Ultra Street Fighter IV
Gamers play "Ultra Street Fighter IV" as part of the Capcom Pro Tour, which has $250,000 up for grabs. Capcom

How Capcom Turned ‘Street Fighter’ Into a Global ESport

Dec 04, 2015

Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise has been around since 1987, but it’s only been recently that the game has emerged as a global eSports title. During Sony’s PlayStation Experience (PSX) fan event at Moscone Center in San Francisco on Dec. 6, the Capcom Cup will award $250,000 to the top eight Ultra Street Fighter IV players from around the globe. That's up from just a $50,000 prize pool last year at a much smaller venue hosted by Capcom.

The Capcom Cup is the culmination of the yearlong Capcom Pro Tour that spans 40 events across countries such as the U.S., the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Sweden, Thailand, Brazil, and Kuwait. Matt Dahlgren, director of brand marketing at Capcom, estimates that as many as 15,000 gamers competed in one of the official events this year, which had an overall prize pool of $250,000 (not including the Capcom Cup's additional $250,000 prize pool).

“This year’s Capcom Pro Tour generated over 40 million impressions, and each tournament averaged around 300,000 to 500,000 unique viewers,” Dahlgren says. “While this could be considered small in comparison to League of Legends or Dota 2, the Capcom Pro Tour essentially doubled in size since the 2014 season.”

Dahlgren sees growth potential for 2016 with the Feb. 16 launch of Street Fighter V. He notes that this is only the second full season of the Capcom Pro Tour, and players have been competing on a core game (Street Fighter IV) that’s seven years old.

Dahlgren says Street Fighter V is the first Capcom game that was created from the ground up with eSports in mind. He notes the game has more tools available to players to help them improve their game. In addition, rather than releasing enhanced versions of the game, Capcom will release new characters digitally for players to buy through in-game currency.

The Capcom Cup’s debut as part of PSX is part of a bigger partnership between Capcom and Sony(sne).

Street Fighter V is console-exclusive to the PlayStation 4, and Capcom and Sony have a long-term strategic partnership in place for Street Fighter,” Dahlgren says. “Sony really shares the vision for the growth potential in the fighting game space, and is making all of the right moves to ensure that PlayStation 4 is the home of competitive fighting games.”

While Microsoft (msft) has been active over the years with its sponsorship of Activision’s Call of Duty Championship and its own Halo Championship Series and the upcoming Halo World Championship, Sony is just entering the eSports market with this Capcom partnership.

Capcom also works with Mad Catz (mcz) as the official fight stick partner and Turtle Beach as the official headset provider of the Capcom Pro Tour. And this year Red Bull came aboard as a sponsor and ran the Red Bull Kumite invitational tournament in France. Moving forward, Dahlgren says Capcom and Red Bull will continue to work together on Street Fighter collaborations.

According to research firm Newzoo CEO Peter Warman, from July to November of this year, Ultra Street Fighter IV had an average of 2,100 Twitch viewers. However, the game had a big peak during the Evolution 2015 tournament with more than 250,000 concurrent viewers on the final day. The dedicated eSports tournament channel has an average of 11,000.

Dahlgren admits that Street Fighter hasn’t grown proportionally compared with MOBAs, but he believes the immediate potential for growth is much higher.

“Capcom, as a company, is only just recently starting to make the right moves to help facilitate this growth,” Dahlgren says. “I’d like to see Street Fighter more proportional to what the UFC is to the NFL, and if we can accomplish that, we will be a much larger staple in the larger eSports ecosystem.”

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