Tournament Play, though it has been around for a while, has only recently reached the mainstream spotlight. For some titles, such as StarCraft, the rise to prominence is truly remarkable. The rise of esports has made strides to legitimize video games as a sport, and it's not uncommon to see game tournaments awarding cash prizes in the upwards of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
One community which has changed significantly with the rise of e-sports is the Fighting Game Community which, while not quite as prolific as RTS games, shooters or MOBAs has a very dedicated (and long-established) following.
For an overview of some of the scene’s most well-known players, see FGC Aces.
First Generation (1991 - 2000)In the beginning, there was Street Fighter II, and it was good.
Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was released in 1991, and was a critical and commercial success. Though fighting games had exist before it, this game was the Genre Popularizer and the Trope Codifier for nearly everything that fighting games possess today. Players from all over showed up with full wallets at their local arcades and took turns beating the crap out of each other to prove who was better. Naturally, people began to ask the question: just who is the BEST?! And thus, the Fighting Game Community took its first steps.
Years prior to the advent of YouTube, gaming competitions were extremely obscure and mostly unofficial events that were solely gamer-driven. In short, if you played the game, and you were good at it, chances were you would go to an arcade (or to someone else's house) to play against someone who was equally skilled or better. The only way to experience better competitive play was to see it and face it in person (or, if you were lucky, on recorded video).
All of this began to change with the internet, starting with message boards. On various disjointed forums, players of any particular game (or sub-sect of games) could meet and compare notes with other players and mutually try to improve. This made it easier to organize gatherings and compare "technology" (gamer jargon for improved playing methods).
In 2000, Shoryuken.com (of course named after the famous Street Fighter attack) was born and became the go-to forum for Street Fighter competitors. Other fighting-game sites were also in use, such as Virtua Fighter.com and the (now-defunct) Soulcalibur.com (both of which were actually founded before SRK), but Shoryken.com in many ways became the "face" of the FGC. The creation of Shoryuken.com can be marked as the end of the "First Generation" of the Fighting Game Community and the beginning of the "Second Generation."
Second Generation (2000 - 2009)With this new hub, the fighting game community quickly began to pool together to create "major" tournaments that would gather the best of the best from all over the country (and the world) in order to compete with each other. The "Evolution Championship Series" (or "Evolution 2K") was created in 2002, evolving from the previous "Battle by the Bay" tournament, and became their flagship event. In the earliest incarnations, BbtB and EVO were Street Fighter-only affairs. This quickly changed in 2003 with the addition of several additional series.
About the same time, video footage of tournament events and combo exhibitions became commonplace. This footage became one of the major ways for players unfamiliar with the FGC to become "hype" for these events; either after watching other players better than them perform amazing feats, or after watching and deciding that they could do better themselves. Many players cite finding "Evo Moment #37", the famous Daigo Umehara parry against Justin Wong, as what introduced them to competitive play. This only grew more pronounced as YouTube began taking off in popularity, with more and more FGC content ready and available for viewing by any interested parties.
However, in the middle of the 00s, the FGC began slowly fading in popularity. There are many factors which have been blamed, but all had a hand to play in it. The dwindling arcade market, the increasing complexity and thus bar of skill required for new players, the (alleged) unfriendliness of experienced players toward newbies, and ultimately, the dwindling of fighting game sales and their subsequent lack of profitability. Of the aforementioned problems, some are subjective, but all created a particularly vicious circle informally referred to as "The Dark Age of Fighting Games".
For several years, fans of fighting games feared their time was coming to an end. What few games that did come onto the market usually failed to find mainstream appeal, and some were even flops in the hardcore scene as well. Even worse, it became increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain the machines that ran these games. Some games were never ported to a console, or even if they were, were not "arcade perfect" or were not available on a next-gen system. Even as new gaming consoles were released, players were still forced to bring old systems and cabinets, controller adapters, and jury-rigged setups to every tournament, and these had a habit of being unreliable. Many of these problems, however, came to an end in 2009. And, ironically, it would come back to Capcom and Street Fighter.
