Marvel vs Capcom may not be at Evo 2018 for the first time in 20 years
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite isn’t seeing as positive a reception as Capcom would like to see. While it’s one of the most solidly designed fighting games of 2017, its release was saturated with controversy and scandal. Fans did not take the omission of X-Men and Fantastic Four characters well. This was seen as a marketing plan to push the headlining characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and devalue other franchises, franchises that many fans consider an important parts of VS series history. Its advertised single-player content was far less robust than first imagined, the graphics were mediocre at best, and its soundtrack replaced iconic character themes with bland orchestral remixes of themes from the MCU.
All of this added up to a game that was fun to play but hard to sell to a casual audience. Unfortunately, it’s the casual audience that supports any e-sport and MVCI’s professional scene is feeling the effects of the rocky launch. It’s first major tournament, Battle for the Stones, saw its finale this past weekend and it wasn’t what any fan of the game, or fighting games in general, would have expected. The venue was sparsely filled, empty seats lining the stands. Twitch turnout wasn’t much better. About 5,000 viewers turned in on average for the entire event. The grand finals peaked at 16,000 viewers, which is absolutely nothing compared to the near five million viewers that tuned in for games like Street Fighter V at EVO this year.
Granted, the Battle for the Stones was no normal tournament. It had a number of rules surrounding “Infinity Stones” that allowed you to screw with your competitors in ways, like changing their controls or choosing their characters for them. It was also held mere days after a major balance patch, and it wasn’t clear whether or not the patch would be used until shortly before the tournament. Nevertheless, it was an official Capcom sponsored tournament and, for all intents and purposes, it flopped.
This has lead fighting game fans everywhere to ask a terrifying question: “Is Marvel Dead?”
Capcom is hoping that the release of MVCI’s DLC characters will bring players back into the fold. A season two featuring familiar faces like Wolverine and Magneto might go even further to reinvigorate the game. However, MVCI is facing some tough competition in the coming year with Dragon Ball FighterZ, Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, and the recently announced Soul Calibur VI.
Prominent figures in e-sports are more skeptical. EVO tournament organizer Joey "Mr. Wizard" Cuellar posted a Twitter poll asking whether or not MVCI is a dead game. Aside from the poor turnout at Battle for the Stones, he cited the game’s poor sales and sparse online community as further reasons to abandon the game. At time of writing, over 13,000 votes have been cast, with 59% believing the game is dead and 41% believing it’s salvageable.
Blowup Tuesday! Is Marvel dead? There was no reveal at Capcom Cup. Only 5K viewers on Twitch. Poor sales. Only 350 people online max. Chime in now!
— Joey Cuellar (@MrWiz) December 12, 2017
Why is this one twitter poll important? Because it may point toward a massive change in EVO’s game lineup. Headlining games are usually announced sometime in January, meaning decision time is coming up soon. Seeing MVCI’s poor performance in the e-sports world and the results of this subsequent poll may result in MVCI being omitted from EVO 2018’s schedule.
If that happened, it would be huge. EVO has had a VS series game on its lineup since 2000, before the tournament was even called EVO. It had always taken a headlining slot, even in the awkward years between major VS releases. Its inclusion was a testament to the dominance of Capcom in the fighting game genre.
And if it doesn’t get into the main lineup? Well the obvious question would be “what takes its place?”
In the past, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has performed better than MVCI so it’s entirely possible that players will continue to play an older version of the game. This is exactly what happens in the Smash community, as many pros prefer Melee to any current Smash release.
Capcom could release an “ultimate” version of MVCI. This might bring more gamers in than the vanilla release did, however if this happens it likely wouldn’t be ready in time for EVO 2018.
Dragon Ball FighterZ is the obvious replacement, sporting three on three battles much like earlier games in the VS. Series. However, DBFZ is a Bandai Namco game. With Tekken 7 and Soul Calibur VI on the market, it’s possible that Bandai Namco could unseat Capcom as the king of fighting games.
Perhaps a less trivial question to ask is “what does this mean for fighting game e-sports?” Fighting games have always been a smaller scene than most other genres in e-sports. They were practically held up by the immense magnetic force of Capcom’s headlining games. If you were a fighting game aficionado, you likely played either a Street Fighter title or a VS title. Some fighting game fans have become worried that the lack of a current gen VS title in the spotlight might splinter the fighting game community. A splintered community cannot draw numbers for e-sports events. Low numbers mean a failing scene and a failing scene means a grim future for fighting game e-sports.
But it’s useless to doomsay right now. Capcom’s plans for MVCI’s future are uncertain, and even if MVCI is a “dead game”, it may see at least one year as an EVO headliner, simply because of its associations with Street Fighter V. However, if MVCI does die, then it will leave quite the power vacuum in the fighting game community. Who will fill that vacuum? We will just have to wait and see.