Granblue Fantasy Versus at EVO 2022! How GBVS Became an Esports Contender

EVO, an esports event that focuses specifically on fighting games, selected Granblue Fantasy Versus (hereafter known as GBVS) as one of the main titles in its 2022 lineup. In this article, we interview the project manager and production staff, going over the game’s release in 2020, and its growth into a competitive esports title.

Introducing New Battle Mechanics!
The Appeal of GBVS

First off, GBVS been chosen as a main title at EVO. Can you tell us a little more about the event?

EVO is short for the “Evolution Championship Series.” It’s held in Las Vegas every summer, but it draws people from around the world. The event focuses exclusively on fighting games, and is the biggest open tournament of its kind. It was put on hold in 2020 due to COVID-19, and in 2021, the event was moved online, so this is the first time in three years that the event is being held in person.

EVO 2022 trailer

So it’s an event that’s got worldwide recognition. Could you tell me about GBVS and its appeal? How does it fit in at this event?

Speaking from the perspective of its competitiveness as an esports title, the controls are simple and easy to pick up, but there are deeper elements that fighting game enthusiasts can really get into. We’re in the third year since GBVS’s release, and we’ve still got a big player base. The overseas community even holds regular tournaments, so I’m looking forward to seeing the global community come together and get fired up.

We want to maintain the simplicity of the gameplay, so anyone can just jump right in, and at the same time, we want to make tweaks to further improve the experience. To that end, we spoke with the developer ARC SYSTEM WORKS, and implemented a battle mechanic update in June 2022.

What changes were introduced with the update?

We added the Tactical Move and Overdrive mechanics. A Tactical Move consumes 50% of your SBA gauge and can be chained with offensive or defensive moves. As for Overdrive, it provides a massive buff.

Originally, once your SBA gauge reached 100%, you could use either the Skybound Art or Super Skybound Art. With the new additions, however, you can consume the gauge from when it’s filled to 50%. Some players will choose to use a Tactical Move at that point, so there’s an increased psychological element, as you think about your opponent’s next move. Also, with Overdrive, you get a massive buff, making it easier to turn the tide of a match. We’ve also tweaked some visuals to look splashier and more fun for spectators.

A video introducing the new battle mechanics.

How have the players reacted to the update?

We’ve gotten feedback like, “It’s more fun, now that we’ve got more options with the SBA gauge!” or “I’m seeing more returning players now that the mechanics have been updated.” And actually, after the update, we did see the number of active users go up, and not just for a short spell, either—there’s been more continued engagement, and we couldn’t be happier about that.

More Player Agency Leads to a Broader Base
The Cygames Cup and ES Tournaments

We covered GBVS in a previous article when the game was first released. At the time, we were told that GBVS was developed with the goal of expanding into the realm of esports. What sorts of things have you done since the game’s release to realize that goal?

We’ve mainly focused on the RAGE tournaments, as they’re the biggest esports tournament venues domestically. However, there’s a flipside to RAGE being a huge tournament. On the one hand, the prize payout is big, but on the other hand, it’s held once every six months, with two days for the preliminaries, and a day each for the semi-finals and finals for a total of four days.

In order to get more players involved, we started up the GBVS Cygames Cup (hereafter known as the Cygames Cup) in the summer of 2021. It’s held online every three months and is compact—the entire tournament wraps up in a day. That way, players who are hesitant to enter the highly competitive RAGE tournament have a chance to play in a more casual setting.

The key visual for the RAGE GBVS 2021 Summer tournament.
Key visuals from the various Cygames Cup tournaments.

All kinds of players participate in the Cygames Cup. Participants get special character palettes and plates that can be displayed in-game. The champion also gets a special plaque. Any residents of Japan who are interested, please feel free to sign up for one of the tournaments!

Participation rewards for the Cygames Cup.

Another feature of the Cygames Cup is the online lobby, where players can communicate and start matches with each other. We use that venue to interview players, but it’s also a good place to get live feedback and commentary from them. It’s a fun place to be in general, so drop on by if you happen to be spectating between matches.

A video featuring interviews. All players are represented by an avatar.

Among Cygames’ other esports titles, there’s also Shadowverse. Do you work with them as well, since you’ve both got broadening your presence in esports as a goal?

In addition to the Cygames Cup, the company’s also putting resources into ES (Event Support) Tournaments for both titles. ES Tournaments are there for groups or individuals who want to hold a tournament on their own. Players apply, and then receive support from Cygames to get the tournament going. At first, the support involved small stuff, like providing the official tournament logo, but the program has since expanded to preparing participation rewards, posting about tournaments on GBVS’s official Twitter account, etc. We’re continuing to look for ways to expand support.

GBVS Sphere Vol. 1, an ES Tournament, was held in March 2022 and was one of the larger events held. debagame (a RAGE and Cygames Cup winner) and the esports commentator nakao hosted and served as MCs, and the tournament was streamed live on the GBVS official YouTube channel.

Because GBVS was released during the COVID-19 pandemic, the community that grew up around it was online. So when I went to an in-person tournament, I was blown away by the sheer enthusiasm of the players. We archive tournaments, so check them out if you get a chance.

GBVS Sphere was an in-person tournament, but there are ES tournaments held online too.

That’s right. With the way things are, it isn’t easy for some folks to make it to offline tournaments; that’s why we support online tournaments as well. In June 2022, we held the GBVS ES Tournament Vol.1 with Emiri Kato. As you can guess from the name, the voice actress was invited. We’d like to host and support more events like these and build up the community not only here in Japan, but overseas as well.

The First Official World Tournament:
Highlights to Look Out For

Up to now, all official tournaments have been held in Japan. Are there plans to bring them overseas?

We’ve received a lot of feedback from overseas players expressing interest in having tournaments closer to them. We’re definitely paying attention, and are working towards making that a reality.

Finally, what should people look forward to at EVO 2022?

There’s going to be some top-tier gameplay from players all over the world, which you don’t get the chance to see in a domestic tournament like the Cygames Cup. EVO 2022 is the first official overseas tournament GBVS is participating in, so we’d love for people to watch it either live or via streaming.

EVO 2022 Official Site EVO 2022 Streaming Site

© Cygames, Inc. Developed by ARC SYSTEM WORKS