ELEAGUE Street FIghter V Playoff Preview

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ELEAGUE

The inaugural season for Street Fighter V in ELEAGUE has been more or less a success. Solid average ratings, interesting story lines and most importantly highly entertaining games that have led to an attention grabbing product on television.

ELEAGUE’s production values and entertainment quality have done wonders for the fighting game community in establishing a main stream audience. The shiny studio, hype crowds and professionalism displayed by the casters adds a legitimacy to it all. On top of the diehard fans watching, plenty of 18-49 year-olds have been tuning in to catch their favorite fighting game.

Additionally, the competition is fierce with names like Du “NuckleDu” Dang and Kun “Xian” Xian Ho both failing to make it to the playoffs. New and old names have emerged and each player in the playoffs has an actual shot of taking home the title.

The Favorite: Panda Global Punk
Victor “Punk” Woodley is on a mission from the heavens in 2017. He’s becoming a robot with the urge to kill. He’s separated himself as the best player in this current era and winning ELEAGUE would put a stamp on that.

However, his first matchup is against the dangerous Eduardo “PR_Balrog” Perez, but Punk does have a good number of strong Balrog’s in his region so he could be more prepared for that set specifically. If the last few months are any indication, Punk’s Karin will be hard to slow down.

The Underdog: BX3| Phenom
Interestingly enough, Arman “Phenom” Hanjanni always slides under the radar. He finished second in his group and then battled his way to a win over Zhoujun “Xiao Hai” Zeng, in a convincing 3-0, to win the group that featured NucleDu.

Necali, in my eyes, is still being slept on overall and Phenom has optimized his style from season one to season two. Starting in winners against an R. Mika player seems to work in his favor. If he can get that first win over Keita “Fuudo” Ai, watch out, because he can surprise some people.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/ELEAGUE

The sleeper: Daigo Umehara
It’s even crazy to think Daigo actually made it to this point. After a lackluster group stage where he barely advanced through, he made a sudden a drastic change to Guile and once again squeaked past in the bracket stage.

Now it’s been three weeks, he’s had a lot of time to prepare with his new characters and make adjustments. He faces a familiar foe in the first round and could use Guile’s strengths to combat Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi’s Ken.

In turn, Daigo’s recent resurgence with a new character has seemingly given him more confidence. A focused and confident Daigo Umehara could be a different beast all together and now he’s playing with more matchup knowledge.

Bottom Feeder: Qanba Douyu Xiao Hai
No disrespect to Xiao Hai, but he’s not looking like the same player from season one. He did have a clutch win over NuckleDu and had grind out win over Chris “ChrisT” Tartarian, but he’s struggled in many instances this year.

Notably, he’s not having the same tournament success with Cammy despite her upgrades in season two. However, he showed his potential to make it this far and anything is possible, especially with a player like Xiao Hai.

In the end, there’s a chance any of these eight players make a deep run. The beauty of this league was its player depth and that’s being displayed this weekend. Someone is going home with a life changing win and will be remembered forever for winning ELEAGUE.

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Daigo’s Adjustments Push Him into ELEAGUE SFV Playoffs

The mark of a great player is having the ability to adjust after below average performances.

Daigo “The Beast” Umehara, only weeks after the unveiling of his new character Guile, was able to make the necessary adjustments to make it out of the Group B and into the ELEAGUE SFV playoffs.

Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/el/

Daigo’s only loss was at the hands of one of the most explosive players in SFV, Eduardo “PR_Balrog” Perez, who won group B. The top overall seed entering the day took care of business going 2-0 and 6-2 in games (faced Eita and Daigo). Against two of the premier Japanese players, he convincingly owned the neutral game with Balrog.

Aside from another strong performance from PR_Rog, the most unexpected result was Daigo essentially coming out of nowhere to get second in group B. Daigo is obviously a strong player, but after a sub-par finish at NCR and finishing sixth with a 3-4 record questions started to arise regarding Daigo’s play.

During SFV’s life cycle, Daigo’s had a harder time than usual adjusting to the new game. Ryu, his classic character from other Street Fighter games, wasn’t working for him this one around. He needed a character switch. Guile, a charged fireball character with excellent spacing tools, seemed to be the answer.

