The history of fighting games
For the last few years, fighting games have been overshadowed by the tournaments with huge prize-pools, loud doping scandals and unbelievable announcements of cyber athletes that regularly shake eSports community. Anyway, they have played a key role in the creation of eSports and are definitely worth appreciating.
It is true that many people associate eSports with such disciplines as CS:GO, Dota 2, League of Legends, StarCraft and Heroes of the Storm only. These games certainly are on top of their popularity: the prize-pool of the main Dota 2 tournament, for instance, becomes bigger year after year, and has already reached 18 million dollar mark, while the final of LoL world championship gathers tens of millions of viewers. Not to mention the StarCraft players who are considered idols among South Korean teenagers. The good old fighting games pale in comparison with such breathtaking figures.
A row of slot machines
Nevertheless, the situation looked completely different 30 years ago. Back in 80s, when the Internet and computers were quite rare, the PC-gaming cult only started to emerge. Such products as ZX Spectrum Commodore 64 and others, not that good for gaming, were introduced on the market. Meanwhile, the slot machines gained huge popularity and could be found almost everywhere in bigger cities. Then, everything started to change. The USA and Japanese slots featured such games as Data East and Yie Ar Kung-Fu, which opened the history of fighting games.
Famous Street Fighter II
The true fighting games boom occurred a bit later, after Capcom’s Street Fighter II release in 1991. It included all mechanical aspects of a good fighting game, so its incredible popularity in Japan and, eventually, the entire world came as no surprise. It is difficult to guess how many slot machines were broken because of irritated players and their heated fights, but they surely became the foundation for the modern eSports. The first amateur tournaments among game’s fans were conducted shortly after its release. Mostly, they were held in Japan and USA, the countries with the best developed fighting game production. And even though applause and the title of the champions often were the only two prizes for the winners of such tournaments, they have gathered hundreds of players from different parts of the country who wanted to prove themselves. Such local competitions caused the formation of the first rules and principles of competitive eSports. After the invention of the first home consoles, fighting games successfully moved there. However, the network system wasn’t stable at that time, so all tournaments were conducted offline, in a certain place, and the winner was determined after the series of fights.
Street Fighter 4: the graphics have been improved considerably
As times went by, companies started launching new projects and games, and different tournaments were gaining more and more popularity. In the late 90s, Blizzard blew the eSports world up with their StarCraft, whereas Valve presented Half-Life, the game that soon has seen the release of its first Counter-Strike mode. Slot machines in CIS and Europe were not as popular as the overseas ones and, finally, it became clear that PC-games were the only type of games that could change the future. In fact, 2000 was the year when the era of the slot machines ended, as almost everybody has received the access to computers and consoles, and the Internet was evolving at an increasing pace. Only American and Japanese players remained loyal to the genre and continued fighting using new consoles. Nevertheless, fighting games gradually disappeared from eSports. Quake III Arena and StarCraft: Brood War were the most played games at World Cyber Games of those years.
It is difficult to imagine a good fight without bloodshed
In 2003, the genre received a second chance.
Tougeki — Super Battle Opera 2012
Nowadays, fighting games are experiencing hard times, as the popularity of all tournaments, except for the Japanese ones, is gradually falling, and their organizers can do nothing to stop it. Developers traditionally do not support such projects, while an increasing number of the console users choose the games like Call of Duty instead. Sponsoring companies are not ready to help either, as the console users, compared to PC-gamers, do not need things like mouses or headphones, and their game consoles are sold with gamepads initially. So, this industry is very inflexible in terms of profit and sponsor support. Fighting games will unlikely disappear as a discipline, but it is more than possible that they will be interesting only for the most dedicated of their fans in a few years.
The tournaments are conducted both indoors and outdoors
Thus, fighting games have a very bright past and, probably, dark and unpredictable future. As for now, this genre step by step fades out. Considering that virtual fights were the first eSports competition between two players, not against the machine, it seems quite depressing. The situation looks similar to what has happened to StarCraft in South Korea: all around the world, the players of fighting games are slowly disappearing, whereas those who are still playing come mostly from one country — Japan.