A lot of things have changed in the competitive fighting game scene since the debut of Killer Instinct so many years ago. The first game had a solid arcade run, with a good number of local tournaments. When it hit the Super Nintendo, the tournament scene wasn’t as strong as it is today, but it still had a few shining moments between Blockbuster Video events and XBand, the first online gaming system for home consoles. In fact, Killer Instinct was one of the most played games over the XBand online network, and the competition was certainly fierce.
Fast-forward nearly 20 years and while the competitive community surrounding fighting games has blossomed, the new Killer Instinct will face an interesting challenge. As the first and only next-generation fighting game currently announced, Killer Instinct has an entry barrier of over $500. You won’t be able to play the game unless you have an Xbox One console, and for tournaments that creates another issue entirely because they have to not only find the new console during the busy holiday shopping season, but they’ll need several to run a proper event. It’s not out of the question to assume it would cost a tournament organizer a good $2,000 to run a Killer Instinct event.
This is where the community will have to play a huge role during the early days of the KI tournament scene. It’s unlikely most tournament organizers will have access to enough Xbox One consoles to run a solid event. Players will need to bring their consoles from home to help out any tournament organizers who want to offer the game at their local and regional events. Even national tournaments may have a hard time gathering enough Xbox One consoles to run a proper event.
With that said, it’s likely the first major Killer Instinct tournament will be the Northeast Championship 14 (NEC), held December 6-8 in Philadelphia, PA. The event has already announced that Killer Instinct will be a featured game, the only question that remains is if another event appear sometime in November. While no major tournaments are currently scheduled throughout most of November (primarily due to the Thanksgiving holiday), that doesn’t mean we won’t see specialized events just for Killer Instinct.
The development team at Double Helix Games has been quite vocal about the fact that Microsoft is looking at KI as a long-term investment. It’s well-known that one of the best ways to keep interest in a game over the long haul is to have a vibrant tournament scene. It’s not uncommon for fighting game tournament streams on Twitch.tv to feature 20,000 or more active viewers. The recent Evolution Fighting Game Championship (Evo) had over 100,000 simultaneous viewers during finals day, not including streams being broadcast in other languages outside of Twitch.tv. It would not be surprising to see Microsoft hold some sort of Xbox One launch event that features a Killer Instinct tournament. It also wouldn’t be much of a surprise to find Microsoft supporting community-run events with Xbox One consoles, and running local tournaments at Microsoft Store retail outlets.
Getting back to Evo, Killer Instinct was featured at Evo 2013 with a brand new build only a month after its debut at E3. Double Helix also announced Chief Thunder at the fighting game event. It’s not much of a stretch to assume that Double Helix and Microsoft will do everything they can to see KI as an official tournament title at Evo 2014. However, it’s still up to the community to provide a little extra support. The number of entrants at early KI tournaments will have an impact on Evo’s decision to include the title. If NEC has a solid turnout of 200 or more players, there’s a good chance the Evo organizers will take notice.
Traditionally, Evo announces its fighting game lineup early in the year. With KI not hitting until sometime in November, there won’t be many tournaments under its belt before the Evo lineup comes to light. However, should the game be announced for Evo 2014, you can bet every single major event between the announcement and Evo (which takes place in July) will feature the next generation fighter. Even without an Evo announcement, many events are looking into the possibility of featuring Killer Instinct, but being included in Evo would guarantee the game has an active tournament scene until at least July.
We’ll know more about how the Killer Instinct competitive scene is shaping up as we approach the November release of the game and the Xbox One. The pricing structure that will be announced at Gamescom may also impact the future tournament scene. If it releases at $20-30, it could lure in a lot of new players who have never thought to try a fighting game before. A lower price is even more attractive during a system launch when the number of games available is relatively low. We’ll also have to see if Microsoft announces any kind of official tournament as well. Keep an eye on Prima Games and we’ll be sure to update you on any new happenings with Killer Instinct.