Third Generation (2009 - ????; possibly 2017/2018)In 2007, after positive reception to Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting on Xbox Live Arcade the previous year, Capcom announced the development of Street Fighter IV. As this was the first new Street Fighter title in over a decade (not including various crossover fighters), the FGC highly anticipated the new game—particularly when it was announced that the game would be highly modeled after the most-popular Street Fighter II and not the Alpha or III series. This meant that both old-school players and new players would be able to play on fairly equal terms.
Street Fighter IV was a tremendous success and is credited with resuscitating the FGC almost overnight, creating a new boom of fighting game popularity in The Seventh Generation. Thanks not only to a welcoming community but extremely successful marketing and support from Capcom, SFIV took the fighting game world by storm and became the new de facto main event for most major tourneys. It also brought an influx of new players and Fighting Game aficionados into the mix, and has explosively increased the number of competitors. It has even brought players who had retired from the community back into the fold.
The FGC has rolled with this new momentum and has expanded its curriculum to include new tournaments, including more Majors and local events as well as live-streams to allow fans to watch these events in real time and hear commentary which explains the matches as they happen. Sponsorship became a reality starting in 2010 with franchises like Evil Geniuses, Broken Tier, Mad Catz, and others paying players for free advertising. Daigo Umehara, a legendary Japanese player pictured above, even makes a living by Beta Testing games and merely stating that he likes it!
Not everything is well in this new community, however. As mentioned before, other events such as Major League Gaming have outpaced the FGC's growth. While not necessarily less demanding, MLG games have a larger fanbase to pool from as most of them also come from series which benefit from a robust single-player campaign. Also, it has been noted that many of these games cater to PC gamers as well as those with a higher level of income due to the expense to play them at a competitive level. Thus, the model which has worked for MLG does not carry over easily to the FGC, which although doing well, has yet to reach its potential.
Further, the FGC is still very much a "boys club" and remains crass, rude, and boorish at times. Turn on any popular tournament stream and it's likely that you will hear something not suitable for small children of the faint of heart. Female fighting gamers, though increasing in number, are still fairly rare. This has led to accusations of sexism and harassment from more outspoken and vulgar members of the community, most notably on the controversial Cross Assault reality web series.
The years 2011 and 2012, in particular, saw a resurgence of the fighting game genre, with the release of several new titles: Soulcalibur V, The King of Fighters XIII, Mortal Kombat 9, (Ultimate) Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Tekken 6, Skullgirls, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, Street Fighter X Tekken, and many, many more.
Fourth Generation (hypothetical; 2017/2018 - ????)YouTuber Maximilian Dood made the case that the next generation of fighting games has already begun and, ironically, is due to the decline of Capcom-made games (just like the Second Generation was).
If accurate, then the hypothetical new era began sometime between 2017-2018 with the release (and subsequent failure) of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. During that time, other games such as Tekken 7, Dragon Ball Fighter Z and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate rose to prominence. As a result, the Marvel series was completely absent from EVO for the first time ever in 2018, and even Street Fighter was replaced as the marquee event in 2019.
A few hallmarks of this era include the use of Discord and its various messaging servers as the new hub for players to share information, and increased concerns about the stagnation of fighting games in mechanics and content. In 2019, YouTuber Sajam made an an infamous video calling out fighting game developers for scaling back on essential features such as good online netcode, in-depth training features, and other vital content.
Another significant development during this time was the increasing globalization of fighting game competition, most notably punctuated by Pakistan rising as the dominant scene in the Tekken community (led by Arslan Ash) overthrowing Korea, who had been dominant for nearly two decades. In the Street Fighter community, the Dominican Republic also arose as a significant threat, with MenaRD leading the charge. And in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mexico's MKLeo quickly arose as the fighter to beat, taking several tournaments and putting on a clinic to clutch a bracket reset and win the Grand Finals at EVO.
2020 was an unprecedented year for all of mankind, and it was no exception for the FGC. Amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 Pandemic, several tournaments cancelled competition altogether. Some attempted to continue with online play, to mixed results and reception. In particular, EVO 2020 was reorganized in April as an online-only event and restructured its tournaments to prioritize games with good online netcode (making the aforementioned issues even more substantial), but in June, the event was cancelled altogether amidst allegations made toward EVO President Joey "MrWizard" Cuellar, who was forced to step down. Around the same time, many, many other high level players were banned indefinitely from events based on statements made online or past actions. Of particular note, the Smash Bros. community was rocked by accusations that several high-level players had inappropriate contact with minors.
