When someone hears the words competitive gaming or eSports, the games that immediately come to mind are League of Legends and Dota2. This is a testament to how skillfully Riot Games and Valve have managed their brands and grown their active player bases.
- A constant stream of casual players is ensured by the games’ attractive visuals, free-to-play nature, gameplay balance, multi-player emphasis, and non-invasive monetization.
- Popular personalities with rabid followings are able to earn a significant income generating content (e.g. articles, streams, videos) for their respective games.
- Eye-popping tournament prize pools (mostly funded by each game’s publisher) convince the most talented players to form teams so they can shoulder their way into the competitive scene.
- A dynamic professional circuit gives the games greater visibility, adding to its ‘street cred’ and encouraging even more people to take up the game.
- Most importantly – advertisers who notice the games’ large audience share are lured into sponsoring players, teams, events, and tournaments so they can target the games’ participants (whether player or viewer, casual or pro).
It’s an enviable self-sustaining loop. Blizzard was quick to catch on and has already begun exploiting it via their online collectible card game Hearthstone, and in the foreseeable future, Heroes of the Storm (a MOBA like League of Legends and Dota2) and OverWatch (which has drawn comparisons to RPG-influenced first person shooters like Bungie’s Destiny and Valve’s Team Fortress 2).
It took a while, but historic videogame developer Capcom finally took a hint and started to actively back the previously self-supporting fighting game community (FGC), so as to achieve the same ends. Started in 2014, Capcom Pro Tour‘s goal is to encourage viewership and participation in all reputable minor and major FGC tournaments. Top placers for Capcom fighting games like Ultra Street Fighter 4 earn invites to the year-end Capcom Cup, which serves as the most prestigious (and most profitable) event of the season.
The only thing that held the idea back during its founding year was Capcom’s weak financial position, reportedly aggravated by expensive and unrewarding outsourced projects like Dark Void, the Bionic Commando remake, and Remember Me. This prevented them from injecting decent sums into the prize pools for the Capcom Cup qualifying events and for the Capcom Cup itself. And if pro fighting game players can’t even earn back the equivalent of their airplane fare, hotel accomodations, and meal allowances after placing in the Top 8 of a tourney, they would have little incentive to keep playing seriously – pride, fandom, and sponsorships (if any) will only take you so far. The circuit will eventually die out, killing interest in the games.
Thankfully, Sony saw exciting possibilities in Capcom Cup – by backing it, I presume it is not only hoping to push the Street Fighter franchise back into mainstream consciousness (since it is now directly invested in its future), but also aiming to reinvigorate interest in the stagnant console market (whose income streams have been crippled by the mass exodus of casual gamers to smartphones and tablets).
This may also have the wonderful side-effect of encouraging other videogame companies known for their fighting games (Bandai Namco, SNK Playmore, Arc System Works) to establish their own annual fighting game cups. In fact, Koei Tecmo is already doing so with their very own Battle Royal 2015.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who wants to see the ‘King of Iron Fist’, ‘King of Fighters’, and Crusades Cups come to life! (^_^)
CAPCOM PRO TOUR FOOTAGE
NorCal Regionals 2015 Grand Finals
Hypespotting 4 Grand Finals
Final Round 18 Grand Finals
Nine States Tournament 2015 Grand Finals
CAPCOM CUP FOOTAGE
Capcom Cup 2013 Grand Finals
Capcom Cup 2014 Grand Finals