Traditional sports are simple. They may change a bit and get new rules every now and then, but they’re never in fear of being replaced. There will never be a “Baseball 2” that replaces the current baseball community. However, esports exist in a different bubble in this regard. Unlike traditional sports, we constantly see new esports replace older ones through the likes of sequels. Unlike sports themselves, video games often get sequels that improve upon the mechanics established in previous games. The fighting game genre is brimming with examples of sequels essentially replacing the competitive communities of previous games.
You’d have a difficult time finding mainstream coverage or a large competitive following for Street Fighter II (SF II) in 2017, since Street Fighter V (SF V)’s competitive community currently gets more attention Street Fighter II, being the newer game. But does that make SF II irrelevant and unimportant in esports history? To put the question in perspective, if Blizzard released Overwatch 2 in a few years, would the current competitive community of Overwatch stay dedicated to the original game, or abandon it and move over to the sequel? If people did move over to the sequel, would the original Overwatch’s legacy stay intact, or would it just be considered irrelevant?
Can a sequel to a game that’s an esport essentially make the previous game’s legacy as an esport irrelevant? Let’s explore this idea, particularly looking at the overall fighting game community as an example.
The example of Street Fighter V now having replaced Street Fighter II’s competitive community is perhaps more common than many people realize. The entire fighting game genre is full of great examples of sequels replacing previous entries in respective series. Let’s take the Tekken series as an example. Ever since the original game, Tekken has always been a series that encouraged improvement and rewarded high-level play. Each game attempted to improve and evolve the fighting mechanics of the series. Each installment of Tekken incorporated advancements in gameplay. These improvements provide a greater, more competitive experience for both the casual player and competitive community.
Now, we see the latest installment in the series, Tekken 7, played at tournaments. The game appeared earlier this year at EVO 2017 and will be at EVO Japan in January 2018. This is great for Tekken 7 as a game on its own, but concerning when looking at the Tekken series as a whole. Although Tekken 7 is played at such large events, none of the previous games in the series are played at the event, despite previous Tekken games garnering competitive communities of their own. Are those communities just…gone? Are they irrelevant just because the series continued to get sequels?
At large fighting game events such as EVO, we rarely see older games being represented. On one hand, we can look at these events from a business perspective. Many of these events are made possible through sponsorships. For many companies like Capcom, Nintendo and Bandai Namco, it makes more business sense to sponsor an event that is featuring a newer game being played. This makes more business sense since it can convince viewers to buy the game being played at the event. This is easier to achieve if the game being played is recently released and/or on a system that is currently available on the market.
On the other hand, older games get the short end of the stick. If older competitive games get replaced by newer competitive games, is the older game still viable for competitive play?
The Exception to the Rule
Only one game immediately comes to mind when thinking about an older competitive game that has lasted throughout the years, despite multiple sequels coming out. To say that Super Smash Bros. Melee has a dedicated following would be a gross understatement. Despite the game having been released in 2001 and followed by sequels, Melee is still played in many competitive events such as EVO to this day. Why is this? What makes Melee different from, say, Tekken 4?
The biggest reason of Melee’s survival throughout the years is, simply put, its community. Melee is so different from any other Smash game, with its specific physics and exploits making it feel completely different from other entries in the series. Brawl (and all the mods that came out of it) and Smash 4 have released and garnered their own competitive communities. Despite this, Melee’s community has still remained loyal. If anything, Melee’s competitive community has only become more prominent throughout the years thanks to the game being consistently played at EVO every year.
Melee still managed to attain its loyal community despite sequels having come out. Despite Melee staying alive, the original Smash Bros., Project M (the most prominent mod of Brawl) and Smash 4 still have sizable communities in their own right. All games in the series have competitive communities that coexist with one another.
Super Smash Bros. isn’t the only series that sees its competitive communities coexisting alongside each other. However, I find it to be a great example of how multiple esports within the same series can be represented. There are still communities for older competitive games. But we don’t see those older communities represented at large events. At least, not very often. This can change if we start seeing events feature older games. Then, we could begin to see competitive communities of older games get more coverage and gain more appreciation.
Are Sequels good for esports?
In general, I think video game sequels are great. They provide opportunities to improve upon mechanics that were established in previous games. Even if games happen to become an esport, I think any game can be potentially be improved upon through a sequel.
In regards to sequels potentially replacing the competitive community of the original game, that’s where things get tricky. I think it’s valid for people to worry that competitive communities for certain games may become barren if a sequel comes out for that game. But I think we need to think of ways to highlight and represent older games at larger events, to appreciate how that game gathered a competitive community of its own.
Sequels to esports have both good and bad aspects to them. However, I think giving attention to both newer and older competitive communities is what’s truly important in this discussion. Ultimately, though, I would say that sequels are good for esports. Sequels to esports ultimately give us more esports to watch and engage with. While I do think that there are negative aspects as to what sequels can do to competitive communities, esports simply wouldn’t grow without them.
A good number of the esports out there are sequels. Clearly, sequels are important for esports. But I just want to make sure that we never forget where those sequels came from. We can’t forget about the legacies of older competitive games. Sequels let us both remember the legacies of older games, in addition to creating a new legacy in and of themselves.
Featured Image courtesy of Shoryuken.
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