to buy them with real money (sorry, with 'Zenny', a currency you can purchase with real money), or with 'Fight Money', which you'll earn by playing the game. It's basically microtransactions, with a soupçon of free-to-play mixed in.
Writing on the Playstation Blog, Capcom say they're doing this to "ensure that there is always new content to look forward to in the short term", and to prevent "the competitive environment from ever becoming stale". Here's a bit more on that:
"Looking back on the Street Fighter IV series, we had always released bundles of content all at once, like with Super Street Fighter IV and Ultra Street Fighter IV. While these one-time updates did revive interest in the series every few years, it was difficult to keep players engaged for long periods of time unless they were competitive. This also punished players who took a break from playing the game, because if they wanted to start again in a few years, they would be forced to purchase an upgrade to join the existing player pool who had already moved on to a new version. On top of that, this old method also forced players to purchase all of the new content, even if only a few characters may have appealed to them."
"Players also have more freedom in their decisions, as they only need to purchase or earn the content that appeals to them. This will also create more long-term engagement, because the more you play the game, the more you are rewarded and can earn new content. The player base is never shrunk by requiring a paid update like in years past. Players can take a break from the game, but then come back at any time and continue to play with the characters they already own, with the newest gameplay balance."
For the economy to make sense, players are unlikely to able to afford all the DLC with just Fight Money—unless you're playing the game a crazy amount—but this is sounding like a better approach to me than the weird phenomenon of asking fans to keep paying for new versions of a game they already own, in order to keep up with the competitive scene.
Street Fighter V is due next Spring.