New intellectual properties (IPs) are the backbone of the video games industry. Without new IPs, we would only ever see the same franchises over and over again. This would only make gaming, competitive or otherwise, become stale and boring. Thankfully, over the last few years, new IPs are becoming very common in all corners of gaming. In 2015, Nintendo gave us Splatoon, a competitive shooter with a unique, territory-claiming mechanic. Last year’s Overwatch is probably one of the best new IPs in the last decade. I say this for the community Overwatch has gathered in the year and a half that it has been out. In addition, the game is widely played both casually and competitively. This has helped make Overwatch an esport over time. 2017 has continued the trend of delivering new IPs that can be played both competitively and casually in the shape of ARMS.
ARMS is a Nintendo Switch exclusive that launched in June. Prior to the game’s release, many believed that the game would become an esport. This was because of the game’s premise – a 1v1 or 2v2 fighting game that could be played without intrusive items or stage hazards. The game had a diverse cast of characters, with the promise of more characters and stages being added for free, similar to how Street Fighter V and Overwatch approach adding new content to their respective games. It looked like the pieces were aligning. It looked like ARMS was capable of becoming Nintendo’s next esport.
When ARMS released in June of this year, it certainly made a splash. Though, perhaps not as large of a splash as many people were hoping. Nintendo’s recent financial report claimed that ARMS sold a total of 1.35 million units as of September 30, 2017. Given the circumstances of being a new IP, the game has sold modestly well. However, a lot of the game’s coverage by streamers and YouTubers dropped off shortly after the game launched.
Despite all of this, the game still has a competitive community. One that’s small, but constantly growing. So much so that it was confirmed this summer that the game will be featured at the first-ever EVO Japan this coming January. I would like to discuss the game’s inclusion at the event. Specifically, I want to discuss if the game truly deserves to be there.
What makes ARMS different?
ARMS is Nintendo’s first take at a traditional fighting game. Nintendo’s unique style and approach to game design definitely shows in the game. For those unfamiliar with the game, ARMS features fighters that use extendable arms in somewhat small arenas, some of which have unique gimmicks. The strategy of the game comes down to which ARMS the player wants to equip, in addition to which character to play. As is a staple of the fighting game genre, different characters have different abilities and advantages, making each feel unique from one another.
As is standard for the company, Nintendo made ARMS completely different from any other fighting game on the market. While most fighting games encourage players to get close to one another to deal damage, ARMS encourages the exact opposite. The player needs to position their character in a specific way to inflict damage. In addition, the player has to strategize how they use their ARMS. Players have to constantly think about their spacing from their opponent. They also need to think about the best ways to use each of their ARMS, and how to take advantage of the arena’s shape, size and mechanics.
Due to the game’s gimmick of extendable arms being the main mechanic, ARMS looks and plays unlike any other fighting game. However, this brings some advantages and disadvantages.
The consequences of being different
A critique on ARMS that I have heard from many streamers and content creators online concerns the game’s viewer appeal. People feel that the game is simply too boring to watch. It’s impossible to comment on a game’s watchability from an objective stance. How watchable something is to you depends on what kind of gameplay you think is interesting to watch. Many people who enjoy watching fighting games may not enjoy watching MOBAs, and so on.
However, this critique tends to come from fans of other fighting games. Since ARMS is so different from other fighting games, it isn’t able to immediately draw in members of other fighting game communities very easily. Moreover, the game simply looks different compared to most competitive fighting games. Traditional fighting games like Street Fighter and Guilty Gear all have their characters face each other on 2D planes. Tekken offers 3D movement, but still has the camera set up in a way that we see two characters facing each other, making it look like a traditional fighting game. ARMS offers a behind-the-back camera angle, something that is very rare to see in multiplayer fighting games.
Lastly, the game is a new IP, which is always a roll of the dice in regards to creating a community. When Street Fighter V launched, the game instantly garnered a competitive community thanks to the previous entries’ already established competitive communities. ARMS doesn’t have that luxury. Since it’s so different and it’s the first game in its series, ARMS has to earn a competitive community. This is easier said than done. So how exactly can ARMS accomplish creating a community as large and diverse as, say, the Street Fighter V community?
The game is a perfect fit for evo japan
In order to give ARMS a chance at having a large competitive community, there needs to be a big step forward. Having the game be featured at a huge event like Evo Japan is that step forward. Evo Japan will highlight ARMS and the community it has gathered thus far. If the game’s presence at the event impresses viewers, the community could become exponentially larger. We could even have a new well-recognized esport on our hands. ARMS is in a unique make-or-break position with EVO Japan. How the game’s tournament goes and resonates with viewers will determine a lot of the game’s competitive future. This puts a lot of pressure onto the ARMS players that will be at the event, but perhaps that may give them more drive to make the game as entertaining to watch as possible.
Does ARMS deserve to be at EVO Japan this year? If I were to answer that based on the game’s competitive community and status right now – no, I don’t think it does. However, the event provides a potential for the game to turn from a small-ish competitive community into a huge one. And being a fan of the game myself, I think this game deserves to take advantage of the potential that EVO Japan is providing. It’s an incredible opportunity for the community of ARMS to grow. Therefore, I think ARMS more than deserves to be at EVO Japan in Janurary.
However, this is just my opinion. What are your thoughts on ARMS’ inclusion at EVO Japan? Join the conversation and let us know!
Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.
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