Evo 2023's new finals and prize plan is understandable at first glance but also concerning for the fighting game community

Evo 2023's new finals and prize plan is understandable at first glance but also concerning for the fighting game community

For over 20 years, there was little prestige greater in the fighting game community than making top 8 at Evo in your title of choice except for actually winning the event, but that’s changing now.

As was revealed during this week’s lineup announcement, Evo 2023 is altering what makes a finalist from top 8 down to top 6, and that applies to prize payouts as well.

While there’s much to be said about the concerns for the FGC on this decision, let’s touch upon why it was made in the first place.

Large fighting game tournaments never run “on time.”

Between the bracket play itself, ad / stream breaks, award ceremonies and potential announcements, many / most events go on for hours longer than their scheduled end time, which the Evo organizers seem to be trying to rectify with this new policy.

Tournament organizers have contracts with the event venues that includes a specific time they must be cleared out of there with crews needing to quickly tear down setups and equipment late into the night / early morning trying to meet their business obligations.

Plus, it’s hard to justify most fighting game fans on the East Coast and Midwest staying up past midnight just to watch the finals of the largest game.

On the surface, it appears like a pretty sensible plan from a business and viewership perspective, but this negatively impacts the players who are spending a lot of money to attend and compete in Evo 2023.

With 8 maintsage games this year, that’s suddenly 16 fewer competitors who will not receive any prize money than basically every other FGC major including past Evos.

That includes no award ceremony, no medals, and nothing to say they finished 7th at Evo aside from the results themselves.

In a community that already struggles to pay its best players, this feels like a big step back from where we’ve all been hoping to see major tournaments go as the FGC continues to grow.

We can’t deny that the $25,000 prize pool minimum for all of Evo 2023’s main games will be a welcome chunk of change for those talented few who manage to get a slice of the pie, but even then, the base prize winnings will likely barely turn a profit for anyone who finishes 5th or 6th (unless they didn’t need to travel at all).

Street Fighter 6 offering up over $2 million in prizes for the Capcom Pro Tour 2023 (and don’t be surprised if some of that is added to Evo too) felt as though we could be starting to see a shift to better and wider earnings for the competitors although that’s clearly not going to immediately trickle down to all large events.

Considering this year may also end up being the largest Evo tournament to date with the hype surrounding SF6 and the massive CPT circuit, we could see 10,000 players or more sign up and only 6 of them get anything besides the joy of competing.

That’d be a whopping 0.0006% of players getting paid, and even that could be just $1,750 (before taxes).

Evo Manager Rick “TheHadou” Thiher has responded to community questions regarding the prize structure and stated that the placements and award percentages may be adjusted in prize pool development significantly exceeds the minimum for any game, so we could still see these plans change as registration progresses.

There’s plenty of arguments to be made as to how larger prize pools should be divided amongst those who entered fighting game events, but that’s not the primary issue here.

It’s that we’re in 2023 where the FGC is in a nice and healthy place after the disaster that was 2020, but now the largest fighting game tournament in the world is seemingly taking a step backward in how we celebrate those who pour everything trying to perform at the highest level.

Evo could still pay out 7th place and give them medals instead of making it a more exclusive club without offering any competitive benefit for attendees (aside from giving those at the very top just a bit more money).

Now, eyes will likely be on other major FGC events to see if they take a similar approach to cutting down on time, but given the concerns within the community, it’s not going to be a decision that any big TO is going to make likely.

Between Evo and the CPT, we seemingly have 2 conflicting directions our beloved premier tournaments could be heading towards in the near future, and most would probably rather see one over the other.

We’re all heading towards a very interesting juncture that’ll determine the trajectory of the FGC for the next 5+ years with hopefully monumental games on the horizon with Street Fighter 6, Tekken 8, Project L and beyond.

There’s no shortage of people, however, who are dedicated to seeing the community improve and healthily grow, and thankfully, many of them are the ones working to continue to put on these events.

Large-scale fighting game tournaments are complicated, and profit margins are typically small at best. There’s no denying that.

It’s just important to move forward and take care of our own who share in the love of the game.


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