To start with, I am a very avid video game player. I think just about everyone in this generation plays a form of electronic entertainment in some form, be it World of Warcraft, Madden NFL Football, or Farmville. There is actually a enormously satisfying read called Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World (Amazon) by Jane McGonigal in which she explains why more and more people are playing games and how we can put game layers on top of reality in order to improve lives. (I’ll leave links below for a short Amazon video and a longer speech McGonigal gave for a TED talk) What I wanted to write about today was in relation to a sub-group of video games: Fighting games.
There are a number of subcultures in video games mainly based on the varying types of games that are out there such as first person shooters (see Call of Duty) or sports games (see Madden). Other cultures are based on individual games themselves such as the vibrant Starcraft community or Capcom’s Street Fighter. A big part of these communities are based on the competitive aspect and tournaments, more and more of which are being sponsored by larger companies servicing these groups. The reason I want to focus on fighting games is the news that broke recently that compLexity, a professional gaming team has signed the Cross Counter star duo Mike Ross and Ryan “Gootecks” Gutierrez. (Official Release)
This continues a very positive trend for the fighting game community where tournament players are either joining gaming teams or outright sponsored by companies. US Champions Justin Wong and Ricky Ortiz were signed by Evil Geniuses, a very successful pro gaming team while Japanese fighting game giants Daigo Umehara and Mago were recently signed to the popular game peripheral manufacturer Mad Catz. This is positive news riding on the popular “Road to EVO” tournament series culminating in the EVO World Fighting Game Championships in Las Vegas in July. Something greater than $75,000 in total prize money will be up for grabs.
Why does this matter to Internet and Direct Marketing? The major force driving the fighting game community forward is the live stream. Live streaming is a major innovation for several companies, Netflix, Hulu, and Apple headlining. But the ability to show fighting game tournaments live and archive footage on the internet for players and fans to tune in has pushed the community to a whole new level. Recent tournaments RevaLAtions (Los Angeles) and Community Effort Orlando 2011 (Orlando) drew over a reported 50,000 combined online viewers over three days. Talented presentation crews and commentators (such as Team Spooky) help draw the community together, growing the knowledge base around the world. Slowly but surely, the word is being spread, advertisements for memorabilia and gear are becoming more common, and the community is booming. Obviously, online gaming helps (which I will address on a later post), but without the streams and the ever present “Stream Monsters”, the community would not be at the point it is now. So what happens next?