Why Capcom Cup’s Million Dollar Prize Pool is a Big Deal for Fighting Games

Why Capcom Cup’s Million-Dollar Prize Pool is a Big Deal for Fighting Games

FGC is poverty? Maybe not anymore after Capcom Cup X.

When it was announced that Capcom Cup X would have a two million dollar prize pool, there were shockwaves across the Fighting Game Community. This would be the first time a fighting game tournament would have a million-dollar grand prize — a historic moment. It may not even be so farfetched to say that this will influence fighting game esports moving forward.

But first, we need a bit of perspective.

There’s this skewed image about esports and how lucrative of a career it is. We hear news about esports events selling out massive venues and offering million-dollar grand prizes but not all esports are treated equally. Esports is an ever-changing industry with multiple games constantly rising and falling in popularity. It’s an unfortunate reality then that many game’s esports viability depends on their current popularity.

Why Capcom Cup’s Million Dollar Prize Pool is a Big Deal for Fighting Games
Akihiro “Ao” Abe versus Arslan “Arslan Ash” Siddique at the Evo 2023 Tekken 7 grand finals. With an event this grand, it’s hard to believe that the winner only received a 10,000 USD grand prize. (Photo by Robert Paul)

Take Dota 2, for example. Last year’s International had the lowest prize pool in its history since it introduced crowdfunding. Yet, at $3,380,455, Dota 2 still had one of the biggest esports tournament prize pools of that year. Most fighting game tournaments didn’t even come close to seeing that kind of money, save for the Gamers8 Invitationals (and even then they had the lowest prize pools among their featured games). That’s always been the rub with fighting games; there’s a lot of heart and passion behind them but they’ve never made it in terms of money or popularity.

In fact, if we’re to look at a list of the top-earning esports titles in the world we can see that no fighting game makes it to the top 50 — not very good prospects for those wanting to commit to fighting game esports.

Money vs. Passion

Passion is a word used a lot in the FGC as it’s necessary if you want to make a career out of fighting games. It’s certainly not for the money, as their tournament prizes pale in comparison to other esports.

Keeping The International 2023’s prize pool in mind, Capcom’s similar pinnacle event last year, Capcom Cup IX, had a total prize of 298,500 USD. Tekken was far worse, with the Tekken World Tour finals having a prize pool of only 100,000 USD. Yet we have legends like Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong competing at the highest level for over 2 decades. 20 plus years of tournaments and they don’t even make it to the top 1,000 esports earners

Why Capcom Cup’s Million Dollar Prize Pool is a Big Deal for Fighting Games
Justin Wong celebrates his grand finals victory against Christopher “NYChrisG” Gonzalez in Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 at Evo 2014. This victory netted him 6,084 USD. (Photo by Robert Paul)

Granted, they made their money through other means such as sponsorships and streaming. But you can’t deny it’s a crying shame that their passion for competition can’t turn into a lucrative career. It’s why Capcom Cup’s 2 million dollar prize pool is turning so many heads. This could be a signal for a big change in tournaments.

A major move by a major player

Normally if a developer wants their game’s esports scene to grow they have to put their own money into it. The practice started with Valve when they put 1,600,000 USD as the base prize pool for the very first International, a practice they maintain even today. 

Of course, not every developer can generate the same amount of money as the behemoth that is Valve. But considering that Tekken 7 broke 10 million sales, you’d expect that their big tournaments would have had something more considerable. Now, with a 2 million dollar prize pool in Capcom Cup X, Capcom is making it loud and clear that it’s their fighting game esports that’s profitable. 

Esports still involves a product that needs to be sold and tournaments like these definitely drive attention. While it’s doubtful that other fighting game companies are planning million-dollar tournaments themselves, this establishes a precedent. By significantly pushing the envelope, Capcom has attracted more eyes and players to their game than ever before. Will they do this again in the future? Who knows? But it generated the hype and excitement that they wanted which can only be an overall positive for the FGC.

Time will tell if other fighting games will follow suit.

Banner photo from Robert Paul via Capcom Fighters.

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