Can Tekken 7 Make It As An Esport?

It’s all finally happening. After months of speculation, the date for the home version of Tekken 7 has been confirmed as 2 June 2017 and it is now full steam ahead towards release.

Tekken 7 has been a fixture of the fighting game tournament scene since its arcade release in 2015, but upon its home release not only do we expect it to gain a significant lift in attendees, viewers and competitors, but also a much greater mix of players from various regions as they have the opportunity to have access to the game whenever they want.

So far, it’s mainly been dominated by Korean players, who have regular access to the arcade release of Fated Retribution, the latest version of the game (and the one headed to consoles).

We had the opportunity to get some substantial hands-on time with the latest console build of Tekken 7 this past week. A new title screen indicates a whole bunch of content is going to be available come June, including a separate story and arcade mode, as well as the usual other options you’d expect from a fighting game that is clearly trying to avoid making the same PR mistakes Capcom made around the release of Street Fighter 5.

The console version seems to be brilliant. It’s obviously a great fighting game – it’s been playable for so long in some manner, we all know how good Tekken 7 is by now – but when you break through the surface and look at some of the new systems in place, Tekken 7 has added a couple of things to the classic Tekken gameplay that make it a lot of fun to play and, perhaps crucially, way more exciting to watch.

Rage Arts, which are ostensibly Street Fighter’s Supers, are available when you’re in the final quarter of your health bar and provide a hugely damaging and spectacular attack that can turn the tide of battle in your favour.

The other new addition is Power Crushers, moves that have high and mid attack armour, meaning they will break through any attack except low strikes, and hit your opponent.

Even with our comparatively short time with the game, we were already formulating strategies around these moves, using them to break through pressure strings and at times even using them like a Focus Attack from Street Fighter 4 to catch an opponent pressing buttons and counter hit them.

There’s a satisfying sound and a flash when one of these lands, and combined with the cinematic flair of the aforementioned Rage Arts and the little touches, like how the game slows down and zooms in for close strikes that could trade, Tekken 7 provides many moments where a crowd can get hype. A very important factor, as esports grows with every passing year.

There’s definite signs that Tekken 7’s arrival is starting to make waves in the larger fighting game community. Team Echo Fox, who have made headlines at the start of the year by signing up a who’s who of top players, have recently added Tekken greats Choi “Saint” Jinwoo and Kim “JDCR” Hyun-Jun to their stable.

JDCR is a Tekken scene legend and Saint is the Tekken 7: Fated Retribution Evo 2016 champion. This is a statement of intent, getting in two truly great players before the home release and the talent pool grows substantially. They’re part of what can only be described as a ‘Superteam’, alongside Justin Wong, Tokido, Momochi and Sonicfox, among others.

Street Fighter V set records with its Evo entrant numbers in 2016, down to not only the popular name of the game and the fact that it is always the ‘headline’ title, but also because it was the new game and fresh in the minds of gamers. Tekken 7 has been at Evo for a few years, but it is going to be very interesting to see the increase – not only in the amount of players signed up, but also viewing figures.

It is also going to be interesting to see whether this coming year also breaks up the Korean domination of the game. Sadly, the release date is a mere month before Evo 2017, so it may not have enough time to truly bed into the scene, but with a proper tournament tour planned, over the next twelve months we could see a greater influx of nationalities into tournament top eights.

In the UK, certainly, Tekken is a strong brand – practically synonymous with ‘3D fighting game’. After Street Fighter V’s disappointing first year sales and yet, Mortal Kombat X proving that there is still a 5 million + sales market out there wanting a fighting game, it seems like Bandai Namco are in front of an open goal in regards to Tekken 7 being a success. Should they avoid making the same mistakes that their competition did, 2017 could be the year that Tekken 7 takes over.

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