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5 Takeaways From EVO 2019 Entrant Numbers

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The grandest FGC tournament EVO is upon us, and with the event being so close, one can practically feel the hype building up in the air. This euphoria reached its peak on July 14th, when Mr. Wizard dropped the final entrant numbers. After months of entrant leaderboard tweets (such as) left the streets to fill in the blanks in terms of numbers, people were elated to see the specifics. What can these numbers tell us about the current state of fighting games and the FGC as a whole? The entrant numbers and statistics for EVO would naturally provide a good metric of the scene’s health, right? The answer, surprisingly enough, is quite a lot.

1. The community's shared perception of a game has a sizeable influence on tournament numbers.


In our modern world of Twitlongers and hot takes, it can become a challenge to find positivity on fighting game Twitter. There are usually more factors to consider, but community negativity and pessimism naturally leads to a lower amount of people being excited to play a game. This context makes cases like Tekken 7 and Under Night In-Birth all the more impressive.

While it might surprise some, the biggest storylines of this EVO have everything to do with these two communities. First there’s the game that won’t stop gaining traction, Tekken 7. T7 has the honor of being the only recurring EVO title within the past few years to gain entrants every EVO. Going from 458 entrants in its first year in 2015 to being the third most entered game at 1,885 entrants, Tekken has been on a massive upswing. With all the hype moments at CEO and a ridiculous top eight at Combo Breaker, it’s unlikely that said swing will come down anytime soon. At this point, negativity about the game hardly exists, as fans always seem interested in watching or playing some of that “Good Ass Tekken.

Then we have Under Night, the little fighting game that could. Ever since Under Night’s arcade release in 2012, French Bread has been hard at work improving the game. Thanks to these improvements in subsequent releases, as well as community passion, UNIST has finally dug its way out of the poverty game corner. Nowadays, the game is at the forefront of the FGC alongside it’s larger contemporaries. This growth that the UNIST community felt is quite the noteworthy accomplishment. There was no major financial backing from the developers or any big name sponsors. All the community had was a game that they loved and extremely positive word of mouth, which is ultimately what led to rising interest in the game and the main stage spot at EVO.

With how much love people are showing for Tekken 7 and UNIST, it makes those out of the loop feel like they're really missing out. These two games serve as a reminder that a community riding for their game is just as important as the developers making a good product. Remember that before you tweet about Hero being broken for the seventh time this week.

2. New game boost is very real.


For those who aren’t familiar with fighting games and their tournaments, one might see all the declining EVO numbers and assume that there are a lot of dying games at EVO. Dragon Ball FighterZ entrants dipped by more than fifty percent; must mean that the game is a zombie right? The real explanation is simple. Many first year tournament numbers are inflated due to hype and people trying to decide if they’ll stick with the game or not, sinking to more stable numbers soon after. This is why all the games that came out this year (Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Mortal Kombat 11, and Samurai Shodown) got insane, record breaking numbers for their respective franchises. This is a constant among the majority of games that are introduced to the EVO lineup and make a return the next year. It can be a bummer knowing that most fighting games are destined to slowly lose attention until they’re eventually relegated to side tournament hell next to the one Project M setup and the Melty Blood finals happening on some dude’s laptop.

These numbers serve as a reminder: A game is only truly dead if you have no one to play with; most communities are safe for a good while. For those wanting to play obscure games, I’m in 2 Discord servers with people who play Sonic the Fighters, so anything is possible. No amount of lost attention can take away from the impact a game had. Games like Street Fighter V and Dragon Ball FighterZ may be dwindling, but that doesn’t take away from Street Fighter having arguably the best ran circuit in fighting games and the insane unification the FGC achieved with FighterZ.

3. Outsider perception is an important factor when it comes to finding side games.


Alongside the numbers, SRK Stats went ahead and released a bunch of data on the EVO entrant numbers. Out of these, it's the game crossover statistics that interest me the most. These statics show unique entrants and crossover between players of different games. To start, there’s the more than thirty percent of BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle players who also entered Under Night In Birth. Since BBTag is a crossover that includes Under Night characters, it makes sense. Next, there’s the time honored tradition of Smash players not playing other fighting games, with 65 percent of them choosing to only enter Smash. I’d chalk it down to cultural differences between Smash and the rest of the FGC, but to me, this trend remains equal parts impressive and saddening.


