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From cabinets to world championships: The rise of the fighting game genre

"Street Fighter" is one of the many fighting game franchises to make their way into mainstream culture.

Image By: Image courtesy of Marvel vs. Capcom espanol Wikia

Imagine yourself in the early ‘90s. The World Wide Web is revolutionizing the way we communicate, the Cold War has finally ended and the Hubble Space Telescope has been cast off into space. Arcades are bustling as the popular social spot for teenagers and young adults, with a wide variety of different game cabinets for any type of player. However, one cabinet dominated every arcade with an unrelenting appeal: “Street Fighter II.” This single game propelled the stagnant fighting game genre it came from to new heights. The proof? Its $1.5 billion in revenue from home console sales alone upon release.

Fast forward to the present day, and fighting games like “Street Fighter,” “Tekken” and “Super Smash Bros.” have effectively made their way into mainstream culture. The Evolution Championship Series (also known as Evo) is the world’s largest fighting game tournament. Evo has now routinely made its way onto ESPN for its heated Sunday Finals every year, where tens of thousands of dollars are regularly put on the line. ESPN has also been showcasing several different “E-League” series and events, promoting the brand to an even larger audience.

"Many of the groups within the fighting game community are grassroots, meaning their existence has been the sole result of a unified and worldwide passion for the genre."

Needless to say, fighting games and their lasting legacy are a medium I’ve become seriously compelled by in the past few years. Many of the groups within the fighting game community (FGC) are grassroots, meaning their existence has been the sole result of a unified and worldwide passion for the genre. They weren’t created or funded by the original developers of the game (although that is now seeing a change), making them somewhat unknown to the general public. Most are entirely self-sufficient, bound together by a like-minded desire to thrive as a community.

Like I mentioned earlier, most of these communities were started by the fans themselves, not the original developers. However, most developers are now deciding to push their fighting games into the limelight. The most extreme example of this has been the recent endorsement of “Street Fighter V” by its developer and publisher, Capcom. The company has poured a significant amount of cash and resources into what they’ve dubbed the Capcom Pro Tour, a series of international pro tournaments resulting in a final tournament of the year, the “Capcom Cup.”

Another major example of this support comes from Arc System Works, a well-renowned fighting game developer. Within the past decade, they’ve had an excellent track record with each of their releases. This has culminated in the popularity of their most recent title, “Dragon Ball FighterZ,” based off the anime TV series of the same name. This success has provided the developer the perfect foothold to climb into the huge enterprise of big-budget world tours. 

The “ArcRevo” World Tour will feature several international tournaments with prize money. However, the difference between Capcom’s series and this one is the presence of three different fighting games: “BlazBlue: Central Fiction,” “BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle” and “Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2.” The aforementioned “Dragon Ball FighterZ” has a tournament series all to itself as well, with conditions and stakes similar to the “ArcRevo” tour. Arc System Works is providing the next step for fighting games as an international enterprise just as much as Capcom, with sheer quantity and quality. These are simply a few examples of the exciting future that the genre has in store.

"As the 'fighting game renaissance' continues, it can only be assumed devs will continue to support the future of these upcoming releases as well."

In addition to current fighting games receiving much of this appreciated support, developers are also attempting to capitalize off this new market by developing more titles than ever. Some notable fighting games in the pipeline include “Soulcalibur VI,” a new “Samurai Shodown” and “Lethal League Blaze.” As the “fighting game renaissance” continues, it can only be assumed devs will continue to support the future of these upcoming releases as well. This ensures a long-lasting legacy of competition for years to come.

It’s hard to believe how far the fighting game genre has been pushed. From popping quarters into cabinets to clashing over six-figure prizes, this evolution has been extreme, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. As a fan of the genre myself, I can confidently say that there’s no better time than now to jump in and see what all the hype is about.

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