Despite bad losses in March and early April, Daigo proved this Friday at ELEAGUE that it was only a matter of time. Daigo ended with a 4-1 overall record with a 13-6 record in games. His defensive playstyle was a switch from weeks prior. It ended up working out.

Wins over Hiroyuki “Eita” Ngata (2x), Bruce “Gamerbee” Yu-Lin Hsiang (Necali), and Darryl “Snake Eyez” S. Lewis (Akuma) pushed him into the playoffs. Unfortunately for him, PR Rog’s relentless Balrog gave him fits, but he gained valuable information in that matchup.

Next Round Matchups

Group A and B winners will face off starting with PR Balrog up against Victor “Punk” Woodley, and Daigo will meet with one of his longtime Japanese rivals in Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi. First off, I’m already gleaming over these opening match-ups. Punk is quickly building a legend I. Street fighter V and PR Balrog looks fantastic with Balrog.

However, Daigo vs. Momochi to open as an elimination match will be intense. Daigo will have basically a month to build more Guile experience and prepare for Momochi’s Ken.


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Fighting Game Invitationals vs. Open Tournaments: Can the two coexist?

Fighting game tournaments are evolving. As the scene moves out of the basement, a plethora of opportunities have been presented. The world discovered there’s a market and dedicated audience that not only loves the games themselves but follows each top players tournament performances.

Enter the new era of fighting games. An era where potentially new players would rather sit back and watch the best players than invest the time into becoming a strong player themselves. Welcome to the age of fighting games as a spectator sport.

Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/el

In the Joseph “Mango” Marquez Cloud9 Melee documentary, he mentioned the fact that the growth of Melee’s player base has stalled but that viewership has risen considerably in the last three years. Yes, the Melee renaissance brought in plenty of new players but it also exposed the scene to potential investors and showed that there’s money to be made here.

Consider this: five years ago a tournament like the Smash Summit would have been nearly inconceivable to the Melee or fighting game community. Today, it’s accepted as one of the premiere events and most of the audience could care less because the Summit puts on an entertaining show for fans.

A tournament with no open bracket has been accepted by a community founded and based on the ability for anyone to compete. It’s a dramatic switch in philosophy.

Open tournaments are what separate fighting games from other esport titles. The fact that any random fighting game player can enter a major tournament, face the world’s best players, lose, and still get that entire tournament feel is unique and special. Most players, at the end of the day, could care less about their record. It’s more about the culture and tournament atmosphere that keeps bringing people out.

However, invitationals are going to have a strong presence moving forward. The benefits are the fact that payouts are typically higher at these events ($250k ELEAGUE prize pool, $100k for Smash Summit) and top players themselves love the events. The viewers still tune in despite the lack of a real tournament feel. Numbers don’t exceed the Evo’s and Genesis tournaments but get enough attention to justify these events to the community.

Regardless of how players feel about invitationals, they still watch to see the best players play the best players. Investors see a studio product like ELEAGUE as the next step and a chance to profit off the fighting game community. The actual community is not prepared to move away from open tournaments as some top players have projected.

Photo courtesy of twitter.com/ThatMikeRossGuy

Despite what top players might say, open tournaments aren’t going anywhere. Without them, it’s no longer the fighting game COMMUNITY anymore. As invitationals become more prevalent, it should, in turn, strengthen open tournaments as well. It’s not a situation where we, as a community, have to decide between the two. Both can coexist and strengthen the other.

Finally, invitationals are the only viable way to present fighting games to a national audience. Of course, Turner decided to display 32 of the best players rather than invest in actual tournaments. Studio tournaments are the only possible way for these networks taking an interest in fighting games to control their product and squeeze as much profit out as possible. But this will help legitimize the scene as a whole and if the two can coexist, it can create a better future for all fighting game players.

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ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Kicks Off With Unexpected Results

photo courtesy of twitch.tv/eleague

Fighting games have gone full blown esports. The preliminary round of ELEAGUE’s inaugural Street Fighter V tournament kicked off today with a strong slue of players competing in Group A. The matches were broadcasted live at the Atlanta studio and officially started the new era of fighting game tournaments.

