Indonesia’s Fighting Game Esports: Excluded yet Refused to Die
A talk with one of Indonesia’s fighting game esports players who never gives up
We can say that 2018 is a year of esports awakening in our homeland, and esports itself actually has a lot of game genres from MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), FPS (First Person Shooter), Battle Royale, Sports, Fighting, CCG/TCG (Collectible Card Game / Trading Card Game), Racing, and many more.
In the unfortunate fact, this awakening is spreading uneven between all genres. MOBA is the most played games thanks to Mobile Legends and Dota 2. Fighting game is one of esports genres that one could say is still marginalized.
We’ll discuss about other genres some other time, as for this time I’ve invited Co-Founder Advance Guard Bramanto Arman, a figure of fighting games, to share his story.
For those who are unaware of the esports world, Advance Guard is an icon of fighting game esports in Indonesia. When many are doing MOBA, Bram with the Advance Guard are raising this genre keenly since this icon was established in 2012.
Thanks to their hard work and persistence, several tournaments conducted by Advance Guard have successfully claimed an official certificate from CAPCOM (for Street Fighter series) and Bandai Namco (for Tekken series) as a qualification tournament at international level.
Indonesia representations who would like to compete in CAPCOM Pro Tour and Tekken World Tour have to participate in the tournament conducted by Advance Guard first.
Of course, those achievements cannot be taken lightly anymore, in fact, there’s no any other higher authority than them in the world of Indonesia’s fighting game esports.
Let’s take a look at our talks.
Esports fighting game popularity in Indonesia
As I said before, esports fighting game in Indonesia is lack of an exposure, and Bram knew it.
“The exposure is lower than any other popular games with a huge number of player base in Indonesia,” said Bram. He added that this happened because of the game’s factor.
Bram explained that esports games enthused among Indonesian players are the addictive freemium games so that players might forget oneself and shop at the in-app purchase.
“Eventually, they saw many Indonesian players playing those games and created a big event from that. The games are Mobile Legends, AoV and PUBG Mobile.”
Meanwhile, for PUBG (PC), Bram sees a place that possibly can accommodate the gamers, like various types of iCafe. Therefore, many gamers can try the game without having to buy it; they only need to pay the bill at the iCafe. It has also happened to Dota 2.
Esports fighting game popularity outside the country
If esports figthing gamepopularity in Indonesia is low, how about in the other countries?
Bram said that people in another country were also showing low interest in fighting game esports, compared to any other popular games and one of the biggest esports fighting game events in the world, EVO, also began from the same story.
They initially conducted an event for the community full of passion. As the development of esports, however, now EVO is on the same level as most esports events having their match in a stadium with festive production, and get a lot of sponsors.
Thanks to EVO’s struggles, many big EOs that didn’t even go near fighting games before began to take interest in it.
Bram then added that fighting game esports should actually be popular as people would be easier to enjoy the games even if they’re newcomers, and I personally agree. As if we compare it to a MOBA match, we wouldn’t really enjoy watching the match if we didn’t even play and understand the game itself, while fighting game is an easily watchable game even for newcomers.
Outside the country, fighting game esports are way bigger than here, despite its lack of popularity. Bram told us about his experience visiting REV Major, the biggest fighting game tournament in Philippines, and he saw great enthusiasm not only from players but also from audiences willing to come even if the tickets were quite pricy.
Even fighting game esports has gotten some supports from several celebrities like the wrestlers Kenny Omega and Saviour Woods, as well as the American rapper Lupe Fiasco.
Advance Guard’s struggle on keeping Indonesia’s fighting game esports alive
The question is with the lack of popularity, why Bram and Advance Guard are willing to stay and fight for this esports? Why they just don’t shift to another popular game like most Event Organizers (EOs)?
“Because our approach is different,” Bram answered straightforwardly.
“It’s a fact that other EOs are mostly commercial, so they’re looking for mature markets, while I come from and for the community. So, I’m fighting for the community to keep them alive. It’s indeed hard and difficult as we’re lacking support compared to other popular game.
