Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinori Ono thinks that Western fighting games are all about the payoff, not the journey.
Street Fighter IV has done well for Capcom lately. The original game reinvigorated a flagging franchise, Super SF4 improved it, and SSF4 3D Edition is almost certainly the best launch title on the 3DS. There's a great interview with producer Yoshinori Ono over at CVG, but perhaps the most interesting part is where Ono talks Western fighting games - specifically, Mortal Kombat.
"I've played [MK] and I like it but it's obviously very different," said Ono. "I think it represents the difference in philosophy. I find Japanese games tend to find the 'process' of playing the game as the activity and the result may not matter."
In other words, Ono and other Japanese fighting game makers create games where the moment of fighting is what matters - every fireball, dragon punch, and hurricane kick needs to feel good and be entertaining, no matter who ultimately wins the match.
In Mortal Kombat, however, "the fighting and playing is just a pathway to get to the result - it's the Fatality you want to see." Gamers almost want to skip the fighting and get right to the big finish where Liu Kang turns into a dragon and bites the enemy in half.
Western fighters put more emphasis on the result, not the process of getting there, says Ono. Sure, it's fun when you win, but getting there is just something you have to go through. In comparison, Ono thinks Street Fighter is more like chess, with players reacting to what their opponents are doing.
"Street Fighter is about timing and distance not the visual result from the fireball."
I'd also say that the difference between the Street Fighter series and the Mortal Kombat series is that one is great and one is mediocre at best, but that's just me.