A Prosperous Age of Fighters

Why this video game genre is on the rise

By Elliott Gatica Music Editor

From left to right: Kazuya ("Tekken 7"), Ryu ("Street Fighter"), Mario ("Smash Bros."), Ragna the Bloodedge ("Blazblue"), Goku ("Dragon Ball FighterZ") and Barman ("Injustice"). Illustration by Adrian Carillo/Illustrator

In the early 2000s, when the arcade fad was at an all-time high and eventually hit its plateau, the fighter genre followed. In 2014, shooter and action-style games were the two most popular genres, according to a Forbes article. Fighters were still in the top half of the list, but made up a surprisingly low percentage (6 percent) in comparison to shooter and action-style games (a combined 49.9 percent). There’s a steep decrease after the top two games.

Recently, however, things are finally starting to look up.

Last year ended on a strong note, giving the gaming community big and successful titles like “Tekken 7,” “Injustice 2” and “Guilty Gear Xrd Rev. 2.” Those were just the releases.

Last year’s Evolution Championship Series included games like “Street Fighter V,” “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” “Super Smash Bros. for Wii U,” “The King of Fighters 14,” “Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3” and “Blazblue: Central Fiction” in its lineup. Although these games were not part of the year’s releases, they had a significantly large enough player base and entrant count to be included in the biggest event for the fighter genre.

And while most of the hype in these tournaments is usually from “Street Fighter,” “MvC” and “Smash Bros.,” it’s nice to acknowledge the number of viewers, highlights and champions in the other tournaments. The hype stays with those games, but this year already has much more to look forward to.

This 2018 kicked off with the highly-acclaimed “Dragon Ball FighterZ” and Capcom’s “Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition.” Soon to follow are releases of “Super Smash Bros.” for the Nintendo Switch, along with “Soul Calibur VI,” “SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy,” “Fighting EX Layer,” “Blazblue Cross Tag Battle” and “Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection” —  although quite frankly, Capcom reissuing the same game again won’t get much traction from anyone but die-hard fans and collectors.

With Evo 2018’s lineup including mostly last year’s games — except for “KOF ‘14” and “Blazblue” — we’re getting “Blazblue Cross Tag Battle” and “Dragon Ball FighterZ” thrown into the mix. A majority of these titles have already received quite a lot of ongoing coverage, which says a lot, given that fighting games are often portrayed as too niche for your average gamer.

While this is a valid argument, I would say that there were also user-friendly tutorials or features that appeal to more casual audiences.

One of the main reasons why the fighter genre is underrepresented is its lack of accessibility or appeal to those unfamiliar with it. While this is a valid argument, I would say that there were also user-friendly tutorials or features that appeal to more casual audiences.

Auto combos, one of the more notorious features, have made their way into “Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite” and even “Dragon Ball FighterZ.” Yes, I’m very aware that the more seasoned veterans of the genre dislike it and it can create some toxicity within the fighting game community. But with the accessibility come larger player bases, maintaining the longevity and ultimately keeping games alive because these features give the inexperienced gamers a more competitive advantage.

And it’s not like “Smash Bros.” has the most accessible tutorials or handicaps for the less experienced. You have a bunch of confusing lingo and technology to master and oftentimes they won’t even be mentioned in the game. Still, this game has one of the biggest followings, even outside of Evo.

Fighting games may have smaller followings and tighter communities due to differing preferences or intimidatingly steep learning curves, but now is a great time to give them a try. The fighting genre is in its renaissance, according to Dakota Hills of Eventhubs.  

“Almost a decade later, the fighting game genre is shining again with releases and support for games large and small,” Hills wrote.

Fighter games may not have the highest concurrent player counts like “PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds” or “Fortnite,” and they may not have the high streaming numbers of “Overwatch” and “League of Legends,” but this genre is close to being among those ranks.