The rumors are true. Sega and AM2 have decided to premiere online Virtua Fighter in the Xbox 360 version of Virtua Fighter 5, scheduled for a release this fall. Players will be able to log onto Xbox Live and compete with any of the game's standard 17 characters or bring a customized Quest fighter online.
"Virtua Fighter 5 is the most intense fighting experience available on next-generation consoles," said Scott A. Steinberg, VP of Marketing at Sega of America. "The addition of online multiplayer support opens up the competition to a global scale enabling players to compete and challenge anyone, anywhere, anytime, using Xbox Live."
We don't know much other than that, but the announcement is far different than what AM2 told us back in December 2006 during our cover story for the PlayStation 3 version. There, the studio was clear about their problems incorporating online multiplayer:
1UP: In terms of versus play, you're not planning to put the game online, but are you thinking about using the PS3's online capabilities to offer things like microtransactions? In that way it would mirror the arcade experience somewhat, since you usually pay 100 yen ($1 U.S.) to customize your character within a certain time limit at a VF Terminal.
NS: This time we're not using any online functionality in the game.
1UP: AM2 has stated many times that the reason VF5 doesn't support online play is because the experience would be less than optimal, due to latency times and whatnot. But it doesn't take a mathematician to realize that if VF5 on home console did feature online play, that would threaten your thriving arcade business, which is dominant in Japan. After all, why would people pay to play and customize things in an arcade if they could do it for free at home online? How do you feel about that theory?
NS: That's totally not true. It is because of the delay experienced online, and because the environment and atmosphere of online play makes it impossible to re-create the gameplay as it is in the arcade version, and that's why we're not putting VF5 online.
Wonder what changed their mind? We'll try and find out next week at E3.
Thanks to 1UP.com for sharing the news with us!