Introduced in 2003, Tougeki -Super Battle Opera- was considered as the one of the most prestigious tournaments for fighting games. Its most recent entries though faced unusual changes and controversies that was able to sway various folks, big and small, in the international scene into distrust. Folks were also making conclusions that due to financial troubles involving Tougeki, it might not return for its 11th entry.
The 2012 edition of SBO seems to continue the streak of anomalies that makes the folks loathe the series. This won't be about pure love or hate though, but looking at the various aspects in detail and how well they were executed.
The stream details were introduced just a couple of days before the event began which could have been a turn off for folks. If they were able to announce it earlier, even a week early could have been tolerable, people could be able to save a bit of their disposable income for the event instead of feeling pressured just days before.
Tougeki this year, much like every other year that had a stream, was primarily a pay per view event through the Japanese video network NicoNico Douga. While NicoNico has an English branch, the service there isn't fully integrated to have even a quarter of the streams available in the Japanese site. During Tougeki time, there was more or less two live streams on English NicoNico while Japan is booming. Having folks deal with the lost in translation situation in paying for Tougeki is bad. Fortunately if you can find the event page, there are context clues that makes the purchasing process convenient. You just need a regular Visa card and you are set.
I still didn't forget about the price of the event. Single day passes were at 1,500 Yen (~$19) while the full package is at 2,500 Yen (~$31). Having people go through pages full of Japanese and having the stream details announced days before the event is inconvenient enough. Both packages are a bit too high and it could have got a lot more people interested if they deducted the prices including the full package to a reasonable $20. People want free streams though, which was initially believed the Tougeki this year was supposed to be, but what can you do when Tougeki is a commercial event owned by media organization Enterbrain? In a way, it's understandable that they want to make a profit out of it but making it affordable would be a good idea.
I was able to save a couple of bucks for the event but due to my bank's weak online service not updating as intended, I wasn't able to pay for NicoNico points I could have used for Tougeki. Fortunately I was able to watch thanks to a friend who provided a private restream. Even if it was a restream, watching the event was awesome and barely had any issues. Previous years had the problem of having inconsistent stream choices including streaming one game over another and interviews interrupting matches. Fortunately, they let things like interviews happen on the free secondary stream (which also had some other game showcases including Jojo's Bizzare Adventure HD, a Touhou fighter tournament and even showing off Under Night In Birth) while the main games are shown on the main stream.
They should step up on production values though. While the cool smoke effects and multi cameras are good, it's when people see the gameplay is lackluster. Compared to streams all over the world who do a lot with making interesting stream designs, Tougeki was minimal with little to no indication of who is who unless they have a ranking card for said game. I am guessing their stream and capture setups are pretty high grade but they should make full use of it.
GAME SUMMER FESTIVAL
A majority of Tougeki's lifetime was at Tokyo's Differ Ariake Arena. Not only it can house events such as Tougeki and even music events, the indoor venue is more known for holding wrestling and martial arts. It makes sense to have Tougeki there when the finals have that wrestling feel of sorts. In 2009, Tougeki moved to Tokyo Dome City Hall that's also known for music and fighting events. From 2010-2011, the series became part of tha Tokyo Game Show family where people can check out both fighting and non-fighting games in one simple event.
2012 also marked a change as owners Enterbrain put Tougeki along with many others in an umbrella event called Game Summer Festival. Initially, I thought it was an indoor event similar to that of the Chou Tougeki qualifiers that was also part of a bigger event. Then I found that the festival was going to be outdoors in Narita, 2 hours away from Tokyo. Kayane in her disheartened blog post regarding Tougeki this year detailed things such as wait time, multiple transportations and overall costs. Not only her, apparently some of the other Soulcalibur V players were not interested in coming back. My guess is that they mean they won't go in the style of Game Summer Fest if transportation will be like this next year.
