Friday, April 24, 2009

WCG Fighter Club in the US : A Microcosm Which Tells You Which Game Players Want To Play Competitively

Just going around online and made an interesting observation on this site here:
http://qualify.us.wcg.com/fighterclub

The number of competitors which signed up is freely viewable via each game's "COMPETITORS" link. In summary:

Virtua Fighter 5

Active Players: 64
Waiting Players: 13
Total Players: 77

Dead or Alive 4

Active Players: 64
Waiting Players: 20
Total Players: 84

Soulcalibur IV

Active Players: 80
Waiting Players: 21
Total Players: 101

Street Fighter IV

Active Players: 186
Waiting Players: 65
Total Players: 251

Clearly, when someone on the WCG committee picked Virtua Fighter 5 over Street Fighter IV or Soulcalibur IV, they dropped the ball, BIG TIME. Because if the WCG cares about getting sponsors, who are interested in seeing huge crowds watching competitive games, it's clear from those numbers that they picked the WRONG FIGHTING GAME for this year. Again, I've got nothing but respect for VF5 and it's technical fighting system, but there's no doubt that it just can't hold a candle to Street Fighter when it comes to sheer name recognition or even familiarity among gamers.

Does the WCG want hundreds of people to join their competitions? Street Fighter IV would have been the game that would have drawn CROWDS. This game series has a 20 year legacy, and over that time, so many games and spin-offs have been released by Capcom on arcades and various consoles throughout several console generations, it's just impossible for any gamer to not know what the hell Street Fighter is. It's been around far longer than Starcraft has ever been. I read an argument somewhere that, it's thanks to Street Fighter that competitive gaming even exists. Having some idea about the history of gaming, I know that there's some truth to that statement. It pre-dates other competitive games like Doom's Deathmatch play (which inevitably led to Counterstrike), or even the real-time strategic play of the original Warcraft.

Marketing an event around Street Fighter, given enough sponsorship and real effort, would be far, far easier than selling Virtua Fighter 5.

But it's just too late for that now. Gamers are fickle, and next year it could be TEKKEN 6 that will be the hot item among console gamers. Not picking Street Fighter IV for the WCG Grand Final this year is just a mistake that can't be undone anymore. A wasted opportunity at getting more eyeballs at those big WCG events worldwide. Will this opportunity be there again next year? The answer is---we can't say. But we do know that the best time to have put in Street Fighter IV is THIS YEAR. Not any other.

Of course, these numbers are but a microcosm of the entire worldwide gaming community that plays fighting games....but I'd like to think it's a pretty good indication of what gamers want, isn't it? To be fair, this is the United States that we're talking about, where gaming is regarded with some degree of respect compared to how it is in other nations, where occasionally gamers are just seen as those lazy people who just stare and sit in front of the TV all day, pushing buttons.

Arguably, perhaps only 10% of the given numbers I've posted would have attended a WCG fighting game event in other countries. For other countries, especially like mine where console gaming isn't officially supported, that'd be a miracle already. I saw 9 guys attend the Philippines' WCG VF tourney last year. Seeing 25 people at a local Street Fighter competition would be incredible compared to that.

On a final note, if there were some legal impediment to having had Street Fighter IV be at WCG this year, they could have at least picked Soulcalibur IV. It's clearly popular among many gamers and continues to be so....so what was the whole point of that poll they ran on the WCG website a few months ago? In the end, what gamers want doesn't really mean much, apparently.

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