Furthermore, it was the fighting game community’s first look at a new type of tournament. One with commercial breaks and invitation only. The broadcast lasted six hours, and only a small percentage was actual gameplay. This is not a critique, it’s just the facts. The best of three made for quicker games, making the host fill long periods of dead air time.

Regardless, the production value was outstanding, and the games overall provided some entertaining Street Fighter. Any criticism is met with the fact that it was their first attempt at a fighting game broadcast. All things considered, they did a great job. The lack of normalcy from a fighting game tournament was lost, but the overall event was a success.

1. Victor “Punk” Woodley, 6-1, Advances to Semifinals
Punk’s recent success is no mistake. His Karin play has pushed the Meta-game. Based off of today’s results, he is a serious contender to take the ELEAGUE title. His 6-1 record was impressive, with his one loss coming to Infiltration’s Juri. No one could consistently deal with his unrelenting corner pressure.

2. Yusuke “Momochi” Momochi, 5-2, Advances to Semifinals
Momochi hasn’t been as effective lately, but today his Ken came to play. He had wins over Infiltration’s Rashid, Smug’s Balrog, and only fell to Punk and surprisingly Marn. Momochi dealt with plenty of game three, last round situations, so it wasn’t an easy road. He did qualify for semifinals with his win over Infiltration.

3. Bryant “Smug” Huggins, 5-2, Advances to quarterfinals
After a disappointing season one, Smug is back in season two with Balrog and hitting harder than anyone. His punish game coupled with Balrog’s damage output is a perfect fit. One mistake and Smug would essentially end the game with his corner carry and use of EX-hits to extend combos to end rounds. It felt like he was back playing Dudley and styling on players.

4. Thomas “Brolynho” Proença, 4-3, Advanced to quarterfinals
Possibly the surprise of the day was Brolynho finishing fourth in the group. He was placed in a win-or-go-home scenario, and ended up winning two clutch sets against Marn and Julio. His mix-ups and recognition of the situation with Necali was impressive. Despite tough losses to Momochi, Smug, and Punk, he had strong wins over Infiltration to finish third.

5. Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee, 4-3, Advances to quarterfinals
The second real look at season two Infiltration gave us two new characters and mixed results. He had answers for Ken with Rashid, but struggled with his new main in Juri in some situations. It’s a work in progress for Infiltration, and that showed with his 4-3 record. He’s still a player to keep an eye on heading into the next round.

6. Julio Fuentes, 2-5, advances to quarterfinals
Julio had a rough day. He was having difficulties in neutral with his Ken and couldn’t build late damage combos consistently. He did have times were he excelled with insane comebacks with V-trigger. His two wins came over Ricki Ortiz and the must-win 2-1 over Marn to advance. He’ll have to make adjustments if he wants to advance to the semifinals.

7. Martin “Marn” Phan, 2-5, eliminated

Marn. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/eleague

Marn was undoubtedly the most entertaining part of day one. Despite being eliminated, Marn’s antics provided plenty of hard laughs. His Ibuki play was no joke. However, it feels as if he’ll need more time with Ibuki before he has success. In most of his losses, he kept it extremely close and barely got edged out in a few sets. Hopefully we see the newly sponsored Marn at more events.

8. Ricki Ortiz, 0-7, eliminated
Tier list matters, and that’s proven by the second place finisher at Capcom Cup going 0-7 at ELEAGUE. Cammy got nerfed to the ground, and after a disappointing 33rd place finish at Final Round and going 0-7 today, Ricki is questioning her character choices.

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ELEAGUE Announces Street Fighter V League; Ushering Fighting Games into the Future

Street Fighter V is getting another major league, with the announcement that ELEAGUE is picking it up. The Turner owned league has recently had tremendous success with the Counter-Strike division, and will now move back into Street Fighter. It adds another $250k prize pool and could become the most important tournament, next to the Capcom Cup.

