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Capcom to launch year-long 'Street Fighter' pro league

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The world’s top three esports have a few million things in common.

League of Legends, Dota 2, and StarCraft 2 have all benefited from multi-million investments from the games’ developers. In turn, this has helped transformed those games into massively popular international phenomenons.

Now, developer Capcom plans to replicate that success for one of 27-year-old flagship franchise. Capcom announced today it will fund a year-long league for Street Fighter 4 called the Capcom Pro Tour (CPT). Along with partner Twitch, Capcom will run 11 events around the world that will culminate in the 16-player Capcom Cup in December.

The fighting game scene as a whole long provided a stark contrast to other, richer games. While the top esports hand out prizes of over $1 million and sell out major sports arenas, most big fighting game prizes are closer to a few thousand dollars. League of Legends has given out over $10 million in prizes since its 2009 release. Street Fighter 4’s prize money tallies in at a tick under $200,000.

That means that top esports stars in other games make a healthy living and travel the world. Many fighting games stars aren’t so lucky.

"The fighting community has always been a huge part of the world of competitive gaming, but has lacked global leagues and structure which other esports communities have benefited greatly from,” said Victor ‘Victheslik’ Denchartphan, Twitch’s fighting game specialist. The goal is to “change the face of the fighting game scene.”

But how much will the Capcom Pro Tour change those realities? Many of the details remain unannounced. The prize money and ranking system are two conspicuously absent details that will be announced at a later date.

The tour will exclusively feature Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition and then transition to Ultra Street Fighter IV after it is released in June. The tour kicks off this weekend and extends through November. It will feature two tiers of events: Premiere and “ranking." The seven players who win a premiere event instantly qualify for the Capcom Cup. Premiere events kick off this weekend and extend through November. They are:

• Final Round (March 14-16 – Atlanta, GA, USA)

• NorCal Regionals (April 18-20 – Sacramento, CA, USA)

• Southeast Asia Majors (June 20-22 – Singapore)

• Community Effort Orlando (June 27-29 – Orlando, FL, USA)

• Evolution Championship Series (July 11-13 – Las Vegas, NV, USA)

• The Fall Classic (October 10-12 – Raleigh, NC, USA)

• DreamHack Winter (November 27-30 – Jönköping, Sweden)

The remaining nine invites will be decided based on points gained by placing in the top 16 finishers at premiere events and ranking events, including the SoCal regionals from two weeks ago. The ranking events are:

• SoCal Regionals (February 28-March 2, Los Angeles, CA, USA)

• PAX East (April 11-13 – Boston, MA, USA)

• E3 (June 10-12 – Los Angeles, CA, USA)

• San Diego Comic Con (July 24-27 – San Diego, CA, USA)

Several unspecified online tournaments are also going to be included in the ranking events.

With the CPT, Capcom says it aims to build a professional infrastructure to support tournament organizers in delivering “increased production values, supplementary video content, and new opportunities for players, content creators and sponsors." Tournaments organizers will remain mostly independent, Capcom and Twitch can enable them to take their vision to a “grander” scale.

But how substantial is the investment from Capcom? What is the final product going to look like? Can we expect the CPT to return in 2015? The company left these, and many other, questions unanswered.

If the CPT does deliver on its massive potential, the Pro Tour could change the fighting game community forever.

Photo by Campus Party Brazil/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)