Big or small scale, if the FGC wants bigger prize pools the answer looks to be crowdfunding

Should come via efforts by both fans and developers

Posted by John 'Velociraptor' Guerrero • December 31, 2018 at 3:47 p.m. PST | Comments: 54

The issue of competitive fighting game prize payouts has been on the community's radar for quite some time, but has been ushered towards the front of the conversation in recent weeks because of the Tekken World Tour Finals.

Tekken 7 has quickly and consistently risen through the ranks as one of the most enjoyable, watchable and digestible eSports fighting games around today. It seems to have the potential to go extremely far as a spectator sport, but surprisingly low payouts for the TWTF took some of the positive thunder away from the 2018 event, and may have led some of the game's strongest competitors to question whether they'll be able to afford quitting their day jobs to do this full time.

In 2017 the Tekken finale event boasted a $50,000 prize pot to be dispersed to the top eight finishers, but in 2018 that number was halved to just $25,000. Finalists UYU|Qudans and Book expressed hesitation to compete in 2019 after the World Finals were finished on December 2nd, though they did not specify the reason for said hesitation as 100% financial.

The fighting game genre is recognized as one of the smaller eSports at this time. While Capcom's Street Fighter 5 is the fighting game financial front runner in this department, (the Capcom Pro Tour offers over $500,000 in prizes, $200,000 of which goes to the Capcom Cup finalists) it still pales in comparison to the likes of Counter Strike, League of Legends and Fortnite purses.

Considering the relative size of the FGC at this point in time, perhaps we should still be considering the idea that we have not grown too large to use crowdfunding entities such as Matcherino to help grow prize pools.

Michael "IFC Yipes" Mendoza's Battle of the Strongest 2 did so, and was able to garner a prize pot of $8,000. That's $8,000 raised for a grassroots, eight man Marvel vs. Capcom 2 event.

This isn't all apples to apples. Companies like Capcom and Bandai Namco probably wouldn't be able to use crowdfunding sites like Matcherino in the same way an individual personality like Yipes (who pledged to eat a worm on stream if certain monetary goals were met) but they still can explore this avenue.

Capcom actually fuels its Pro Tour prize pots with yearly CPT DLC for Street Fighter 5 that players can purchase. This usually includes character costumes and a new in-game stage bundled together for $20-$30, a portion of which goes to growing the Capcom Cup payout totals.

Going back to the Tekken World Tour Finals issue, it seems Bandai could potentially benefit from doing something similar with its DLC content. Indeed we saw a very encouraging story when Killer Instinct (a title with a smaller fan base than either Tekken or Street Fighter) raised $100,000 in just 72 hours with their Shadow Jago character campaign.

While Bandai Namco does sell some DLC content in the form of season passes, new game modes and the like, they haven't indicated that any of the proceeds have gone to the Tour prizes.

If we take a look at crowdfunding when it comes to the bigger dogs of eSports, we see examples like DOTA 2 raising over $20 million for the 2018 International. That event started with a $1.6 million prize from Valve, but crowdfunding contributions raised the total to $25,532,177.

Valve has clearly gotten the concept of crowdfunding incentives down to a science, offering fans Compendiums and Battle Passes packed with DOTA content. Fans can spend as little as $9.99 or as much as $500+ on these with 25% of the proceeds going to the International prize pot.

If fighting games want to continue to grow in the eSports realm, it seems that having crowdfunding be a significant part of the equation is all but a must. We look forward to Bandai's moves in 2019, hoping to see an approach that increases payouts for their finals event as opposed to the 50% reduction we saw from 2017-2018.

Grassroots events should be encouraged to explore resources such as Matcherino, while developers should almost certainly being following Valve's example to certain extents.

The community likely won't be hitting the $25 million single event mark any time soon, but the potential for continued growth via this only partially explored avenue truly seems massive.

Thank you to Sabre and Darc_Requiem for the tip.

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