While most Indian gaming events depend on the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and PUBG Mobile to bring in the crowds, there's one section of the competitive gaming scene in India that's largely gone under the radar — fighting games. Rather than be restricted to a single title, there are usually multiple tournaments for multiple games in the genre.
At last week's Dreamhack Mumbai, Street Fighter V, Tekken 7, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were all present with their own respective tournaments and prize pools. Gadgets 360 spoke to Alex Jebailey, Dreamhack's Global FGC (fighting game community) Director and President of CEO Gaming — the company behind titular CEO (Community Effort Orlando) fighting game event — to find out more.
First up, we noticed that Dreamhack Mumbai 2018 had one of the world's first Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournaments. It's an interesting addition when you consider that Nintendo doesn't have an official presence in India. We had to ask Jebailey what made him decide on bringing it to India. It turns out there was a community push for the game.
"As an organiser I work with the the community from the ground up and not just with companies that give money to support such events," he says. "Because I do a lot of the Smash events in America — Nitin [Rao] reached out and asked if Smash could be a part of Dreamhack, he knows Smash isn't popular in India because Nintendo is not here, which is weird."
"But they said they would supply everything just to give them a chance of having Smash and we have the space here at Dreamhack," Jebailey continues. "So I figured I'd give it a shot. We don't have to invest any money in it, just a little space which goes a long way."
That said, the turnout for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate was smaller than games. No surprise considering it released a mere two weeks prior to Dreamhack, though Jebailey remains optimistic.
"It's not as big as we would have hoped but it's a good start," he admits."Whether it survives after this, who knows, but just to see those people come together and check it out, I think it's going to get a little bit of interest. I'm going to talk to my Nintendo friends and ask about India."
One of the biggest concerns about having a game like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at Dreamhack is the number of playable characters. Unlike other fighting games, you'll have to unlock its 70-plus roster while playing the game as they aren't available from the get-go. We wondered how Jebailey and his team got around this.
"It's not as bad as people think," he says. "It just takes two to three hours. I have three Switches. I've traveled across the Atlantic Ocean three times last two weeks so I've been unlocking on the flights to pass the time. I only brought one Switch with me here, but they just they [the rest of the team] spent time unlocking them [on other Switches at the tournament venue] right before Dreamhack. There's easy ways to do it. It's just that it's time consuming."
With Jebailey and his team having spent a ridiculous amount of time on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate simply unlocking characters, was input lag (the delay between pressing a button and seeing the game react) a concern? A detailed report from YouTube channel Gigaboots suggests that input lag in the game is worse than other entries in the series.
"I have not and neither has the rest of the Smash organisers who have been using GameCube adapter controllers," he says. "I've been playing with my Pro Controller when I'm on the plane. And I haven't noticed any lag. There are ways around that by using wired controllers and not connecting a thousand wireless controllers. But so far it's not been a big issue as it has with like PlayStation and Xbox in the past."
Speaking of PlayStation, the PS4 made up most of the hardware at the Dreamhack Mumbai 2018 fighting game section, which was split between Street Fighter V and Tekken 7. We had to ask, which is the most popular fighting game for the competitive scene in region.
"Tekken 7 is very popular in all of Asia," he says. "It's a very easy game to get into Tekken 7 personally. I think is one of the best fighting games the last couple of years with the Tekken World Tour and then Street Fighter V is right behind that. But yeah, Tekken seems to be popular in India too. We're got over a hundred players for it."
And while Tekken 7 and Street Fighter V rule Asia, it's a different scenario on Jebailey's home turf, the US.
"I think Super Smash Bros. is still the number one tournament game," he says. "There's more consistent 500-plus man tournaments year round with Smash than any other fighting game in history. This includes Super Smash Bros. Melee for GameCube, Super Smash Bros. Brawl for Wii, and now Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which we we've only had one major tournament in Seattle. I think that had like six hundred players."
With some games dwarfing others in popularity, we questioned the logic of catering to the less popular ones to begin with. Fighting game makers it seems, don't have the bandwidth to support their games like Valve does with lax tournament license terms.
"It would be easier on organisers to have just one single game to run an event," Jebailey says.“But without the full support like Dota 2 or CS: GO get, it's hard to justify just doing single game events. That's why we bring so many together."
The conversation shifts to the latest controversy in the fighting game community, Street Fighter V's in-game ads. Of late, Capcom has been putting logos advertising its Capcom Pro Tour event on character costumes. Players can keep it on and earn in-game currency or turn it off if they find it too intrusive.
At the time of filing this story, several reports suggest that Capcom has removed them from the game, for now. Which makes sense when you consider the ads focused on the Capcom Pro Tour (a series of international tournaments sponsored by the company) that ended on December 25. Capcom has stated there will be periods when ads won't be available and this is one of them. That said, a vocal section of the Street Fighter V fanbase has derided the move of having ads to begin with, we asked Jebailey what he thought of it.
"I think they're very intrusive and they don't give enough fight money," he says. "I think Capcom is testing a lot of stuff for a future game, like a Street Fighter 6 or something. But right now, it's the best fighting game for e-sports with DLC to bring in money into the community [with select downloadable content revenue used as prize pool money]."
"I just think they are intrusive like Bison, his cape has five CPT [Capcom Pro Tour] logos on it," he continues. "Now, you know, it's not just going be those logos, Red Bull's in there already too. I just think they're throwing it out at us way too fast and too hard. However, I think it will get better. I believe in Capcom to always improve on things and that's just going to take time. And in the meantime, everyone is just going to keep complaining and hopefully they read it."
Despite finding Street Fighter V's ads intrusive, Jebailey is well aware that Capcom needs the revenue from them to keep supporting the game. Although he suggests that there are ways to do it with less friction such as Mortal Kombat X's Sub-Zero costume and Killer Instinct's Shadow Jago fund which he was a part of during his time as community manager at Iron Galaxy, the game's developer. Nevertheless, he believes Capcom's approach could impact how fighting games are made going forward.
"When Capcom did fighting games in the 90s everyone copied Street Fighter," he says. "Watch in five years where everybody's doing the exact same thing the way they're doing their ads now and it kind of changes the game of development."
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