Most people think that watering barren land is useless; it’s better to harvest fruit that’s there,” he said figuratively. Bram chose to keep on watering the barren land until a leaf is finally growing, and so he does because of his love to fighting games.
The result shows now how Advance Guard has its own identity and stand as the icon of fighting game esports. They started from a small scale of a community and now become the international benchmark.
That said, from the business side, Bram admitted that Advance Guard’s journey was far from other EOs who were prefer working on popular games to get more profit.
According to him, big EOs from other countries usually collaborate with those used to the field concerned and it happens in Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand.
“That is the ideal way of working on an esports. Meanwhile here, sometimes we don’t really get along and fight over some sweets instead… Hahaha,” said Bram joking.
The things esports fighting game in Indonesia needs
What are the things that Indonesia’s fighting game esports needs?
First of all, in terms of exposure, there are still so many games and esports media that don’t cover fighting game esports events. “It tends to be covered only by some media that have their interest in fighting games. Most media would write about fighting game esports if it is a huge event. As I know, IGX (Indonesia Game Xperience) is one with the most writings about it.”
According to Bram, the readers of fighting game news are still segmented compared to the popular games. Whereas, on the other hand, many things can be brought up from fighting games, like national and international professional players.
Moreover, the players of fighting games from Indonesia are actually able to compete at the level of Southeast Asia. Bram told us that several times ago, Indonesia representation was taking home the trophy of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle and BlazBlue Central Fiction competition in Philippines.
That said, to be able to successfully get achievement in Asia or even the world, Indonesia players still need a lot more practice. This achievement is yet worth a praise considering fighting game esports lacking of exposure and support.
Then how about the support for local esports organizations? Can it help develop fighting game esports? Given fighting game division of some esports organizations has not yet been much established.
“In my personal opinion, it might happen to be a boost of help; as long as there’s potential and passion from the players. Sponsors can give them a chance to compete abroad for some experience,” explained Bram.
He added, “Unavoidably, they need to compete abroad to raise their own standard.”
Recently, a fighting game player was invited to join Alter Ego and we might see the result from their teamwork later.
I then asked, what would happen if the players of fighting games also get monthly salary just as Dota 2 or Mobile Legends players? Would it help them achieve more?
Bram stated that now fighting game players had gotten their salary but just from a stream and it’s not much. “It’s a business after all. So I think we need to find a win-win solution for all.”
This condition is more suitable for those who’re still studying / a fresh graduate and have their passion in fighting games, and it won’t be as much suitable for those adult, as the career path might not be worth the pain.
The biggest problem of having a career in esports is parents’ concern and permission, as the prizes are not as high as MOBA games yet to make sure that their children would not live in despair in the future.
It is true that in the end it goes back to respective players to decide. If they are successful and can be on their own financially, they may be able to convince their parents to have a career in the esports world.
More to that, sponsors’ support for fighting game esports is indeed very valuable as well; a fighting game competition which was held by AMD (AMD eSports FIGHT! Championship 2018) is for an example.
“If all game tournaments can have similar prize pool as MOBA game tournaments, both business matter and a gap between esports stakeholders and players can be maintained. The point is that esports ecosystem needs to be in a stable condition first.”
The last thing Bram said was that fighting games need to be introduced properly for the sake of its esports’ upturn.
“I realize that Indonesia is far from that, compared to other Southeast Asia countries, like Malaysia, Thailand, or Philippines, they always have a spot for fighting games in an esports event.
For that matter as well, I would like to thank AMD who lets me and believes in me to manage their event.
Hopefully, fighting game esports’ ecosystem will gradually develop its various aspects. After all, fighting game esports is one of esports that people can enjoy because of its entertainment factor that is the most intriguing one, and has many outstanding local players,” said Bram.
That was our brief talk with Bram about fighting game esports’ ins and outs. Hopefully, the barren land managed wholeheartedly by Bram and Advance Guard as well as the community can turn into a wonderful garden where everyone can feel comfortable.
Don’t forget to like Facebook Fanpage Advance Guard for the newest information of fighting game esports.
Original article is in Indonesian, translated by Kristin Siagian.