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TEKKEN World Tour Finals: Interview with Mark Religioso

The finals for the globetrotting TEKKEN World Tour tournament are on their way to autumnal San Francisco on November 12th. Sixteen of the world’s top TEKKEN 7 players will be in competition for the Tekken World Champion title, with $50,000 in prize money on the line.

One of the key people to make this competitive fighting game tournament happen is Mark Religioso, the Brand Manager for TEKKEN 7 at BANDAI-NAMCO. Before the action kicks in to high gear, we’ve had the chance to query him on some of the ins and outs of this tournament and the game behind it.

Events for Gamers: What is your involvement and role with the TEKKEN 7 tournament, as it has (pardon the pun) played out?

Mark Religioso, TEKKEN 7 Brand Manager, BANDAI NAMCO (Credit: YouTube)

Mark Religioso: As the TEKKEN 7 Brand Manager, I not only lead the marketing efforts, but also built up the BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment global eSports strategy for the title. Over the course of the past two years, I’ve been able to embed myself in the community and get to know a lot of passionate fans and people in the space. The FGC TOs, commentators, and production crews are the real MVP! It’s been a pleasure working with them on this year’s TEKKEN World Tour.

E4G: Looking back, what are a few of the more memorable moments that you can recall from this year’s tournament?
MR: This is a really tough question since there have been countless highlights. Looking back at this year I would have to say my favorite event on the TEKKEN World Tour would have to be Rev Major 2017 which took place back in July in the Philippines. The community out there gave me goosebumps through the stream and I ended up staying up really late to watch. They have a passionate fanbase and the players have the skills to back it up too. The venue was intimate but you could sense the electricity flowing through the crowd as they cheered on the competitors. I’m not going to lie, I’m Filipino as well, but I was extremely happy to see the community come out in droves to support the event and celebrate the franchise. In addition, a monumental handshake took place between two South Korean feuding players, JDCR & Knee. The crowd reaction to that was EPIC and it showcased the great sportsmanship within the community.

E4G: Why are the TEKKEN tournament finals being hosted in San Francisco this year rather than in Japan, as in year’s past?
MR: Historically the King of Iron Fist was always held in Japan. In speaking with the global teams, we recognized that we had fans from all over the world. As a part of the inaugural TWT year, we had collectively decided to have the World Finals event move year-to-year to celebrate competitive play across the globe. With SF being right in BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment America’s backyard and a strong Northern Californian community, it was the perfect fit.

E4G: What features or qualities in TEKKEN 7 might be considered attractive for the hardcore fighter gamer or competitive gamer?

TEKKEN 7 combat up close and personal (Credit: TEKKEN 7 website)

MR: Historically TEKKEN has had a rich history of true fighting gameplay mechanics focused on fine-tuned play creating a fierce competitive yet balanced experience. This is no different in TEKKEN 7 and with the added mechanics, TEKKEN 7 is now more accessible to a wider audience. The addition of power crushes, rage arts, and rage drives are familiar tools to all fighting game fans. In addition, the elephant in the room is Street Fighter’s Akuma! The team has done an amazing job transitioning him into the 3D space so any Street Fighter fan will feel at home playing TEKKEN 7 for the first time.

E4G: How much do you feel the slow-motion and Rage Arts add to TEKKEN 7 tournament play from the spectator perspective? Are more features being considered to create more engaging spectator moments in the tournaments?
MR: Both of these features really make TEKKEN 7 shine in that they added that “ooh” and “ahh” element that didn’t exist in the franchise before. The Rage Art system really opened-up a new chapter in TEKKEN gameplay as it added a comeback mechanic to each and every round. In addition, these moves are cinematic, so it also provides a visually stunning animation to spectators and fans as well. The epic slow mo’s are one of my favorite additions to the game. These build up so much tension and hype that I literally jump out of my seat every time I see it activate. Overall these two features make the game equally fun to play as it is to watch.

E4G: You’ve spoken out before about ways to attract more gender diversity into eSports. Have steps been taken to introduce more gender diversity with the players in the TEKKEN 7 tournament?

MR: I’m big fans of Tanukana from Japan and Cuddle Core from the US. As we continue to evolve and grow our eSports strategy, I’m extremely excited to see more diversity in the player base. As it sits now, TWT is open to anyone and everyone to compete and I’d like to see special format tournaments introduced as time goes on. I’m always encouraging more female players to actively compete!

E4G: Beyond the Geese Howard DLC character introduction, what other changes might players expect to see going forward in TEKKEN 7 development, especially in competitive play?
MR: Geese is going to be an absolute beast! In addition to Geese, we’ve also announced that there will be an additional guest character joining the TEKKEN 7 roster. Stay tuned for more details!

E4G: Lastly, for fun, what’s character are you best at playing in TEKKEN 7? On the flipside, which character do you wish you were better at playing?

MR: Since TEKKEN 2 I was a “casual” Paul player, so I naturally gravitated towards him as the TEKKEN 7 campaign kicked off. I just love that a well-timed death fist could change the course of a match in the blink of an eye. More recently I’ve picked up Jack-7 and have moved to him as my main go-to character with much greater success. I find that his toolset really allows you to dictate the action and force competitors to play your style.

I don’t play against this character often, but I really admire the gimmicks and shenanigans of Yoshimitsu. I hope to find some time to really learn the character as he looks amazingly fun.

E4G: Mark, thanks for taking the time to share your insights about TEKKEN 7 and the World Tour finals with us!

The TEKKEN World Tour Finals tournament goes down in San Francisco on November 12th, with the cost to attend about the same as a large latte. The aforementioned Geese Howard will be playable at demo kiosks and BANDAI NAMCO’s DRAGON BALL FighterZ will be showcased in an Exhibition Match.

Read up on the link above to find out more info, and check in with Events for Gamers for more information from the event itself!


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