Later in the year, the Smash community was embroiled in another controversy — this time getting Screwed by the Lawyers with two "Cease and Desist" orders from Nintendo, for online Melee and Ultimate tournaments, respectively. The Melee C&D was sent due to the tournament's use of Slippi, an emulation mod that made online play possible on the game on PCs (which was released before online play became widespread). This spawned the use of the #FreeMelee hashtag on social media, and also caused Nintendo to shut down its own live stream of a Splatoon 2 tournament, after the hashtag repeatedly appeared in the stream chat. The second C&D shut down a collegiate esports event for Ultimate, which Nintendo claimed to be planning their own events for.
These events yet again sparked conversation about the increasing corporatization of the FGC — for many, it served as a wake-up call that Nintendo, Capcom, Namco or any other publisher could shut down events for these games (with Melee proving that even old titles that would be classified outside of the FGC as retrogaming were far from safe). This fear was even furthered in early 2021 when it was announced that EVO had been jointly-acquired by Sony and RTS. While staff were quick to announce that all gaming platforms would be welcome at EVO, players still had mixed reactions to their largest tournament now becoming a corporate property, feeling that (even if only gradual and not immediate) this would cause a massive culture shift in the FGC scene.
As the world began a slow recovery from COVID-19, the FGC found itself fractured over whether to reopen live tournament events or continue to operate primarily online. Online tournaments are cheaper and easier to run, and more competitors are capable of participating due to no worries over travel, accommodations or entry fees. On the other hand, some feel that online tournaments remove the "community" portion of the FGC, are too reliant upon games having good netcode to have an "authentic" match, don't allow for things like money matches or side-tournament (particularly for older, "retro" games) and last, but certainly not least, prioritize PC gaming over console — reigniting hardware concerns which had died down for over a decade. FGC veteran Alex "Calipower" Valle made the case that both online and offline were equally important and need equal attention, which sparked concerns that trying to do both would only divide community resources.
The talks of increasing corporatization would begin once again when in early 2022, when Capcom issued an update to their Code of Conduct for the Capcom Pro Tour. The new rules within it proved to be a major point of contention for many, especially tournament organizers and staff members, as Capcom's increased financial costs and stipulations spelled harsher consequences for those seeking to run their games, as well as potentially dividing the community between "grassroots" and "eSports" segments. This huge backlash would cause Capcom to later state that they would look into refining the updated Code of Conduct further, though some believe that the revision may be irrelevant and that the true point of Capcom revealing their new Code of Conduct was to send a very powerful message to everyone.
That said, the 2020s still proved that despite all hardships, the FGC has found more ways to thrive and expand. The prominence of more games containing rollback netcode made it easier to compete online, combined with various resource hubs and ways to matchmake with players of appropriate skill levels. As for offline events, many major tournaments have resumed their operations with regulations to protect players and spectators against the still-present threat of COVID-19. EVO 2022 in particular was praised as a welcome return to form for the FGC — a well-run event which showcased how much the FGC has continued to stay close to its roots as a tight-knit brotherhood while also readily embracing the cleaner changes needed to better its image in the long haul.
2022 ended and 2023 began on a rather shocking note for the FGC when yet another major scandal on par with EVO 2020 took place. One of its longstanding and oldest icons, Arturo "nycfurby" Sanchez, was suddenly let go by tournament-organizing site Matcherino, who released a public statement that he had "mishandled funds", leading to him being dropped from his longtime allegiance with Team Spooky and several events banning him from competing outright. The community ended up divided, however, when multiple sides came forward providing their evidence and testimony both in defense of and against Sanchez. This event and the immense sense of betrayal it appeared to have conveyed has stirred up even more discussion surrounding the potential divide of the community, as well as sparking many questions such as, "Who should one really trust within the FGC?" The matter was eventually resolved, with Sanchez being allowed once more to compete while remaining banned from organizing tournaments.
