The announcement of the Capcom Pro Tour’s $2 million prize pool caused many within the fighting game community to rejoice, with good reason. For the longest time, fighting games had some of the lowest payouts in esports, despite the genre being one of the oldest.
The Capcom Pro Tour’s $2 million prize pool looks to mark a turning point for competitive fighting games, finally giving the genre the recognition many in the community feel it deserves. That said, fighting game fans shouldn’t think that this is the end of the road. There are still more than a few questions that need to be answered before it can be said that fighting games have truly “made it.”
Why isn’t the fighting game genre as big as other esports?
In a way, the fighting games genre’s early start may have contributed to it not riding the same wave of prize pool growth as other esports. By the time the concept of esports had started to take hold with games such as Quake, Counter-Strike and StarCraft, fighting games’ first golden age was already starting to wane. The gaming zeitgeist had started to move on to other games and genres.
In addition, competitive fighting game players played their games in the arcade while those who played the early esports games did so at home on their personal computers. That created a wide cultural divide, especially with the advent of LAN parties, which eventually gave way to big esports events.
Early missteps with attempts to integrate the fighting game community into the nascent esports ecosystem further compounded the situation. For example, when Major League Gaming tried to partner with the Evolution Championship Series (aka Evo) in 2005, it ended up assigning a larger floor space to Halo, crowding out the fighting game community that the event was supposed to be for. This is on top of these leagues making questionable choices when it came to selecting fighting games for their events.
“It’s hard to overstate this point: the eSports leagues have a consistent record of failure when it comes to fighters, from 2005 to the present day,” wrote Tony Cannon, one of the founders of Evo, in an editorial in the now defunct Shoryuken back in 2011. “They are profoundly ignorant about fighters.”
All of this meant that, even as Street Fighter IV brought fighting games back to mainstream awareness, it took fighting game developers and publishers setting up their own professional tours for the genre to start seeing larger prize pools.
Now, on the eve of Street Fighter 6’s release, Capcom revealed that its Capcom Pro Tour would have a $2 million prize pool—the largest in competitive fighting game history—for Street Fighter 6.
The sheer size of the pool led many to feel that this was the moment fighting game fans had been waiting for—that when competitive fighting games can finally be a viable career for its players.
However, it may still be too early to say that this is the case as there are some issues that still need to be addressed.
It’s just one game
As previously mentioned, the Capcom Pro Tour’s $2 million prize pool—with half going to the winner of Capcom Cup X—is only for Street Fighter 6. But there are more games that are played by the fighting game community than Street Fighter.
One of the most beautiful things about the fighting game community is how it revolves around an entire genre and not just one game. Street Fighter players stand alongside Tekken players, King of Fighters players, and the like. Indeed, players will often play more than one game competitively at the same time—something that usually isn’t the case with other genres and other games.
While it’s easy to bring up the old adage about a rising tide lifting all boats, it remains to be seen if this will be the case for fighting games. Other publishers and developers have yet to follow in Capcom’s footsteps and raise seven-figure prize pools for their fighting games. Will Bandai Namco also put up a million dollars for Tekken 8, will Warner Bros. match Capcom’s amount for the newly announced Mortal Kobat 12? At the moment, players are hoping that they do, but whether or not this happens remains to be seen.
We don’t know if we’ll continue to see large prize pools
The other question hanging over the Capcom Pro Tour’s $200 million prize pool for Street Fighter 6 is whether or not it will continue beyond this year.
A publisher pumping a lot of money into its professional tour when a new game launches is pretty common. Indeed, Capcom did this exact same thing with Street Fighter V, greatly expanding the Capcom Pro Tour with a number of regional events—including one here in the Philippines. However, the company eventually realized that it needed to scale back, cutting back on the number of events in the tour.
Whether or not this will be the case with Street Fighter 6 at the Capcom Pro Tour remains to be seen. Hopefully, Capcom will be able to continue to provide a large prize pool for the Capcom Pro Tour, either from the sale of the game and items related to it or through sponsors willing to invest in the game and the community.
What can the community do?
While the above points raise questions about the future of fighting games as a financially viable esport genre there is something the fighting game community can do about it—support the games.
At the end of the day, fighting game developers and publishers will support games with active communities. This is because active communities contribute to their bottom lines, either through direct sales of the games or downloadable content and merch related to them or by acting as advertisements for their games, showing potential buyers that there is an active player base for the game.
Indeed, there have been numerous examples of games whose communities continued to support them getting continued support from their publishers. This includes games from decades past, such as SNK’s older King of Fighters titles as well as older Blazblue and Guilty Gear titles from Arc System Works.
People continuing to support and play Street Fighter 6 is one way to show Capcom that it’s worth it to continue to pump money into its pro tour.
At the same time, active player bases help attract players who may have come in through one game but are looking to branch out to another. The Capcom Pro Tour’s $2 million prize pool is bound to attract a lot of new players to Street Fighter 6, perhaps some of those might be enticed to try other fighters. If enough these end up trying other fighters, perhaps other publishers will be enticed to raise the prize pools for their games’ tournaments as well.
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