By Evan Schwab
In late January, Bandai Namco launched its now hugely popular 3v3 tag fighter, Dragon Ball FighterZ. Before its release, a healthy hype surrounded the anticipated title. Outside of Marvel vs. Capcom, there haven’t been many successful tag fighters. Traditional and arena fighters have been center stage for quite some time now, and while the tag format isn’t a new approach, Dragon Ball FighterZ carried with it a certain attitude that reeked of confidence and swagger. All of this equated to the most successful launch of a fighting game ever. That’s right, Dragon Ball FighterZ sold over 1.5 million copies in its release window. Pretty impressive, right?
What is perhaps more intriguing is the continued success and reverence Dragon Ball FighterZ carries. It continues to prove it's popularity before this year’s EVO event (taking place early August), the fighter dedicated convention will be taking place in the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas. Of all the games present - including the likes of Super Smash Bros., Injustice 2, Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, and Tekken 7 - Dragon Ball FighterZ currently (updated as of July 2nd) holds the largest amount of registrants for its tournament. Not only do people clearly want to play Dragon Ball FighterZ, but there is also an equal or greater audience who want to watch skilled players compete in one of the most competitive games on the EVO roster.
The question, however, is why Dragon Ball FighterZ continues to garner such attention. The answer is a relatively simple one: Arc System Works - creators of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue - developed a complex combat system that builds on the intensive nature of its technical combat mechanics, while still being accessible to newcomers (a good Dragon Ball fighter game will, indubitably, draw in fans of the beloved manga/anime). Regardless, there is a certain attraction to watching skilled combatants competing in highly technical games, which could explain its high viewership levels.
It is the accessibility, however, that appears to keep Dragon Ball FighterZ in the spotlight. While the depth of combat makes the game a winner at EVO and other competitions - one that promises intense matches - the playability is there for even those unfamiliar with fighting games. Think about it: mastering a character in any given fighting game is an impressive feat. Heck, being relatively good at a fighting game is tough enough, and the difficulty curve and time requirements needed to build confidence in one’s abilities is typically massive. As such, the daunting nature of the genre pushes many inexperienced players away. Consider this: Dragon Ball FighterZ set the Steam record, too, for number of concurrent players for any fighting game (over 44,000). People are willing to pay for this one, even if they’re hardcore players. The beauty of this one is that its accessibility does not prevent the game from being one of the most competitive fighters available.
Those in the fighting game community (FGC) have also been waiting for a competitive Dragon Ball game. When you combine that with the huge Dragon Ball fanbase that lingers outside the FGC, you can begin to see why the game is so popular. What’s even more impressive, though, is its longevity. Unless your name is Overwatch or a small list of other wildly popular Esports titles, a six month popularity wave is pretty rare (think about the hard times Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite met with after its design and launch gaffe). With EVO 2018 right around the corner (August 3rd - 5th), now is the time to familiarize yourself with all that Dragon Ball FighterZ has to offer. It’s definitely one to watch in the days and months to come and has a shot at being an FGC mainstay for quite some time.