How to watch professional Street Fighter


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A brand new Street Fighter game is here. Over the next year and beyond, Street Fighter V will be taking its place front and centre of the competitive fighting game scene as it becomes the flagship game of the Capcom Pro Tour. It is being positioned as ‘the game’ to elevate all things fighting games to the next level, much like Street Fighter IV before it—only this time things like ‘streaming’ and ‘esports’ and ‘Twitch’ are actual things, rather than sounding like some deeply personal problems.

There is this notion that fighting games are difficult to get into, as a player and as a spectator, due to all of the different systems and tech skills going on that require a deep knowledge of the game to truly appreciate. This isn’t entirely true. A lot of this comes from the fact that the popularity of competitive gaming has exploded during the lifetime of Street Fighter IV. All of the people hearing about how exciting EVO is are diving head first into watching a game that has had several revisions, balance updates and years of professional players finding out techniques that long time fans have grown accustomed to. There’s just too much to take in, but that wasn’t always the case. Street Fighter V is a new game, a simpler game, and a clean slate for everyone, new and old players alike. This is the best time to start following fighting games, if you’ve ever been interested.

“But where?” I hear you all screaming at your monitors. Do not worry! I have put together this primer on how to watch professional Street Fighter: where to start, what to watch and a few useful places on social media to keep you up to speed. Some of you likely already know all of this and that’s awesome—come back for the next column—but for all of you newcomers, check this stuff out and you’ll be an expert in no time.

Where do I start watching?

There’s obviously a whole load of Street Fighter content out there on the internet, but the best place to start is with the official Capcom Fighters channels—their Twitch and their YouTube accounts. Twitch is where all of the Street Fighter V Pro Tour events will be shown and YouTube is a great resource for matches and highlight videos. However, a really good place to actually start is the Winner Stays On Sessions stream, a weekly showcase of the best UK players playing against each other. In recent months they’ve started to provide Pro Tour match/player analysis and attract some impressive guests. Capcom Cup commentators Logan Sama and F-W0rd tread the line between hype and actual analysis like champs and are a huge help if you’re a newcomer and you’re wondering what exactly you just saw and why it was so awesome.

Capcom Pro Tour 2016

The Capcom Pro Tour

This is where you’ll be doing most of your Street Fighter V viewing over the next year. The Capcom Pro Tour is a series of events taking place all over the world where players battle it out to win prize money, but also one of 32 spots in the year end Capcom Cup and a shot at the lion’s share of a $500,000 prize pool.

The tour is bigger than ever in 2016 and the setup has changed a bit. It’s slightly more complex, allowing for more region-focused events, some online stuff being integrated into the live tournaments and opportunities for a greater spread of players to make it to the grand finals. To start with, there will be eleven ‘Premier’ events, dotted across the globe, with the winning player automatically qualifying for the Capcom Cup. Now, the rest of the Pro Tour events are Regional Ranking events, with the winners qualifying for a Regional Final event (as well as two spots reserved for winners of a yet-to-be-announced online tournament) which is set to take place just before the Capcom Cup. The winner from each Regional Final will qualify for the Capcom Cup. Still with me?

So, that makes up 15 of the final 32. The top players in every tournament will also win points, with the top 8 regional scorers and the top 8 overall globally also qualifying for the Capcom Cup, leaving one final slot, which goes—obviously—to the winner of EVO 2016. It’s a touch more complicated than last year’s Pro Tour, but allows for greater opportunities for players who can’t travel to international tournaments.

The Pro Tour’s first event is Cannes Winter Clash, which takes place next weekend (26th-28th February), which adds an interesting wrinkle to the proceedings. The game is being released on 16th February and that means everyone—full-blown Ultra Street Fighter IV pros and fighting game amateurs alike—have a mere ten days to hone their skills. Expect to see plenty of upsets in these early days after launch. With 72 (!) events over the course of the year, there’s going to be a Street Fighter V tournament going down somewhere almost every weekend.

Actually play the game!

Finally, and most importantly, is actually playing the game against other people. Anyone who has ever kicked a football in their life can watch say, Paul Gascoigne's unbelievable goal against Scotland in Euro ‘96 and understand how difficult that would be to perform themselves and appreciate the level of skill and talent that allowed him to pull it off. Watching high level players duke it out with a couple of knowledgeable commentators feeding you information is going to be some help, but knowing how impressive something really is comes from your own personal understanding of the game.

Get some pals together to play regularly and you’ll soon find yourself getting better as you find ways to beat one another. Sure, there’s a story mode coming and all sorts of single player content, but fighting games are about challenging another player to see who is the best, and anyone can relate to that simple one-on-one winner-takes-all expression of combat. It is why watching fighting games is so entertaining.

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