The organizers behind Argentina’s DBFZ tournament circuit tell the story of their very own Buenos Aires Tour.

When it came out last year in 2018, Dragon Ball FighterZ took the fighting game community by storm. After all, the Dragon Ball manga and anime are a global phenomenon, so it’s only natural that there would be a widespread support of such magnitude. As it united lots of players from different games, DBFZ enjoyed a very successful year of tournaments, even having its own official World Tour, which ended this January.

Still, Argentinian fans weren’t happy with how the World Tour was handled. With the limiting rules it proposed and events separated by long distances, it felt like it was mostly benefiting players who could travel, a major issue for Argentinians given the cost it represents.

However, Argentina is one of the countries in which Latin Americans’ love for Dragon Ball is unwavering. Anything related to the franchise is bound to elicit strong support by the people. As such, some players within the community had an idea to give the DBFZ scene a new life: why not have our very own Dragon Ball FighterZ tour? And thus, the Buenos Aires Tour was born, a circuit run by the community consisting of various tournaments in Buenos Aires and surrounding cities, with a structure similar to that of the official World Tour.

Officially, if you couldn’t go to one of the only seven tournaments Bandai Namco chose as their Saga Event (in which winning granted one Dragon Ball, giving you a spot on the World Tour finals), you were stuck hoping to have either an Offline Radar Event (of which there were only nine in the entire year) or an Online Radar Event near you. The the winner would get to travel to either a Saga Event or the Last Chance Qualifiers.

Not having official events can have a negative impact on a community and its players. It can make them feel like they’re being left alone, like they’re being ignored. It can bring morale down overall, no matter how much people are enjoying the game.

“We were a bit frustrated by the lack of a competitive scene,” said Tomás “Toto” Elizalde, one of the organizers behind the tour. “We thought about doing something similar to the official tour to give players a similar competitive ambient.” Elizalde, along with other players from the community, started this tournament circuit January 2019, although they’ve organized tournaments before that as well.

This local tour is similar to the official one, albeit with different rules. For example, in the official tour, one player could win multiple Dragon Balls, but a new Last Chance qualifier would have to be held for every extra Dragon Ball earned. When Ryota “Kazunoko” Inoue won 4 out of 7 Dragon Balls, there were four Last Chance Qualifiers back-to-back on the same day to determine the Top 8 for the World Tour finals.

Competitors in a Buenos Aires Tour event prepare to play. Lucas Rivavola

The Buenos Aires tour handles that aspect differently: if a player that already got a Dragon Ball by winning a previous tournament wins again, then the spot in the tour finals goes to whoever places second instead, essentially keeping the Last Chance Qualifiers a tournament in which there will only be one spot to fight for.

This wasn’t always the case, however. At first, the rules stated that whoever won two Dragon Balls couldn’t enter any other future tournaments in the tour, but the small scale of the circuit and the acceptance by the community caused the well-received change. That change came into play in the second tournament of the tour, on March 3, in which Brian “PumpIt” Esquivel earned his second Dragon Ball.

“We changed the rules because it would’ve felt weird if PumpIt couldn’t enter any more tournaments, since he is one of the players who supports us the most and is always present in our tournaments,” explained Elizalde. “With this change, everyone has more chances to participate and get a place in the finals.”

The absence of official support

While the circuit is doing well, the lack of support by Bandai Namco is a sensitive topic that elicits many opinions.

“I don’t think the lack of support from Bandai is wrong, but the best thing would always be to have sanctioned tournaments,” said Mauro “Kawa” Giménez, a top player who also helps organize the Buenos Aires Tour. For last year’s official World Tour, all of South Latin America was only given a single Online Radar Event. Giménez commented that “an Online Radar Event can be useful, but playing online will always bring some kind of problem. I don’t think it’s enough. An offline event would be better.”

While the two-time Buenos Aires Tour champion Brian Esquivel couldn’t compete in the official online event, he echoed some of the problems with it that other players brought to light.

“Unfortunately, I couldn’t participate in the Radar Event, but I did hear that it ended up having a lot of issues, related to lag and such,” commented Esquivel. “It would be a dream come true if Bandai Namco took notice and did something about it, because there should be an offline tournament rather than an online one. I believe we’re constantly putting on display the best our country has to offer, so why wouldn’t they show support?”