On March 27-30, 32 of the world’s best Street Fighter players will be invited to compete at the preliminary rounds. The top 16 players from last year’s Capcom Cup have already received an invitation, and the rest will be selected from Capcom (most likely based off Capcom points). From there, the top 24 will advance to the regular season, which will be broadcasted all the way through May on TBS and Twitch.

ELEAGUE will be the first time a network has committed to a long-term Street Fighter league. It’s an experiment to see if this type of structure can work within fighting games. It will undoubtedly expose the fighting game community to a market that has most likely never seen a fighting game tournament. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all upside for the Street Fighter V scene.

After the invitational has completed, the regular season will have four live broadcasts, with groups of six battling to make it into the playoffs. Each broadcast will be on Friday throughout April, with the playoffs starting on May 26th.

The future of fighting game tournaments

ELEAGUE’s interest is the first sign that the next wave of esports events is coming. Instead of a weekend long tournament, leagues similar to this one could be the next phase in fighting game development. EL’s focus on top players is the first step into a spectator dominated structure.

Now, as a player who regularly attends and competes at events, this is a little scary. There’s no question that ELEAGUE’s presence is good for the entire scene in terms of growth and legitimacy, but it takes the emphasis off grass-root events. Luckily, Capcom is still committed to tournament organizers through the Capcom Cup. This could be the start to more spectator focused events though.

The upside is exposure. More eyes on Street Fighter means more potential investors, player acquisitions, and better overall experiences. This will be the third time SFV has made it into a national stage. Fighting games are no longer apart of the niche market. Companies have noticed the growth and strength and have decided to invest in its future.

Regardless of your opinion on spectator events, ELEAGUE is good for players, fans, and the game itself. It’s the fighting game communities chance to reach an even wider audience and to keep building this into something great.

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Pokesports II competitive Pokemon logo

Pokésports II: Not Quite There, Not Farfetch’d

Segue, I Choose You

Last time we established the impressive growth of eSports along with the power of the Pokémon brand. This time we will cover what competitive Pokémon entails and how that translates into a successful eSports brand. Or does it?

Pokemon "Psyduck" holds heads in hands and shrugs.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pikachu, Team Rocket, and Ash’s inability to win anything of significance are common Pokémon themes. These themes however, have little in common with the world of Competitive Pokémon Battling. Trainers in the real world spend hours developing tricks and strategies using the hundreds of available Pokémon. Forming teams of six to compete in varying levels of Tournaments. From local Premier Challenges, to massive International Championships, Trainers battle each other for a chance to compete at the annual World Championship.

A Wild Pokémon Appears

Before a Trainer can even think about battling, they must decide which six Pokémon will be on their team. Teambuilding involves deciding stat spreads, natures, and abilities for each Pokémon along with the four attacks to be used in battle. This process is crucial to success as a Trainer. Once a match begins, the choices made during Teambuilding will effect the Trainers options in battle and can have a major impact on matchups.

Pokemon and Construction Workers gather together and grimace.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

While a critical part of competitive play, Teambuilding can also be long and tedious, involving countless in-game hours breeding Pokémon and practicing with different strategies. The tedious time investment Teambuilding requires is often cited as a major reason aspiring Trainers abandon Competitive Pokémon. Worst yet, Teambuilding provides no actual benefit to spectators since it all happens behind the scenes. In the end, many Trainers come away feeling the many hours spent breeding and leveling Pokémon is a needless time sink that prevents access to high level competitive play.

In all fairness, TPCI has slowly worked to make it easier to train competitive teams; slowly is the key word. Streamlining Teambuilding, or creating an independent system for tournament play is truly needed to help grow the competitive scene.

 

Double, What’s Doubles!?

Zebstrika smashes head into wall.

Image courtesy of Tumblr

While playing the games or watching the anime, you might think Pokémon battles were one on one matches. You would be wrong. All officially sanctioned Pokémon matches are in the Doubles format. A Trainer brings a team of six Pokémon and picks four at the start of each match. Each Trainer then sends two Pokémon at a time on to the field. For many fans this is a major shock compared to what they know and love from the series.

