As we prepare to wrap up 2018, one can’t help but be in pure astonishment over what we got this year in terms of fighting games. There was Soulcalibur making its triumphant return; the debut of crossover fighter BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle that featured Arc System Works’s finest alongside warriors from other franchises, such as characters from RWBY; and the even bigger crossover fighter, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. While it is hard to compare all that we got, many would argue that the fighting game that started this wonderful year was also one of the best: Dragon Ball FighterZ.

For those who felt like Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite burned them, in comes Arc System Works and their take on 3v3 fighting. For fans of Akira Toriyama‘s hit series, this is practically the ultimate Dragon Ball game that they’ve been hoping to see after all these years of numerous game adaptations. Many of them are now eagerly waiting to see if there will be an “Arc System Expansion,” with a second season that will feature even more fantastic characters to play as.

Arc System Works had plenty of practice with the franchise due to previously developing Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors, Dragon Ball Z: Supersonic Warriors 2, and Dragon Ball Z: Extreme Butōden for handheld Nintendo systems.

With all this momentum behind Dragon Ball FighterZ, and it likely becoming one of the biggest fighting games to come out this generation, how much bigger will it get? Based on recent actions, the game’s inaugural year could also be its last in the fighting game community.

Canceling Tournament Appearances

While Bandai Namco Entertainment‘s Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour is going on, other tournament appearances have been getting cuts left and right. An announcement was recently made about the game’s cancellation at Anime Ascension over “unforeseen circumstances.” This comes after the game was cancelled at DreamHack Atlanta, where the reasoning for why it would not appear was also undisclosed.

This is becoming a huge concern, leading to EVO co-founder and organizer Joey “MrWizard” Cuellar tweeting that Dragon Ball FighterZ might be “a one and done” experience for the competitive fighting scene.

Many fans and players right now are expressing their disappointment over this and other cancellations, and what they could mean for the future. EVO Japan will not be hosting Dragon Ball FighterZ either. If this apparent trend keeps up, the game may not make a second trip to EVO in 2019.

Personally, I have my concerns too. While I do like to give the benefit of a doubt, I can’t really see anything good happening here, unless Toei or Shueisha or someone in charge does a 180.

In a way, I feel like this might even affect Jump Force when it comes out, if the game actually tries to be competitive. After all, why play the game in a possible tournament setting if it could also get shut down within a year’s time?

Final Thoughts

Going completely off script here to rant for the ending.

Remember back when Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was about to come out? The handling of that game was a mess when you have PR completely missing the point of the complaints against the game. It felt like everything about the latest installment in the long-running fighting series had no effort put into it, except the functions—I mean, “gameplay.”

You can say that this led to many people turning to Dragon Ball FighterZ—with its quick action and commitment to capturing the visual look of the original Dragon Ball manga and anime—as the only way to get their fix for a true “Marvel vs. Capcom experience,” or an entertaining fighting game.

In the end, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite was lost in a state of limbo because people were not interested in playing it, and were more intrigued by other games like Dragon Ball FighterZ.

But honestly, it does make me wonder if there might be a resurgence of the crossover fighter, with it haphazardly and weakly filling in the gap of the more popular anime fighter, should recent developments continue to go downhill. It would be ironic if we were to see Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite join EVO 2019 as a pale replacement for the more polished and critically acclaimed Dragon Ball FighterZ—if that game is unable to make a return.

Usually, when support for a game gets cut, we look to the game developers. When it comes to working with intellectual property, we have to go the next step and look at the license holders: in this case, Toei Animation, the Japanese studio that adapted the original Dragon Ball manga for television and film.

The studio does have a track record for behavior like this. For example, fans of Team Four Star‘s Dragon Ball Z Abridged could tell you stories of how Toei continues to try to take down videos of the beloved parody series years after they’ve been put up. (But there can be culture clash, with Japan having a different stance on fair use laws and parodies.)

We have not received an “official” statement, but many players are not hesitant when it comes to explaining why this is happening. The Dragon Ball FighterZ World Tour is ongoing, and we know that’s officially sponsored and sanctioned by Bandai Namco Entertainment. But for those who aren’t part of the tour, you could say other tournament organizers are getting a possible “cease and desist.” Not to say that Toei values profit over exposure, but considering how things are currently shaping up, that could very well be the case.

It may be a bit early to speculate such things given that anime industry event Jump Festa happened recently, but you can’t blame fans for having very little confidence in any answers coming from it. Who knows if a season two announcement for the game will excite anyone at this point. It likely will, but the fighting game community could argue that there may be no point if there’s no chance to watch high-level tournaments.

However, there is someone else who could be the source behind this recent disruption to the Dragon Ball FighterZ competitive scene: Shueisha, the Japanese company that published the original Dragon Ball comics by Akira Toriyama. This theory has gained more weight in light of Toei tweeting a denial of any involvement with the recent cancellations of Dragon Ball FighterZ tournaments.

Will Dragon Ball FighterZ even have a 2019?

We don’t want to say that Dragon Ball FighterZ will end up a one-hit wonder for the fighting game community due to outside influences. But with the treatment that the game has received over the last few weeks, it is understandable that fans are demanding answers.

This is almost a repeat of the recent news about Blizzard Entertainment’s sudden cancellation of eSport events for Heroes of the Storm. Or even a few years back when Nintendo almost pulled Super Smash Bros. Melee from EVO.

Many people are left disappointed and angry with what seems like a license holder’s attempt to make Dragon Ball FighterZ either fail or simply disappear. We are nearing the anniversary of the game’s launch, and it’s sad to think that we may be lamenting the game’s forced downfall instead of celebrating its beginnings.

Unless we get some answers, not many from the fighting game community will want to support this game after its first year. What could the reasoning be for these recent tournament cancellations? You got me on that one.

Until Shueisha, Toei, or someone else finally addresses these concerns though, Dragon Ball FighterZ may go down in video game history for becoming the most successful fighting game, and then being forced into an early retirement after its first year.

But remember how Nintendo almost pulling Super Smash Bros. Melee from EVO was used as an example earlier? The key word being “almost.” Nintendo’s efforts didn’t work out. Super Smash Bros. Melee has remained a part of EVO as recently as 2018, competing alongside newcomer Dragon Ball FighterZ. While recent events are discouraging, nothing is set in stone, and Dragon Ball FighterZ could end up as fortunate as Super Smash Bros. Melee.