Tecmo Madison XIII
By Chris Vogt
MADISON, Wisc. — New director. New venue. Same result.
In its inaugural year under fresh management, Tecmo Madison XIII on April 8, 2017 provided its usual spectacle of 8-bit magic.
Amidst the shoulder-to-shoulder spectator crowd in a packed High Noon Saloon, joeygats (Joseph Chiltowsky) marched through a gauntlet of 292 competitors — including Regualtor (Kyle Miller) in the finale — to capture his second Tecmo Super Bowl world championship title in a row.
BY THE NUMBERS
Live Stream Viewers: 161,076 — Twitch: 74,551 – Facebook Live: 86,525
“Tecmo Madison XIII was a success in every measurable way: from the size of the crowd, quality of the playing field, record number of spectators, unbelievable live stream size and awesome attitudes all around,” said director and Florida native Dave Murray, who took over Tecmo Madison from tournament creators Josh and Chet Holzbauer.
“We knew taking over from the kings of Madison in Josh and Chet that there was a risk of a drop-off in the participation of folks who felt this was the death of an era, but the response to keeping it alive was humbling and heartwarming,” Murray added. “We knew this community had a love for the game and the tournament that could keep this thing going and our record-breaking registrations and wait list attest to that.
“It was a gamble on our part, but the community gambled with us and it all worked out great.”
Tecmo Madison grew to a record number of participants across the two-day event at approximately 750 and a record number of live stream viewers at 150,000-plus. Having major sponsors in Hyperkin and Koei Tecmo helped solidify the event as a major tournament in the esports growing scene.
“The event blew away every metric we projected,” Murray said, noting how successful the Friday Night Retro gig was the evening before that consisted of an NBA Jam and NHL 95 tournament.
“Obviously with all of these people coming in from all over, they were happy to have an opportunity to hang out and play an additional day and that was really great to see,” Murray added. “Making this a multi-day event is something that we’ll definitely be continuing in future tournaments.
“The venue was fantastic,” Murray explained of High Noon Saloon, a two-tier tavern with ample viewing spots. “Having everyone in the same room really ramped up the excitement, and the balcony provided a great vantage point for spectators.”
Murray said while the venue provided an ideal spot to host the weekend-long event, fitting the 750 attendees comfortably throughout the two days became a noticeable concern.
“Josh and Chet had it dialed in after having it at the Badger Bowl for consecutive years, so there were, of course, expected hiccups in taking over and moving it — notably space,” Murray explained. “But, again, the community was incredible to deal with some tight quarters for opening rounds and it was amazing how many stuck around.”
LEADING UP TO THE BIG DANCE
The road to making Tecmo Madison XIII possible consisted of leaps and bounds — an entire year of planning, plotting, traveling, and gathering 70+ CRT televisions.
There were months of development on a new website that included a backend scoring system and real-time brackets and stats as the tournament was taking place — a Tecmo Madison first.
There were months of courting potential sponsors to provide additional prizing opportunities (like a meet and greet with Bo Jackson in Chicago) and to help defer some of the additional costs of moving to a new venue. Hyperkin’s supported the event by providing the system hardware. Tecmo Madison used the Hyperkin Retron 1 system throughout the day and this helped alleviate a big technical hiccup the event typically experienced — having to find, tune and rebuild old Nintendo Entertainment Systems, which were released in 1985.
There were months of creating marketing assets and deploying them to build the live stream audience to give a larger platform to our players and let the online Tecmo community see what our players are up to.
“First and foremost, Josh and Chet built this thing, so this couldn’t have happened without them having started this crazy tournament and then being willing to let some guys from Florida take it over,” Murray said.
“What made it a success was a ton of hard work, and then a very willing community to join us. It took a game that still resonates to even get sponsors to answer our calls.
“It took the faith of the venue who had never even heard of video game competitions.”
COMPETITION OUT THE SEAMS
Back to back undefeated runs in any sport is beyond statistical measure. He has been hit with Tecmo lightning twice at this point.
For Chiltowsky, also known as JoeyGats, to win back to back Tecmo Super Bowl world championship titles is a lightning-strike situation, Murray stated.
But what’s even more striking? Chet Holzbauer did it in 2012 and 2013.
“The competition at Madison this year was fierce,” Murray said “All-time high? That is tough to say. We are missing some heavyweights these days, but I think our field is keeping pace with being the biggest and hardest tournament there is.
“There is always room for more top players,” Murray added. “Any given Sunday, as they say.”
While Chiltowsky was deemed as a favorite to go far at Tecmo Madison XIII, the thought of him not losing a single game was logistically doubtful. Chiltowsky, now, has not lost a single Tecmo Madison game in two years.