Even so, the community is optimistic that it might get an event in future official world tours. “We’re proving in very little time just how committed people are to the game, and at an organizational level we’re constantly improving,” said Giménez. “I think that if we’re given a World Tour tournament in Argentina, both Toto and myself could handle it with the help of the community.”

Elizalde added his hopes: “We want to and we have the skills to compete at an international level. We’re only lacking the means to do it.”

“We wanted to bring the community together”

There is good reason for the outlook. The community has reacted very positively to what this tour has done for the game’s local scene. Some players even told me that this idea might’ve saved the scene entirely.

Dragon Ball FighterZ. Courtesy of Bandai Namco.

Elizalde explained that they’re aiming to have tournaments all throughout the year, with an event every one or two months. All the prizes come from their own pockets, too, which contributes to that feeling of the community being the driving force behind the life the game is enjoying.

Thankfully, they’re not alone in this journey. Besides their own DBFZ community, they’ve been receiving a lot of support from players and organizers from other local fighting game communities too. The latest tournament shared venue with a local Tekken 7 tournament, which meant that there were players competing in both tournaments.

“We’re always getting more people. This last tournament had a limit of 42 players, but we could’ve gotten way more than that had we removed said limit”, explained Giménez. Between the first two tournaments, around 80 people have already participated.

“In terms of organization, it’s impeccable,” said Esquivel. “Lag-free monitors, headsets, a good pace for the brackets. Truly impeccable. This Buenos Aires tour is one of the best ideas they’ve had, since it is a great incentive por players like myself. Compared to other local fighting game scenes, I would say that the DBFZ scene is currently the best one.” (Esquivel is also currently an active Street Fighter V player.)

That being said, there’s always room to improve. Luckily, whatever feedback players give is always well received and taken into account.

“It wouldn’t be one of our tournaments without some kind of delay, be it because of technical issues or something related to the brackets,” said Elizalde between laughs. “Still, every event is always a learning experience so that we can make the next one even better.”

“We’re constantly improving the tour in many aspects. For example, our official platform is now Playstation 4. Previously, we used Steam, but now we have the tools to make a well-organized tournament using various PS4 setups,” added Giménez. “Another thing we want to improve is our streams. We always run into some sort of issue when it comes to streaming our tournaments, but for the next one we’ll be well prepared, since now we have identified our problems and we now know how to fix them.”

People are also happy with the level of play that participants have been showing, especially since a lot of them are coming to tournaments for their first time, with some even getting to Top 8.

“We have a lot of new players that no one knows about and they’re feeling comfortable enough to come to these offline tournaments,” said Elizalde. “What I like the most is that they leave happy and with a desire to keep competing.”

Gimenez added that “luckily, the DBFZ community in Argentina is always helping each other out and constantly trying to improve their skills together.”

Dragon Ball FighterZ fans gather to spectate a Buenos Aires Tour event. Lucas Rivavola

“The scene is very active these days and there’s a very friendly atmosphere that I love seeing. Everyone knows each other, they all respect each other and they all want to improve,” commented Elizalde. There are players coming to these tournament from cities far away from Buenos Aires and even from other provinces that have already become a staple, since they haven’t missed a single tournament yet.

“Everyone is happy with our tournaments and that’s what matters the most to us, that’s what we were aiming for. We wanted to bring the community together, and we’re accomplishing that.”

Looking towards the future

And truly, the accomplishments show. The atmosphere of the latest DBFZ tournaments were increasingly positively intoxicating, in a way. The fact that the community had a year to get used to the game might play a factor but even beyond that, it feels like the community has gotten used to itself. People have found new friends, new training partners, perhaps even new rivals. Overall, everyone feels more comfortable around each other these days.

With only the second tournament of the Buenos Aires Tour finished, the future of the Dragon Ball FighterZ scene in Argentina is looking quite lively. Whether Argentinians ever get officially supported tournaments or not, the community has taken it upon themselves to keep the game alive and players couldn’t be happier.

“I see this as a long-term thing, both competitively and for casual play. It’s going to keep growing.” said Esquivel. “It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

“I think Dragon Ball FighterZ has a great future here in Argentina,” remarked Giménez. This tour is only getting started and it’s already making some very good impressions. I believe that in the coming time, big things could be done with DBFZ and people are going to love that, and they’ll be even more motivated to train and play the game.”

Full of optimism and excitement, Elizalde added: “The future is incredibly bright. In Argentina, Dragon Ball is tradition. It’s culture. This game is ideal for competing here. It is here to stay.”

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