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Can designers with this outlook develop fighting games that appeal to a broad audience? You have to wonder ... or, instead of wondering, you could just go to Japan.
"Get on your feet! That can't be all you got!"
The upside of a passionate audience is a continual ferment of community activity. Each year, Japanese fans create new homebrew indie "doujin soft" fighting games, like Melty Blood and Eternal Fighter Zero. (See John Szczepaniak's "Doujin a Go Go, Baby!" in The Escapist issue 44.)
Some of these doujin games have earned great popularity with the community. On the other hand, there are weird Japanese mutations like the girl-fighting game Line-Kill Spirits. From its Wikipedia entry: "The girls will slowly regenerate damage unless the player takes a picture of their panties. Therefore, the objective of the game is to deal damage to the enemy while creating chances to take pictures of her panties, and then repeat until she is knocked out. All panty shots are kept in a photo album the player can view any time."
So, uh, anyway ... the successful Evolution tournament scene highlights a revenue stream neglected by publishers, and thus a possible opportunity. Is there a new business model here? Could a small developer create a 2-D fighter with low-end graphics but extremely deep gameplay, release it as shareware, then stage tournaments and charge admission to passionate grognards? That business would call for good software design and good event planning, skills seldom found together. But a committed developer could view the prospect as, you know, a journey of continual self-improvement.
Meanwhile, Hyde Park Entertainment is working with Capcom on a new Street Fighter movie. The 20th anniversary of the original SF game is imminent. It's possible we may see a new entry in the series. The old fighter climbs to his feet, ready for action.
And now, hah! I have compelled you to read this entire article! My victory is complete! Booooo-yah!