While this disconnect from the traditional series can be startling, it is not without it’s benefits. Double Battles provide a fast-paced style of gameplay compared to Singles matches. Many new strategies also become viable when there are two Pokémon on the field together. These factors help keep matches fresh and moving swiftly. Working to build awareness of just what Doubles is could help build fan acceptance through further ingraining them into the soul of the brand.

Another interesting change that could take place in competitive Doubles is the introduction of two Trainer teams. As it stands now, one Trainer controls both Pokémon on their side of the field. If, however, TPCI incorporated teams of two Trainers, each controlling their own Pokémon, we could see some new and interesting dynamics appear.

 

See You at VGC

Play Pokemon banner

Image courtesy of Play Pokemon

TPCI sanctioned Pokémon tournaments are referred to collectively as VGC. Given Pokémon’s place as a global brand, it is a surprise how few people are actually aware VGC exists. During the VGC season, Trainers collect points at Premier Challenges, Midseason Showdowns, Regional Championships, and International Championships. Collect 400 of these points by the end of the season and you will be invited to compete at the World Championship. The tournament structure is rather straightforward, but not without its flaws.

Tournaments can be plagued with poor organization and rule enforcement. Matches involve two Trainers sitting on either side of a table in front of their respective 3DS’s with a judge off to one side. Gameplay is then streamed from one of the Trainers so that spectators can join in on the action. As you can imagine, many of these things do not make for exciting television. Revamping how Pokémon tournaments work and what they have to offer is an absolute must. Especially considering the most successful sport in the world, the NFL, makes the majority of its revenue through TV and TV related contracts.

Team Rocket's James being showered in Gold Coins

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Worst yet is what is at stake for each Trainer. The prize money awarded at the end of each tournament is a sad fraction of what it should be. In an effort to grow the competitive side of the Pokémon franchise, wealth needs to be shared with Professional Trainers. If TPCI showed the willingness to invest into its own competitive scene, sponsors would react in kind. Regardless, $5,000 and $10,000 first place prizes for major international tournaments is really a shame. You can do better TPCI.

 

What You See is What You Get

Viewership, it all boils down to viewership. Sports and eSports live and die by the viewership numbers they bring in. This is a place where Pokémon has a built in advantage. Its exposure around the world and ability to resonate with all age ranges is a huge boon as an aspiring eSport. Combine that with Pokémon’s ability to merchandise means some serious revenue potential.

While Pokémon is not lacking fans, viewership is one of the weaker aspects of the competitive Pokémon scene. There is only one thing responsible for the lack of competitive viewership, get ready for it. Competitive Pokémon is boring to watch. That’s right, I love you TPCI but this is the major hurdle that stands between the niche that competitive Pokémon maintains, and the runaway success it could be. That is not to say boring matches can’t be fixed.

Changes to the way matches work, such as two Trainer teams and shorter turn timers, could serve to alter match dynamics. Ultimately though, new approaches to broadcasting the matches are needed most. Being a Turn-based Strategy Game at its core, creative methods for animating action between turns and capturing that with exciting camera angles and transitions would serve to keep momentum building throughout matches. Add on exciting commentary to complete the package.

Pokemon battle in an arena between Bisharp and Emboar.

Image courtesy of Bulbagarden

Ultimately TPCI should work to make watching a Pokémon match more like sitting in an arena and watching powerful monsters battle, and less like watching two Trainers take turns picking what to do from one trainers perspective. If a dynamic, and exciting broadcast of exciting Pokémon matches can be achieved, fans will watch. The rest will be history.

 

Wrap It Up Will You

A massive fanbase and established competitive scene puts Pokémon in a great position as a potential eSport. The ability to attract young new fans, as well as merchandise, invites lucrative sponsorship potential. With these things in mind, TPCI must make some changes.

Making these changes could lead to a formula of success only seen in the traditional sports world though. Capitalize on this, TPCI, and you could redefine sports for generations.

Until next time Trainers.

 

Missed the first issue? Check it out! Pokesports: Power of a Brand and One Fans Plea

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Gary Oak driving away.

Image courtesy of Game Freak