This weekend the announcement was made that Capcom had given IGN's IGN Pro League its blessing to use its games. For the first time Street Fighter games will have official tournaments at an eSports event, namely the biggest name Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and the most infamous game of modern times, Street Fighter X Tekken. Interestingly the most watched game at EVO 2012, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (which peaked at 99,000 viewers on the English speaking Twitch.tv channel alone), is notably absent for now.
Over the past 18 months, the four-way debate has been going on between:
- the eSports community who want fighting games at their events as the next step to becoming the next Poker Series boom
- the top FGC players who want to compete on the bigger stage and grow the community
- the majority of the FGC who don't want to sacrifice everything they've built themselves on a gamble of conforming to eSports
- Capcom, who refused to believe that any eSports organisation would do right by their games and community after MLG had previously burned bridges*
Back in the early days of eSports when the internet wasn't as accessible as it is today, when MLG featured a Street Fighter game an in eSports event, it had 1) only one stream for multiple games, which caused animosity between different gaming communities colliding in stream chats and 2) very little community input, tournaments where run on the whims of MLG, against the community and Capcom's wishes.
Now it seems, three of the four, IPL, Capcom and the top FGC players, have come to an agreement. Whether the rest of the FGC will follow remains to be seen, but here's what been said so far:
What is Capcom saying:
Matt Dahlgren of Capcom explains that it was the lack of confidence in potential partners that led to Capcom staying away from eSports events and focusing on supporting grassroots events. One of the main reasons cited is the tendency for eSports events to force a divide in players by hosting events at the same weekends as some of the major FGC events. Capcom won't merely let IPL use their games, they're going to have an integral part in making sure it's done right. One part of this includes installing a member of the FGC in IPL to represent the majority of the FGC, to make sure that their voice is represented. That man is Mike Ross.
How is the majority of the FGC having its say:
"The only thing that you hear is that people are so concerned with running stuff on the same dates and just throwing money out at the players, and I've already already expressed, if you throw a $20,000 tournament for 1st place and you have that on the same day as say, Final Round, CEO or something like that, that is not a good look. Yeah you'll get like 8 to 16 players that show up such as Justin Wong that have a good shot at winning but the community will always support the community events. so as long as we avoid that as a key product, we can work on other stuff later, but we have steps of things we need to do to maintain good relationships with everybody."
This is exactly what will make this partnership work where other organisations would fail. MLG have been running tournaments for Mortal Kombat, Soulcalibur V, The King of Fighters XIII and Tekken TAG Tournament 2 along with Starcraft II and League of Legends recently and any clashes with community events have been met with, "oh that's a shame, but we've got other gaming communities to deal with too, clashes are inevitable, look at all this money you can win!" Which while true to an extent, will never see MLG get full scenes of each respective game to fly out to their events.
On the surface IPL seem to want to do this right.
What's the top FGC players' reaction
Obviously as one of the top names in the FGC, this means big things for Justin Wong, but what interests me about this interview is Justin's preference for a longer, open-invitational tournament with all players rather than a smaller tournament with 32 players. But at the same time he also says that if you have longer sets (in any competitive game) then the better player will always come out on top. So it's no surprise that he says that a 32 player tournament with longer sets would be better than either with short sets. What IPL will go for in 2013 is currently unknown.
Is what IPL saying and doing two different things? IPL makes a good start
Arguably the biggest surprise of the entire weekend emerged in the latter part when IPL announced the dates for IPL6, March 29th to the 31st, the exact same weekend as Final Round. Final Round, in terms of legacy, is the 2nd most important FGC event behind EVO. 2013 will be Final Round's 16th annual event. Many instantly took to news reports of the IPL announcement and Twitter to voice their concerns of IPL doing exactly what was promised it wouldn't.
Within 48 hours of the initial announcement, IPL was put on the spot, here's a statement from the Final Round facebook page today:
I've just been informed by Capcom representative "Matt Dahlgren" that there will be no conflicting fighting games events with IPL and FR 16 next year. I would like to thank Capcom's Matt Dahlgren and IPL officials for not scheduling their first fighting game event on the same weekend as FR 16.
Later IPL put their own statement out on Twitter repeating the same. This is the biggest gesture of an eSports company doing right by fighting games to date. They certainly didn't have to do this, many people have pointed out that the venues for both events more than likely had been booked well before this weekend and that IPL could've easily cited that and gone ahead with having a competing set of fighting game tournaments that weekend. No-one would blame them. But they would've lost the trust of Capcom and the community quicker than anyone previously.
If this is a sign of things to come and IPL7, presumably in June, manages to avoid CEO 2013 (June 28th - 30th), IPL8 in September and IPL9 in December (long after EVO 2013 in July) will be a prime position to fully get the FGC on-board. This could be the start of something big.