Esports Notebook: Evo Japan caps an all-time month for the FGC

The 2014 Evo Championship Series at Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. (Robert Paul)

Though they’re among the oldest forms of digital competition, fighting games have had a hard time cracking the esports mainstream.

Whether it’s because the genre was spawned in the old arcade scene and then moved to consoles without much presence on the PC – the most popular esports platform – or because of its slightly unintuitive control schemes and higher barrier to entry, fighting games just haven’t translated to esports the way MOBAs or first-person shooters have.

That could all change, though. And soon.

This month has been a big one for the Fighting Game Community (FGC) and it will all culminate Friday with the release of a highly anticipated game, Dragonball FighterZ, and the start of the first-ever Evo Japan.

The newest installment in the FGC’s most venerable franchise Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition will feature prominently at Evo Japan, the year’s first major international tournament. Released just last week, the game may look almost exactly the same as Street Fighter V, but don’t be mistaken, it’s a far more complete package featuring new moves, new characters and new combo routes.

The Japanese tournament is a spinoff of EVO, the world largest and most prestigious fighting game tournament, held annually mid-summer in Las Vegas. Evo Japan is a three day-event that has some of the most legendary players in the genre flying in from all over the planet to play.

Like any other big-time fighting game tournament, Evo Japan will be a multi-game event with the aforementioned Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition being played in addition to “anime games” like Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator 2, BlazBlue: Centralfiction, a 3D fighter in Tekken 7 and even Nintendo titles Super Smash Bros. 4 and ARMS.

As the first major tournament of the year, it could set the bar for how the rest of the year’s competitive scene unfolds. For example, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, the newest title (released just four months ago) in the popular series, isn’t on the lineup in Japan. That omission could mean it will end up getting dropped from future major events. And the game that would likely replace it is Dragonball FighterZ

There have been many fighting games based off of the popular anime franchise “Dragonball Z,” but there’s never been anything like this. Developed by Guilty Gear and BlazBlue creators ArcSystem Works and published by Tekken makers Bandai Namco, Dragonball FighterZ is a mishmash of different fighting game systems all tied up in an incredible Dragonball Z package that fans of the show — and given all the DBZ homages in the NFL and NBA, I’m guessing there’s a lot of you out there — will love.

To really cap things off, Jan. 30 will see the release of a brawler called Final Fantasy NT, where players can pick some of their favourite characters from the classic role-playing franchise’s storied history and duke it out in teams of three.

Simply put, January 2018 is a glorious time to be alive.

Some news and notes around esports heading into the weekend:

• A reminder to anyone who wants in on the NBA 2K League: You only have five days left to try to get your 50 wins in Pro-Am mode – whether walk-on or with a squad – for the month of January in order to be considered for the recently announce Phase 2 combine of the fledgling league’s tryout process. Good luck and get it done.

• Last Sunday the Overwatch League hit Dallas Fuel player Félix “xQc” Lengyel with a four-game suspension and a $2,000 fine for making a homophobic comment while streaming by himself on Twitch. Lengyel, a Laval, Que., native, later apologized, saying he “did not compute the whole thing before.”

Overwatch League commissioner Nate Nanzer addressed the Lengyel suspension in an interview with The Daily Telegraph’s Hannah Dwan.

“I think it’s important for people to know the standard that we’re holding our players to. And I don’t think we’re asking a lot, right? We’re basically asking: Don’t be a jerk, which is just sort of a basic thing you would expect from any human interaction, and it’s important for these players to remember,” Nanzer said. “I don’t have any expectation that these players are role models necessarily, but they do need to understand that Overwatch is a game that is very broadly appealing.”

Fair points.

• On Tuesday, 6,000 EVE Online players logged in for a battle that put US$1-million worth of virtual spaceships on the line.

For a touch of context, EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game centered around space exploration and combat. EVE has a notoriously complex in-game economy that allows players to convert real-world money into in-game currency and vice versa. The value of all the ships involved in the fight — in hard U.S. currency — was $1-million.

In the end, the MoneyBadger Coalition was able to successfully defend its Keepstar station against a competing group of players with a name too indecent to print on this website.

• One of the year’s first big Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) tournaments concludes this weekend with the ELEAGUE: Boston Major’s top eight beginning Friday.

Even if you’re not huge into CS:GO, the tournament features some players who are so good you just have to watch. Marcelo “coldzera” David is one of those guys. His SK Gaming team takes on the powerful Fnatic Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET.

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