ELEAGUE and the FGC – Is The Mainstream A Good Thing?

Street Fighter V’s (SFV) presence as an eSport in the mainstream media has massively increased. With its launch the fighting game community (FGC) and fighting games as an eSport were thrust forward into the mainstream limelight.
2016 bought us events like the prelaunch exhibition match between long time Japanese Street Fighter pro Daigo Umehara and American rapper Lupe Fiasco in February, The finals of Evolution 2016 Championship Series in July, as well as the Capcom Cup 2016 Finals in December; the latter earning 87,000 viewers on ESPN2, a channel normally dedicated to regular sports and ‘Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating contest’. Alongside all this, eSports companies such as ESL have hosted their own events and tournaments, the most recent of these being ELEAGUE, with their televised Invitational Series that started on the 27th March this year.

ELEAGUE is primarily focused on Counter Strike GO tournaments, running several American qualifiers to enter their own Major; so, the sudden interest in fighting games; SFV in particular, is a topic of controversy within the FGC. SFV’s reception was mixed, with many complaining about the simplification of its gameplay and accusing Capcom of pandering to the casual audience over the core existing fanbase. Couple this with a player-base that prefers community run and grassroots events over the more corporate and exclusive events that companies like ELEAGUE run, and you have a bit of a PR disaster.

Pro player Ryan ‘FChamp’ Ramirez tweeted

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In response to Mike Ross, another prominent figure in the FGC, alluding to the fact that more invitationals will mean the erasure of Open Events. The FGC has survived for 30 years with open events, relying on communities meeting in person, playing and spectating as a community with the broadcasting of these tournaments and events being relatively recent in its life. When compared to games like DOTA2 and League of Legends where the competitive scene is entirely based on pro teams, twitch streams, and corporate events; it’s almost entirely alien. There is a widespread fear that more invitationals and more events for the top players will lead to the death of the Open Bracket tournament. Many are calling out FChamp for his opinion; but is it really a possibility?

As far as I’m concerned, the only way the Open Bracket events could die, is if the FGC as it currently operates ceases to exist, and pre-existing tournaments become invitationals. Events like ELEAGUE are geared more toward spectators, focused more on the spectacle than the community, but I think the rest of the FGC only stands to benefit from them. As it stands, fighting games are probably the easiest games to get into the competitive scene with, down to the sheer number and regularity of community events. New players will be drawn in by the showcase of the elites, but with all the open events across the globe they still have the access and ability to break into the community; a community that will guide them to play better and compete better. Lesser known players causing upsets at big tournaments is the best part of open events, everyone loves an underdog story!

I feel ELEAGUE have handled the FGC very well, pushing the rivalry between players Kenneth ‘KBrad’ Bradley and Joshua ‘Wolfkrone’ Philpot, as well as inviting some community figures like Ryan ‘Gootecks’ Gutierrez to be a part of the event; not to mention their great twitter updates along with the event. It was a pleasure to watch. Day 1 started a bit slow but Day 2 picked up nicely. I hope the rest of the season holds up to that level of quality and play.

What do you think? Did you watch ELEAGUE? What’s your opinion on invitationals vs open events? Let us know in the comments below!

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