Should top players be allowed early access to fighting games given the current eSports landscape?

Can companies continue this practice while simultaneously holding major events?

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • November 14, 2017 at 7:56 p.m. PST

There's been quite a bit of buzz surrounding a few images that appear to depict an upcoming build of Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, that allegedly contain future DLC characters as well as a re-balance for the existing roster.

Seeing as this content is not on disc for data miners to hack into, these images suggest that Ryan "SPY|Filipino Champ" Ramirez was given the updated form of MvCI by Capcom.

The intuitive guess is that this was done for testing purposes, seeing as Ramirez is amongst the most qualified people on the planet to try out new content and scan for issues, but considering that he's also a competitor attending tournaments that offer thousands of dollars in cash prizes, the situation can quickly become questionable.

This is sure to bring about community discussion on policy when it comes to granting top players special, advanced access to a game or an update. It's something of a muddy situation in that there's no real law or authority to definitively dictate what a developer's approach should entail.

There's likely going to be a portion of the community that condemns this practice as well as a portion that finds it permissible. Seeing as the current eSports movement is allowing competitive fighting games to grow to all new heights, the community should probably have a pretty in-depth discussion to decide where to stand.

The goal of this article isn't to try to sway you in one direction or another, but rather to present information to help community members come to informed opinions.

There are some pretty clear notions of morality and community acknowledgement that pressure devs into not giving an unfair advantage to players that will be competing for large sums of money, but as things stand with Capcom and MvCI right now, we're talking about their game, their events, and ultimately, their prerogative.

The practice of handing out early copies to well known players isn't new, as it can help with promotion (when they're allowed to stream) as well as testing. Companies can and do perform such testing internally, but anyone that's observed virtually any game's life knows that getting a title into the hands of community members is sure to yield further findings.

Does this present an unfair advantage in competition? Of course. We saw FOX|Justin Wong sit out of Marvel at SCR this year because the event occurred just days after the MvCI launch, and he had earlier access than most players.

The conversation from that decision by Wong led to our hearing other big names in the Marvel community (including Ramirez, who also had an advanced copy and would go on to win SCR 2017) offer their two cents on the matter.

If Champ does indeed have early access to the latest content, it's likely that he's under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and cannot legally say anything (including the fact that he's under an NDA).

Capcom's Battle for the Stones finale is happening in Anaheim, California on December 9-10, and offers a prize pool of $30,000. Should Capcom reveal a newly balanced version of MvCI just before this, and reveal that a select few of the 16 competitors had early access to the build beforehand, they'd likely be met with torches and pitchforks soon thereafter.

The practice of giving top players, even those actively competing in tournament circuits, early access is one that won't likely be going away anytime soon. It's up to development companies to do so with enough tact to maintain the integrity of their events.

Being candid with who has early access, and timing releases far enough away that said access doesn't grant much of an unfair advantage are easy means of ensuring said tact. This would serve as a good middle ground, as it would be unfortunate for the balance and testing of these games to suffer by denying pro players pre-release test time.

We'd love to hear your input on the matter. Given the points included here, how do you feel about early access? Is there a place for it, and should there be some concrete rules established? Sound off in the comments below.

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