What immediately jumps out when looking at these stats is Samurai Shodown’s crazy crossover numbers. Out of the 1,726 people entered for the game, only 285 of them aren’t competing in anything else. That’s a good 83 percent crossover rate, which is higher than the other games by a pretty sizeable amount. Currently it’s the exact opposite of Smash Ultimate. While Smash attracts a lot of dedicated folks who just play Smash, Samurai Shodown seems like a popular choice for people looking for a game to play on the side. This makes considering how critics and people outside of the FGC perceive the game. What most people see when looking at Sam Sho is a simple, easy to hop in game for people already invested in fighting games with a low skill floor and minimal tech. I’m sure my Sam Sho players in the audience are aware of the intricacies that this game hides under the hood, but most people see the game as simple, both average players and notable figures in the FGC alike. This first impression is great for getting people to try out the game, but this same mentality could hinder the game in the future; I can see this problem arising with Granblue Fantasy Versus when that comes out. For now, Samurai Shodown fans have a great EVO to look forward to.

4. Developer support has a big impact on playerbase health.


In this era of balance/content updates and Esports tours (ran to varying standards), it’s seen as not enough to just release a fighting game now. These days, fighting games are expected to be updated constantly and have decent pot bonuses (for better and for worse). The impact of having and not having this support can be seen on both the top and bottom of the lists. Street Fighter 5 and Tekken 7 both have thriving tours and developers who at least try to communicate with their playerbases. Even Smash Ultimate, as controversial as some balance changes can be, is updated frequently. Smash Ultimate even has its own tour in a sense with the PGR. Finally, the two outliers of this game lineup, BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and Soul Calibur 6. Many people were rather dismissive towards these games for being the only two on the list to not crack a thousand entrants, calling them dead or typing a hearty “rip soul calibur/bbtag”. In context, these numbers make a lot of sense. Aside from Soul Calibur not being the 3d fighter of choice for most people, Soul Calibur lacks an official tour. There is the Soul Calibur Asia League ran by Beast, but it’s not official. A lack of opportunities is definitely a factor contributing to the game’s smaller community. BBTag presents a different type of unfortunate case. Any Cross Tag player can tell vivid horror stories of the great update drought. Naturally an 8 month gap between major updates of a game causes players to lose interest. This effect was amplified when patch notes for the update were revealed in February, while the update itself didn’t come out until May. To add insult to injury, there was some jank, namely dp assist that was left unaddressed until that update. Those of us who survived the drought are pretty cool with the game nowadays, but the damage was already done and a lot of the playerbase moved to greener pastures.

5. The FGC is in a great place right now.


If there’s one thing that can be taken away from all these numbers and statistics, the FGC is in a good spot. Pessimism is easy to form when seeing numbers that don’t shatter every single record in existence. In regards to these EVO numbers, I’ve heard everything from “Mortal Kombat 11 lost to Samurai Shodown, LOL” to people actually being disappointed that Under Night In-Birth, a game that the community is carrying on it’s back fell short of surpassing numbers for Dragon Ball FighterZ, one of the most successful fighting games ever. When taking a step back and looking at these numbers in context, it paints the image of a slow but steady rise to global recognition for the FGC. With things like Mortal Kombat’s numbers being more than four times higher than the last NRS tournament at EVO, Injustice 2, it’s abundantly clear which one is doing better. You have Blazblue Cross Tag having literally the biggest numbers for a last place game in EVO history and the Soul Calibur and Smash communities getting their biggest tournaments. Total unique entrants are now up to 9215 from last year’s 7680. With the peaks getting higher every year, the FGC is destined for continued growth and success. After all, a community that evolves every year could never stagnate.

Author’s Note: Whether you’re going to EVO or watching from home, have a good time and enjoy some fighting games.
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There's so much to take in from this whole article, but the biggest takeaway (to me) is definitely a lot of these games garnering momentum. Under-Night having 1k players is insane given the little support the game's had, and it's nice to see platform fighters and 3D fighters both taken more seriously
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