Fighting games are probably one of the genres I ended up investing a lot of time in during high school and college. I thought that maybe I could have a bit more time to try to practice my combos and matchups again when the world decided to lock up, but that turned out not to be quite the case. In fact, it doesn’t feel like anyone is really playing the genre lately, so I tried to think about why that is as well as ask a few people here and there what they thought, here’s the breakdown.
First of all, the game is designed to be a couch game. So in a world where sitting next to someone can be considered a criminal offense in some places, having friends over to have a few sets is just not going to happen. So online play is the next option, right? Well, ideally, yes but as usual the reality is a bit more complicated than that. Connecting to others in games, with the internet congested as it is, can be tricky. Personally it becomes much more complicated as my connection seems to have trouble with PSN, and I keep all my fighting games on console. While other games have workarounds on spotty connections, there’s no getting around it in fighting games where even a few frames of delay can massively affect how the game plays out.
Ideally, this game is meant to be played with your opponent either next to you or across you, maybe just a meter or so away. Which isn’t possible with the current standard running within our society today. And the online experience as I mentioned before is already quite troubling, whether it be laggy matches, rage quitters or outright inability to find a match, they turn what was ideally supposed to be a time for recreation a source of further stress. Even me who can be all about anime fighters at the drop of a hat, hasn’t picked up Guilty Gear or Granblue Versus since March.
Even before the world had gated itself to the outside world, I had already been getting most of my fighting game enjoyment from watching high-level play. Thanks to 2020 basically the year that any offline event is out the window, and that includes tournaments for fighting games. And unfortunately a lot of what makes the fighting game revolves around personal interactions and in-your-face action. I tried watching an online tournament recently and I really just didn’t enjoy it, people were clearly suffering from latency issues, including the commentary. The feel of spontaneity is out the window and the energy is sapped away because it couldn’t build up thanks to the lack of people around in the first place.
Lately I’ve found alternatives that have filled the gaming-sized hole in my heart. That would include single player games, MMOs like Final Fantasy 14, and recently, V-Tubers. But of course it doesn’t replace fighting games. ‘When am I going to have or see a great match again?’ wanders into my mind once in a while. If this continues on for much longer, will the genre be the next one on the chopping block?
Well, perhaps there’s a bit of hope, as companies and communities are trying to put something together to make fighters viable as entertainment even if you have to rely entirely on online means.
Firstly, Tekken and Granblue Fantasy Versus have recently announced major content updates in the near future, which can refresh the interest in the game for its fans. Then, while it’s not going to be around for some time, it was announced that Guilty Gear Strive would be adapting rollback netcode, a framework that the international community believes will vastly improve the online experience.
Generally, this appears to be a year where Fighting Games may be in a struggle to survive, even if events and such go back to normal next year. The drop in interest into it may make it difficult for crowds to regain interest in them once again, as if it wasn’t already difficult enough to begin with. Whether or not the current measures will be enough to tide things over for the scene remains to be seen, however as long as the latency issue isn’t addressed, sustaining the audience’s interest in fighters will probably be impossible.