18/04/2024

Following in the footsteps of Street FIghter's Ryu and Ken, and Fatal Fury's Terry Bogard, Tekken's Kazuya Mishima joins Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. (Picture: smashbros.com)

We speak to Sydney-based Tekken 7 player and commentator Elie '4LCH3M15T' Abouraad about what the addition of a new Smash character means for Australian fighting game esports.

Competitive Tekken players are no strangers to crossover events.

These have ranged from popular character Kuma appearing as an unlockable character in the 1996 Namco arcade game Alpine Racer 2, to the infamous Street Fighter X Tekken.

Crossovers bring with them excitement, discussion, debate, and most importantly, it brings together fanbases.

In the age of esports, crossovers between games that are played on the competitive level can bring together players, from the elite to grassroots.

Ever since 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl introduced its first-ever non-Nintendo characters in Sonic the Hedgehog and Solid Snake, it’s become a much anticipated event for every game in the series.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate now features all-star characters from some of the biggest fighting games there are. Street Fighter, Fatal Fury and now Tekken are represented in one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises.

All are popular titles in esports circuits, and these crossovers provide an opportunity to diversify and amplify their respective fighting game communities.

Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Tekken 7 player and commentator for Genuine Gaming Elie ‘4LCH3M15T’ Abouraad spoke on the effect the inclusion of Tekken’s Kazuya Mishima in Ultimate could have on both communities.

It’s a concept that he has become much familiar with since joining the fighting game community in 2012.

“Any time there’s a crossover like this, I think the intended goal is to bring in a new audience,” Abouraad said.

“I think it’s what they tried to do with Tekken when they bought in Geese [Howard, from Fatal Fury], when they bought in Akuma [from Street Fighter].

“They want the game to appeal to a different audience, and a different type of player. You can still play Tekken, but you’re playing it in a way that’s more familiar to you.”

A new challenge to overcome

Akuma’s popularity in particular, Abouraad notes, brought a wide range of new competitive players into the Tekken scene.

The Street Fighter series is estimated to have sold 46 million units, while the Tekken series has sold an estimated 50 million.

While there is already crossover between fighting game communities, there’s always a chance to bring in new players through crossovers such as this one.

“With Akuma, I can tell you 100% that there were multiple people that I know personally that started playing the game [Tekken 7] because of Akuma,” Abouraad said.

“They saw that he was in the game, said ‘I love this character,’ so they just bought the game when it came out. They already had a PC, so they just bought the PC version, and then they started playing it.

“It’s not just people that I know, there are multiple people in the Tekken scene that are still in the scene to this day, that got their start playing because they wanted to try out Akuma.”

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Abouraad admits that though he hasn’t had much interest in the Smash series since playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, released in 2001, Kazuya’s inclusion in Smash has him listening again.

He was particularly impressed by the dedication the developers showed towards keeping Kazuya faithful to his original Tekken depiction.

There’s one major hurdle between him, and many others, making the jump to a new game competitively.

“When it comes down to this, there’s always one big problem,” Abouraad explained.

“That comes down to the console that Smash is on. For the majority of the fighting game community, or the games they play, it’s either on PC or the PlayStation 4.

“The thing is, not everyone is going to have access to a [Nintendo Switch]. Whether the interest is there is another story.

“I think a lot of people who maybe played Smash previously and they also play Tekken, perhaps it’s their main game, they might see Kazuya and say ‘some of my skills or some of my understanding of Kazuya in Tekken might transfer to Ultimate.’

“I don’t see many people just wanting to buy a console itself to play Kazuya in Smash, if that makes sense.”

The power of influencers

One way to help the merging of the communities, Abouraad says, is through Twitch streamers.

Twitch.tv is a platform that allows content creators to stream their favourite games, and is regularly used by a huge amount of esports players.

It helps to grow their own individual audiences, but also that of the game and the esports scene as a whole.

Most tournaments are also streamed through the platform, including Bankstown Runbacks, a Tekken 7 monthly tournament in Sydney that Abouraad regularly competes and commentates at.

“I literally bought a game last night because I saw someone playing it on stream… I’d never seen it before,” Abouraad laughs.

“The thing is, there aren’t many Tekken content creators in Australia. Most of them would not be playing Smash, they’re just Tekken players, they don’t really play any other games other than Tekken.

“Most fighting games, if you find someone who’s at least trying to push to be a high level or top level player in a fighting game, it’s very rare that they have enough time to put towards another fighting game. If they do, then that’s very admirable.

“It’s not easy getting good at any fighting game to begin, even the easiest fighting games. They all have their intricacies.

“If you want to improve, you always have to be pushing yourself. If you split yourself on two different fighting games, it becomes a lot harder.”

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