Without Developer Support, Marvel Vs. Capcom Players Organise Grassroots Pro Tour

Image: Capcom

Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite may be gone - or, at least, not on the Capcom Pro Tour - but it certainly hasn’t been forgotten by the diehard competitive community.

Marvel players have done what the game’s developer did not: they’ve set up a series of connected events known as The Fate of Two Worlds in an effort to give the scene a framework for their competitive endeavours. It’s not an official branded Pro Tour, but it’s the next best thing.

Over the last few years, more and more fighting game developers have partnered with the competitive community on tournament circuits that culminate in a major, end-of-year finale. These developer-run tournaments often strike up partnerships with big sponsors and advertisers; Red Bull, for example, has co-hosted multiple Capcom Pro Tour events and also sponsors several competitors.

Thanks to these pro tours and sponsor involvement, up-and-coming players of Street Fighter V, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Tekken 7, Guilty Gear, and many more have found support, both structural and monetary, that would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

Even before Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite launched in late 2017, Marvel fans assumed that it would be joining the Capcom Pro Tour alongside Street Fighter V. After the game came out, its players did get a shot at glory through the odd-ball Battle for the Stones championship, but ultimately, Capcom decided to drop Infinite from its competitive interests before it had even been out for a full year.

Marvel players also had to rally after being left out of this year’s Evolution Championship Series, during which they made do with the venue’s “bring your own console” space and held their own side tournament, the finals of which were packed with spectators. Now, without Capcom’s support, the community has taken matters into their own hands once again.

The Fate of Two Worlds Championship Series is the brainchild of one man. Noah “SwoleBadguy” Klumpp was first bit by the competitive bug when he was introduced to Super Smash Bros. in 2007, and he eventually transitioned to BlazBlue before settling on the Marvel vs. Capcom series.

After taking a few years away from competition to focus on his personal life, he returned to the fighting game community with the release of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite.

Klumpp told Kotaku via email that Fate of Two Worlds is all about giving players “a goal to work towards” in both Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite and its predecessor, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3. While the fighting game community has learned to accept personal improvement as a worthwhile pursuit in lieu of the big cash and sponsorships of other esports, tournament circuits can provide another way to track growth over the competitive season.

“My main inspiration was frankly the lack of support for Marvel vs. Capcom from Capcom and Marvel,” he explained. “The series has been left high and dry. I wanted to give back to the series I love, as well as (selfishly) ensure that the series can continue to grow in popularity in a year’s time.”

Much like its contemporaries, Fate of Two Worlds has a lengthy schedule that includes both offline and online tournaments for players to earn points towards the main event in 2019. A handful of these competitions were held over the last month at established venues like CEOtaku, The Fall Classic, and Super Arcade; more events are being added to the lineup all the time.

The game plan, Klumpp noted, is to conduct the finals at next year’s Combo Breaker, “a great supporter of Marvel and all communities in general.”

While official circuits only tend to reward points to the upper echelon of competitors (sometimes at drastically insufficient amounts), Fate of Two Worlds offers “participation points” for simply showing up to an offline tournament.

Winning a major event earns the champion 250 towards qualifying for the finals, plus an additional 20 points, which everyone gets for entering. It’s impossible to qualify with these participation points alone, especially since players are limited to earning just 40 a month, but they’re being used as motivation to get people out to events.

“We have a small community and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite in particular has fantastic netcode,” Klumpp explained. “I wanted to give extra incentive to players to not just play the games, but also get out there in the real world and interact with the community face to face. There’s no denying the fact that offline play builds bigger and more involved communities, and I wanted to help bolster the reason to get off your couch and get out there.”

That’s a tall order for Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, given the community’s tepid response to its release. Infinite was a drastic departure from previous games in the series, featuring two-on-two battles rather than teams of three and a more free-flow approach to swapping characters in and out of battle.

Add to that an uninspired cast of characters (there’s not an X-Men member in sight) and graphics that ranged from boring to downright ugly, and it’s no wonder the game failed to take off in both competitive and casual spheres despite some solid aspects to its gameplay.

Despite Infinite’s issues, Marvel vs. Capcom has existed as one of the main pillars of fighting game competition since the franchise’s inception with X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1996.

Evo had only one year without a Marvel game before disregarding Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite in 2018. Marvel’s influence on the rest of the scene can’t be ignored, though. The games epitomise the scene’s loud, in-your-face approach to video game competition, and its frenetic gameplay has inspired slang and jargon that has become ubiquitous throughout the genre.

And while Infinite’s poor reception was certainly a mixture of factors, many of which were completely outside of the community’s control, Fate of Two Worlds is trying to keep that attitude alive for the time being.

Even the most obscure fighting games can live on in the hearts of their most dedicated players, and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite hasn’t been any different. Serious competitors have continued to develop strategies in the game and new champions have been crowned, and thanks to the Fate of Two Worlds circuit, wins feel a little more meaningful now that they are building towards something..

Nam “NinjaNam” Nguyen, the second-ranked Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite player on the circuit leaderboards, believes a project like Fate of Two Worlds was “bound to happen sooner or later” after the series was unceremoniously dropped by Capcom.

He admits that the tour is still “very rough around the edges,” but expects things to improve thanks to the indomitable spirit of the fighting game community and Klumpp’s own dedication.

“As a competitive Marvel player, I play for the love of the game, so whether or not there’s a circuit, I’d still play the game,” Nguyen said. “But the biggest impact that it has on me is that it’s a way to really highlight players that you may not have heard on mainstream media. Some of my local players are now on this list because of our events and I’d like for people to know about them from their hard work. Any types of prizes that comes from this is just icing on the cake.”

Despite his positive opinion of Fate of Two Worlds, Nguyen still acknowledged that a spot on the Capcom Pro Tour would be a game-changing step for the Marvel community and said that it “stings a little” not to see the same opportunities provided to Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite players.

“However, the concept is similar and I believe that, with time, as long as our community continues to support Fate of Two Worlds, it can grow into something great,” Nguyen added.

Fate of Two Worlds has also given players like Louis “Readman” Millan, who is currently third in the Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 rankings, a reason to keep playing both Marvel games even as his focus shifts to developer-supported titles Street Fighter V and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle.

Millan sees Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite as having been on the verge of experiencing the same stagnation as Ultimate, which was only accepted to its final Evo appearance in 2017 thanks to winning a community donation drive. The arrival of the Fate of Two Worlds circuit could change that, Millan says.

“I’m really proud of the Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite community as a whole for rebounding this quickly and using their own hands to build their community and opportunities,” Millan said.

“For me, this circuit is just another excuse to keep playing the game I’ve been competing in for 7 years, but what it means for the Marvel community overall is very significant. It’s really rough right now, but if this is successful, I think people will look at the circuit with more interest next year and it can be refined into something even better.”

Klumpp has high hopes for what Fate of Two Worlds can become. “Marvel vs. Capcom has been a huge part of my life, and almost every friend I have at this point in my life came from competitive play,” Klumpp said.

“The games are the only things people can love and hate at the same time and it makes total sense to them and everyone around them, because they illicit so much passion from everyone who plays them. I want our community to grow and thrive. I want players to have an attainable goal to reward all their training. I want friendships to be made, rivalries to develop and fester, and tournament organisers to feel appreciated as a result of supporting such a great game series. The community isn’t going anywhere, but I want the journey to be as great as possible anyway.”


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