Adding to the price of transportation is also trying to get into the venue. Priced at around $45 for a single day and around $90 for the full two days, people not only have access to watch Tougeki but also the rest of Game Summer Festival. Events in the fest included live music, score runs of various shoot em ups and even seeing some side fighting game events. While on paper, the fest seemed like a neat idea but transportation and entry fees were probably the deal breakers. Maybe if it was cheaper, more people might have want to attend. Some of the events there looked decently packed though. I wish I would have said the same for the Tougeki end to a certain degree.
On stream, the place looked mostly empty. I was guessing players who didn't qualify or don't care for the other games enough just didn't go. There was a lot of folks in Differ Ariake and Tokyo Dome City Hall. There was a seemingly large amount of folks when it was at Tokyo Game Show as well. This year was definitely less. Seats were not filling up during qualifiers even if there is a boost during finals time. The stream made it seem less lively due to the camera angles showing the stage while some photos of the place had more people on the right side of the area so they could see the large screen displays. Still it seems the attendance was underwhelming when compared to its previous entries.
Nature was in conflict against Game Summer Fest and they won. This was at summer time Japan with high temperatures. Also the sun was hitting everyone and nobody wants to be annoyed from direct sunlight. With the sun being crystal clear in the hot Japanese skies, it also weakened actual tournament play with glares and even overheating the arcade boards. The glares situation were resolved accordingly with mini tents covering the setups which is a somewhat reasonable solution. Other folks mentioned Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition setups there were dropping out mid-match. That and other arcade games on that list utilize online to maintain rankings for each player or upload small portions to a game data's content base. When the news hit, people suggested that being outdoors was the reason for these network problems but Fubarduck, who attended the event, clarified that it was likely a LAN problem on their end instead of bad reception. There was also the cicada pictures inside a cab. Well that's the unfortunate side of having an event outside especially in a park environment, dealing with various insects and fauna.
I think the folks who coordinated this event missed a key factor: convenience. Lots of folks live in Tokyo and having Tougeki there would be have been much more successful both in its reputation and economic departments. Even if some competitors live in other parts of Japan, getting to Tokyo through a generalized national transit system is better than going farther more to Narita especially in a park.
Rumors were abound that 2012 would be Tougeki's last year. As the event concluded, it appeared that it will be returning next year. This period in between should be when the Tougeki committee, Arcadia and Enterbrain have to plan for next year. They should look at what happened this year that could be improved for later. They should take a look at some of everyone's comments about the event, positive or negative.
Bringing it back to Tokyo is probably for the best. Game Summer Fest was just a bad choice to promote it.
What the folks who organizes Tougeki have to also consider is the international scene. While there are the players, there are also the spectators who are willing to take chances to see their favorite player compete. With the success of EVO 2012's stream, it's obvious that a lot of people want to watch. Tougeki has had free streams through USTREAM though but they never shown the main finals on it. A couple of Japanese streams such as TOPANGA and GODSGARDEN have provided streams on Twitch. Tougeki should try to do the same to get attention of everyone outside Japan. Streamlining the process is necessary. Having an average English viewer interested in watching Tougeki but have to deal with a language they don't know about isn't good. They can try using a service similar to EVO where you can watch for free but an affordable subscription price can provide extra benefits including HD streaming and chat. If they have to insist on using NicoNico, then they should contact the English branch at least.
Known for being an arcade tournament, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Soulcalibur V this year were the first console games in Tougeki. They will probably stay as primarily an arcade tournament with the exceptions. Even if the console games are overshadowed, there should be flexible rules such as bringing your arcade stick. If bad things such as turbo happens, then the judges are there to identify those occurrences. They should adapt to some of these things especially when EVO Japan/EVOxGODSGARDEN has been in the loop for a while already.
I still believe in Tougeki being a good tournament series. This year seemed pretty decent although it's overshadowed by the unusual aspects. Others don't feel the same way though especially after this year. The Tougeki crew has to do some hard thinking and adaptation to prove the detractors wrong for next year. If they can make the effort, then it could pay off and become once againt the prestigious tournament it always tries to aim for.
This piece is entirely of my own opinion and doesn't reflect the general views of IPLAYWINNER. You can find me on Twitter @ThePhantomnaut.