This month saw the introduction of grassroots tournaments across Europe and North America for Dissidia Final Fantasy NT as part of a partnership between ESL and Square Enix.
The fighting game fared poorly at review, hamstrung by bad netcode which made it nearly impossible to enjoy the 3v3 brawler as the developers intended. The attention for a brawler was great to see though, as fighting games rarely get the attention they deserve.
However, despite the fact you rarely hear about fighting games making the headlines in the business world, fighting games are a solid investment and one of the easiest games to market to a wider audience.
"Fighting games have the potential to be the top tier esport, because they’re among the most instantly understandable," says Andi Hamilton, a freelance journalist specialising in fighters.
"You might not see why something was sick, but you can understand the basics quickly (health bars are a good visual indicator) and if you see someone has a low health bar and they manage to pull off a win, the fact that was an exciting upset is easily communicated to the viewer, regardless of how knowledgeable they are."
Indeed, it’s fighting games that got me into esports, the infamous Evo Moment 37, when Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong clashed in a Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike semifinal match at EVO 2004, with Umehara parrying every single hit of what should have been a match-winning combo by Wong, to claim a win. There’s context that adds layers of incredulity to fans of fighting games, and watching it on YouTube you can hear the room explode as Umehara pulls it off, but to the untrained eye you can clearly see why it’s impressive. If this was football, it’d be the equivalent of scoring from the halfway line o
There are moments at fighting game tournaments like this all the time, and it’s part of why esports is so exciting.
"Esports money-men are sneaking around looking to make a quick buck," says Hamilton. "I think super high-end Overwatch League events could work, but personally I’d hate for them to be the norm, and it’s clear that fighting games have been able to manage without them to date. The beauty of Evo is that it is a massive stage, and that you or me or anyone reading this could enter and win. That’s exciting, and something that right now the FGC does better than anyone else. The rigid structure of other esports events means that just isn’t possible everywhere else."
While the current obsession for the games industry is the potential of battle royale games, throughout it all fighting games have been going strong, adapting to new releases and growing stronger with each successive year. For businesses looking to take a chance on esports, the fighting game community seems like the best bet.