Gamers flock to A&C Games in downtown Toronto for a Smash Bros. tournament.

Fighting games hope to match success of eSports giants

Classics lead the genre’s charge for slice of the pie with RTS

They don’t have DotA 2’s $18-million prize pools, nor will they have 27 million viewers for a grand final like League of Legends.

What the fighting genre in gaming does have though is plenty of irrefutable classics from many childhoods, such as Nintendo’s popular Super Smash Bros. and Capcom’s legendary Street Fighter series.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that with the new, widespread mania of eSports (and the endless truckloads of money involved) the video games that many of us spent hours practicing our combos and inputs in as kids are primed to ditch their familiar arcade feel for a professional, competitive touch.

“I think it’s kind of changing since a lot of the newer games, like the new Smash, is pretty big, and Street Fighter 5 looks to be pretty big too, because they’re pushing eSports,” said Jared Higgins, a staff member of TorontoTopTiers, an online hub for the city’s joystick brawlers. “I think the old fighters weren’t of that mentality really, they were more about the ‘hang.’”

With computer games such as Starcraft, DotA (short for Defense of the Ancients), and League of Legends, three of the biggest draws in professional gaming, the potential for massive competitions was nearly instantly visible.

Higgins, meanwhile, acknowledges that the fighting genre wasn’t developed with the same intentions at first.

Starcraft had such a big online scene and fighting games are pretty much a joke online, you can’t really play them properly because there are only a few games that have really good netcode,” said Higgins. “Battle.NET (the online service Starcraft and other Blizzard games run on) has a nice hub where you can get into and see what’s going on in other games.

Street Fighter is just like a basic lobby system. It’s also split amongst a bunch of consoles, which makes it a pain to set up a tournament.”

Along with his work for TorontoTopTiers, Higgins is also a sales clerk at A&C Games in downtown Toronto. The shop hosts weekly tournaments and friendlies for multiple video games, including the newest Smash Bros. edition for the Nintendo Wii U system.

 

Aaron Grandison-Vargas was a coordinator Friday for the local competition, but also ended up finishing first out of nearly a hundred players. As a tournament organizer and long-time Smash Bros. enthusiast, he has an idea of what the genre needs to bridge the eSports interest gap.

“I feel like time is a factor, but at the same time it’s support,” said Grandison-Vargas. “I feel like the community as a whole supports each other but not to the maximum capacity.

“If we were able to spread stream links around, advertise efficiently, and get everyone to come out and improve, because that’s what these weeklies are for … we can grow together as a scene and we become bigger.”

Grandison-Vargas, left, faces off against Vishal Balaram, right, in the grand final of the weekly tournament.
Grandison-Vargas, left, faces off against Vishal Balaram, right, in the grand final of the weekly tournament. (Jonathan Soveta/Toronto Observer)

Bram Barber, another competitor at the event as well as an aspiring video game developer, noted that low costs played a large role in the quick rise in popularity of some games.

“RTS’s are just more readily available … You could run League of Legends on a computer from 2005,” said Barber. “It’s a free-to-play game, it’s team-based, and it caters to the lowest level to the highest level.

“If you want to buy a Wii U, you have to spend $250 on the console, another $60 on the game, then another $40 on a controller. The entry barrier was really not there [for RTS games].”