In February of 2023, Capcom made an announcement at the end of Capcom Cup IX that would single-handedly change the fighting game community forever. The prize pool for Capcom Cup X: $2,000,000 total, with first place winning up to $1,000,000. At long last, fighting games had made it to the big leagues of eSports. A dream years in the making had finally been realized.
A comprehensive list of fighting game streams and streamers can be found here.
- USA West Coast
- USA East Coast
- Super Smash Bros. Community Streams
- Event/Tournament Streams
- Official Game Developer Streams
Evo and other Major TournamentsThe 2023 Evolution Championship Series were held August 4-6, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Street Fighter returned as the marquee event, with Street Fighter 6 providing a record 7083 entrant tournament. The winner of each respective tournament were crowned "Evolution World Champion" until the next tournament.
- Official games:
- Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate: Ninjakilla212 - USA (Fujin)
- Melty Blood Type Lumina: BO|Moai - Japan (Michael)
- The King of Fighters XV: DouyuTV|Xiaohai - China (Kyo/B. Jenet/Krohnen, Kyo/Isla/Krohnen)
- Dragon Ball Fighter Z: Hikari - USA (Blue Gogeta/Vegito/Android 17)
- Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Jibrill - USA (Zero/Dante/Vergil)
- Tekken 7: TM RB|Arslan Ash - Pakistan (Kunimitsu)
- Guilty Gear -STRIVE-: TSM|Leffen - Sweden (Happy Chaos)
- Street Fighter 6: Nasr|AngryBird - United Arab Emirates (Ken)
- Side tournaments:
- Akatsuki Blitzkampf Ausf. Achse: RobertRorio - Japan
- BlazBlue: Central Fiction: Jona - USA (Valkenhayn)
- BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle: FLY|Razzo - USA (Hakumen/Merkava, Yang/Carmine)
- Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium: Coates|Bas - Japan (A-Yamazaki/M. Bison/Blanka)
- Dengeki Bunko: Fighting Climax: Ignition: GS | DAI - Japan
- DNF Duel: Kazunkai - USA (Vanguard)
- Eternal Fighter Zero: WuManChu|DQRF - USA (Misaki)
- Garou: Mark of the Wolves: Scrubs - USA (Kevin)
- Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2: PepperySplash - Canada (Venom)
- Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R: FF|ElvenShadow - USA (Faust)
- Granblue Fantasy Versus: GS|Gamera - Japan (Djeeta, Zooey)
- Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising Beta: GS|Gamera - Japan (Yuel)
- Idol Showdown: YG|kubo - Japan (Ayame Nakiri)
- Jojos Bizarre Adventure All Star Battle R: Ariyo12 - ?
- KILL la KILL - IF Restitched: ATG|33phy33 - USA (Houka Inumuta, Ira Gamagoori)
- Killer Instinct (2013) Invitational: PAR|Nicky - USA (Rash, Eyedol, TJ Combo, Sabrewulf, Riptor)
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2: Crizzle - USA (Magneto/Storm/Psylocke)
- Mega Man Battle Network 6: SolarKnight - Mexico
- Melty Blood Actress Again Current Code: BO|Moai - Japan
- Persona 4: Arena Ultimax: MightyJoey - USA (Teddie)
- Phantom Breaker Omnia: Retro Spirits|Mcm - USA
- Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid: SMUSHIES|Chimera - USA
- Project Justice: Kaelis - USA (Kyoko/Zaki/Roy, Kyosuke/Zaki/Roberto, Zaki/Kyosuke/Kyoko)
- Samurai Shodown (2019): Scrub Saibot - Canada (Baiken, Gongsun Li)
- Skullgirls 2nd Encore: EG|Dekillsage - USA (Filia/Cerebella/Big Band)
