When we were growing up, we all had that one friend who would attribute his or her losses to some flaccid excuse. We probably rolled our eyes when they proclaimed, “My controller stopped working!” But what if they had been telling the truth? Top fighting game players Fuudo and Xian can attest to that fact, as their Razer brand fight sticks inexplicably stopped working mid-match during the Street Fighter V tournament at Final Round 19 in Atlanta, Georgia last weekend. Controller malfunctions didn’t just rob these players of sweet victories. They also lost the chance to win a piece of a $500,000 US prize pool, as well as placement points for Capcom’s annual Capcom Cup tournament.
To set the stage, here’s a little backstory:
Final Round is an annual fighting game community event that, for 19 years, has offered serious gamers of all walks the opportunity to test their fighting game mettle in a variety of titles. It’s also the first stop on the Capcom Pro Tour, which is Capcom’s official circuit for promoting its fighting games and nurturing fighting game communities. Those who accrue enough placement points in Capcom Pro Tour events will be eligible for one of 32 qualification spots in the Capcom Cup tournament that takes place near the end of each year.
America-based gaming peripheral company Razer sent three well-known, sponsored players to compete in Final Round’s Street Fighter V tournament: Xian (Singapore), Fuudo (Japan), and Infiltration (South Korea). On the final day of the event (Sunday), each of these players experienced some kind of malfunction with their Razer fight stick controllers. Infiltration – who would go on to win the Street Fighter V tournament – suffered a verification error while trying to connect his stick to the allotted PlayStation 4, but was still able to compete.
Xian and Fuudo were not so lucky. Their sticks stopped working entirely mid-match, and both players were forced to forfeit their matches. Xian was sent to the Losers bracket, while Fuudo was eliminated entirely.
Though Xian and Fuudo’s stick malfunctions were not captured on live footage, Infiltration’s was displayed before not only a live audience, but in front of 20,000 viewers watching Final Round’s Twitch.tv stream.
The culprit? Razer’s Atrox stick, which has a rather sordid history of malfunctioning at the worst possible moments. One well-known example includes top player Momochi’s Atrox stick refusing to work during grand finals at last year’s EVO championship for Street Fighter 4, which, as NeoGAF user Tripon phrases it, “[allowed] 250,000 people to see how [sic] the craftsmanship of Razer products in a live demonstration.”
Razer was caught with its pants down. After all, how can you write off your own product going haywire not once, but multiple times? Razer CEO Min-Lian Tang had this to say about the controller mishaps:
It’s with great pleasure that I’d like to announce that RZR|Infiltration has won Final Round – the first premier SF V tournament.
However, while this is a great win for Team Razer and the FGC, it has come to my attention that there was a malfunction of the fighting sticks used by RZR|Xian and RZR|Fuudo at the tournament. These malfunctions have been due to the use of our PS4 prototypes which was also the same one used by Infiltration.
The good news is that we’re committed to the FGC and can confirm that we’ve been working on PS4 products given the move of the FGC to the PS4 platform. And in this case, like every Razer product (and now it’s an open secret), we field-test them all in actual tournament gameplay by our eSports athletes as part of our validation/testing phase before we go into actual mass production. In this case, it’s provided Infiltration with the win as he was using one of our prototypes in the tournament.
The bad news however is that despite our PS4 prototype sticks working flawlessly for the past couple of months, what looks to be a firmware bug resulted in a malfunction of some our prototypes that were used by Xian & Fuudo at the tournament. Rest assured that we’ll be resolving this issue before we go into the next phase of testing and before they go into mass production.
In the light of this, we will suspend any new FGC sponsorships until the PS4 sticks are ready for production. I understand this may cause some concern as we see other corporate sponsors pulling out from the FGC at this time but rest assured we will reinstate our sponsorships for the FGC when our PS4 products are ready and of course our existing support for our players remains unaffected.
The problem, as it turns out, seemed to lie in a firmware bug. Razer has temporarily suspended any new fighting game sponsorships until the bugs have been resolved.
Atrox sticks are traditionally Xbox peripherals, but Razer has been branching out into the PS4 market as of late (no doubt because of Street Fighter V). That Razer would field test their prototypes at a major tournament – where players compete with one another for prize pools and fame – shocked many fighting game fans.
But the Razer tale does not end there.
At Final Round, Razer had asked fighting game community member and stick techie Matthew “Gummowned” Gummo to repair Infiltration’s Atrox stick. Though the below tweets and pictures date to December from last year, Infiltration’s stick presumably underwent a similar process at Final Round. The results of Gummo’s Atrox operations are astounding:
Incase anyone was wondering, this was the before. pic.twitter.com/deFQGsl6de
— Matthew Gummo (@Gummowned) December 14, 2015
Sorry razer. This is how an atrox modded for ps4 should look like. pic.twitter.com/Td6xnyjljq
— Matthew Gummo (@Gummowned) December 14, 2015
@TheHadou they are using the hori FPS ps4 pcb.
— Matthew Gummo (@Gummowned) March 20, 2016
As it turns out, Razer’s PS4 Atrox sticks use the PCB (printed circuit board, which essentially allows the controller to communicate with itself) from Hori’s own Hori Pad FPS+ gamepad. Put simply, the Atrox PS4 sticks were using a competitor’s PCB in place of its own.
While it’s admirable that Razer – a company known for shunning Sony consoles because its CEO didn’t use a PS3 – is willing to branch out into the realm of the PS4, the company has quite the swamp to wade through when it comes to both hardware fidelity and public relations. How Razer will weather the storm of any future hardware mishaps remains to be seen.