“A lot of those in the know rolled their eyes collectively when people knew I had JoeyGats winning it all again,” Murray said. “Having a front row seat to him killing everyone last year, it was not unrealistic for him to do it again in my opinion.
“But then watching Regulator (Kyle Miller) at our Tundra Bowl qualifier, I figured we would have a Gats/Regulator final and was thinking Regulator would win,” Murray added.
“JoeyGats going undefeated twice is something I don’t think will ever happen again,” Murray continued.
“Back to back undefeated runs in any sport is beyond statistical measure. He has been hit with Tecmo lightning twice at this point.”
Miller credited Chiltowsky on his performance.
“That run was sick,” Miller said. “That’s why he’s the best. Only the best can overcome the different hands Tecmo deals you. The best can overcome bad luck. That’s why he wins.
“I plan on changing this, of course,” Miller poked.
Chiltowsky played in a 2016 title rematch with Aaron Toner, and he went through Rico Rieck, Louis Buennagel and Matt Vogt to eventually get to Kyle Miller in the title game.
“The whole thing was incredible,” Chiltowsky said. “I still can’t believe I came out on top with that field, especially since leading up to it I was getting demolished in hotel games prior and just not playing good.”
While this year didn’t have a Cinderella like last year in Aaron Toner reaching the finals against Chiltowsky, budding Tecmoers such as Russel Sloan (Neerrm), Isaac Wright (DisastaMasta) and Jim Persins (JimSocks) took progressions in their top-8 placements.
“Having Neerrm place third was great for the community,” Murray said. “He is such a big part of the online Tecmo scene and retrogaming that it was fun to seem him take the world’s best to the ropes.”
Added Murray: “There is always room for the next ‘The Kid’ (Toner) to knock off Mort and Regulator. Surprises will always happen and are always welcome.”
TAKING A MEMORABLE NOTE
Those who typically stick around to soak up the entire tournament experience are there for the memories made.
And that’s no exception for Kyle Miller.
“I loved the vibe,” Miller said. “While it was a little crowded at first, the outdoor patio area was a great spot for socializing. I did more talking this year to new and old friends than any other.”
“All these people who rarely see each other come together and pick right up where they left off and that is awesome,” Murray said. “Also seeing new players get welcomed in, watching them make connections and friendships that they’ll take with them after the tournament.
“Seeing the community embrace the idea of Josh and Chet passing the torch to a new generation running the tournament, yet still agreeing to be a part of it is priceless.”
Chiltowsky said he wants to continue to be a part of Tecmo Madison.
“Even though it causes me so much stress and I get super ill the night before, I’ll keep playing, absolutely,” Chiltowsky explained. “Because not all stress is bad stress. Plus, I get to spend time with a lot of people I consider good friends.”
Chiltowsky credits some of those fellow Tecmoers for his success the last two tournaments.
“Dave (Murray) is the reason any of my Madison wins are even possible. Without him I wouldn’t have made it these last two years,” Chiltowsky said. “I owe Dave all the thanks in the world, along with Mort (Francis Buennagel), Lou (Louis Buennagel) and my main key to winning, Hank the Tank (Hank De Wild).
“Winning Madison really changed my life and I couldn’t have done any of it without the support of the community,” Chiltowsky added.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR TECMO MADISON?
Tecmo Madison XIII is only the beginning.
“We never want to lose sight of the tight-knit origins of the Madison event,” Murray said. “But due to the great work of Josh and Chet this is now the de facto world championships. As such we have more and more people wanting to participate, and we will continue to grow responsibly to address that demand.
“That growth might be via multiple events across other states, or with growing the overall size of the Madison event,” Murray stated.
Tecmo Madison has an event lined up in Dallas in August.
“If there is Tecmo in Madison, I will come,” said Miller, who will be traveling with Chiltowski to a Tecmo Madison satellite tournament in Dallas. “It’s a once a year commitment and one hell of a time.
“Where else in the world can you drink, socialize and play a video game all day?” Miller added. “I pray for many more strong years to come.”
While High Noon Saloon allowed tournament organizers to have participants in one room, which was the goal Murray said, it made for some cramped quarters in the first round.
“A larger venue is definitely in our future,” he said.
Seeding and bracketing with nearly 30-percent of players being first timers also highlighted some challenges.
“We are already working to improve bracketing so that the pace of the tournament can speed up,” Murray said. “On that same note, with a brand new scorekeeping system we were slowed down slightly, but that was its maiden voyage. Next year it will work to its full potential with trained scorekeepers.”
But according to Miller, it’s not about the score.
“Playing at live Tecmo tournaments never gets old. I love talking to guys about life and Tecmo,” Miller said. “Though if Tecmo was an esport, I would have a new full-time job.”
On Murray’s watch, that’s not out of the question.