- Soulcalibur VI: DEUS|Incendiate - USA (Geralt)
- Street Fighter Alpha 2: ChoiBoy - USA (Ken)
- Street Fighter III Third Strike: Umezono - Japan (Chun-Li)
- Street Fighter V Champion Edition: EliTheCurry - USA (Laura)
- Super Dragon Ball Z: gpbear4 - USA
- Super Street Fighter II Turbo: ChoiBoy - USA (Ryu)
- Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars: Truegamer - USA
- Touhou Hisoutensoku ~ Choudokyuu Ginyoru no Nazo o Oe: DaBomb - USA (Iku Nagae)
- Ultra Fight Da ! Kyanta 2: YellowSwerve - USA
- Ultra Street Fighter IV: El Cubano Loco - USA (Vega)
- Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late [cl-r]: ESFC|Mario - USA (Wagner)
- Vampire Savior: VMP|Servo - USA (Lord Raptor)
- Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown: Kurita Oyakata - Japan (Taka-Arashi)
- Virtual-ON Oratorio Tangram: Geordi - USA
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Singles: ZETA|acola (Steve) (Japan)
- Doubles: ZETA|acola (Pyra, Mythra, Steve) (Japan) & Fennel|Miya (Mr. Game & Watch) (Japan)
- Super Smash Bros. Melee Singles: MxM|Zain (Marth) (United States)
- Doubles: RB|aMSa (Yoshi) (Canada) & Tempo|Axe (Pikachu) (United States)
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U Singles: Mistake (Bayonetta) (Canada)
- Doubles: ralphie (Cloud) (United States) & Mistake (Bayonetta) (Canada)
- Super Smash Bros. Singles: Isai (Pikachu, Kirby) (United States)
- Doubles: Isai (Pikachu) (United States) & SuPeRbOoMfAn (Kirby) (Canada)
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl Singles: 686M (Ice Climbers, Peach) (United States)
- Doubles: Mikeray4 (Snake) (United States) & Player-1 (Diddy Kong) (United States)
Capcom Cup IX note
- 1st Place: Bandits|MenaRD (Luke, Birdie)
- 2nd Place: BLG|Zhen (M. Bison)
- 3rd Place: XSET|iDom (Laura, Poison)
- 4th Place: Mister Crimson (Dhalsim)
- 5th Place: EndingWalker (Ed), NASR|AngryBird (Ken, Rashid)
- 7th Place: Gosua Gaming|VegaPatch (F.A.N.G), NL (Luke)
- 9th Place: Takamura (Akuma, Ken), Victrix|Momochi (Cody), Hitbox|Kawano (Luke, Kolin), BLG|VXBao (Cody, Luke, Urien, Balrog)
- 13th Place: 00|Phenom (Luke, Necalli, Karin), G8S|Pugera (Balrog), Valmaster (Chun-Li, Menat), M. Lizard (Vega)
- 17th Place: NASR|Big Bird (Luke, Ken), Samurai (Luke), 00|Veggey (Birdie), The4philzz (Falke), SIN|Brandon (Luke), Joe Umerogan (Luke), Kalmal09 (Ed), ChrisCCH (Luke, Sakura)
- 25th Place: RR|Mono (F.A.N.G), Myrken (G), UYU|Oil King (Rashid, Seth), HDG|YoungHou (Birdie, Balrog), Punk (Luke, Cammy, Cody), Bravery (Cammy, Seth), R!OT|ROF (Birdie), UYU X BLG|DCQ (Urien)
- 33rd Place: Mortsy (F.A.N.G), MDZ|jimmY (Ryu), DMX|RonaldinhoBR (Nash, Blanka), EMGG|Justakid (Juri), UB|Frozen (Nash, Kage), JUNINHO-RAS (Ryu, Luke), Magnegro (Birdie, G), Travis Styles (Balrog)
- 41st Place: Cammy Queen|Geeck-O (Cammy), SolVNG (Falke, Seth), SonicBoxx|DoomSnake507 (Vega), GoliathGaming|JabhiM (Kolin, Karin, Poison), Ren (Ibuki, Ken), WFalcon (Seth, Luke), FRT|Uriel Velorio (Cody, Ken)
Tekken World Tour Finals 2022 note
- 1st Place: Ashes|Atif Butt (Akuma, Leo)
- 2nd Place: DH|JeonDDing (Julia, Eddy)
- 3rd Place: THY|Chikurin (Leroy)
- 4th Place: Ghirlanda (Katarina)
- 5th Place: Yamasa|Nobi (Feng, Dragunov), Yeonarang (Hwoarang)
- 7th Place: LNC|Joey Fury (Marduk), Dragons|Raef (Jin)