Make famous VTubers fight in this surprise Steam hit

Idol Showdown bills itself on Steam as "the definitive fan-made hololive fighting game experience," and that might not be overselling it. Four days after launch, it remains very near the top of Steam's "new and trending" Fighting and Martial Arts game chart, and has earned a "very positive" rating across nearly 2,500 user reviews. And if you have no idea what a "hololive fighting game experience" is, don't be alarmed, because I am about to explain.

First things first: VTubers, or Virtual YouTubers, are essentially streamers who use computer-generated avatars in place of their real-world faces and bodies during their streams. Using a webcam and specialized software, these avatars are able to move, speak, and express emotion much as a regular person would—it's basically like wearing a fully animated mask on stream. There are a lot of very popular VTubers out there, and Japan-based hololive productions—stylized as all lower-case, thus the punctuation on the Steam page—is one of the world's biggest VTuber agencies.

The idea behind Idol Showdown is to turn a bunch of actual hololive production VTubers into fighting game characters, and then, well, to let them throw hands. The Steam page promises an "easy-to-learn control scheme" that even hololive fans who aren't into fighting games can quickly get into and enjoy—and this is important, because it sounds like the game is aimed at fans of the hololive mythos at least as much as conventional fighting game aficionados.

"Explore the vast world of hololive from our roster of iconic hololive talents, with moves inspired by their most memorable moments and personality traits," the Steam page says. "Fight across the virtual world in lovingly recreated hololive locations. Jam out to remixes of your favorite hololive original songs while raising idol hell."

Which isn't to say that the fighting angle gets short shrift: Idol Showdown also boasts rollback netcode to ensure the online fighting experience is as smooth as it can be. Rollback netcode essentially eliminates the lag between input and response that occurs with conventional netcode: Players see the results of their actions immediately, with a simulated prediction of what their opponent is doing that will be corrected if it proves wrong. The presence of rollback netcode is an important part of any serious fighting game: Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, for instance, added it six years after the game was first released.

My first thought when I read about Idol Showdown was that this sort of virtual fisticuffs wouldn't be appreciated by the VTubers who appear in the game, but I was completely wrong on that front: GamesRadar noted that multiple hololive VTubers have expressed support for the game, and even an eagerness to contribute to it.

That, in turn, has helped drive the popularity of Idol Showdown, which now has its own game category on Twitch, and will likely help ensure there's more to come: The launch trailer teases three more fighters being developed for the game, all of which will be free. Idol Showdown itself is also free to play on Steam.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.