The only way I can see the FGC growing is turning it into a profitable business. As much as I love our grassroots informal tournaments, the only way we can sustain the tournament scene is by making more money. Money makes the world go round, money keeps the wheels turning, and from the several tournament organizers I’ve spoken too, they’ve all said that they either have a net loss from running their local tournaments (especially when they add their own pot bonuses), or break even. The fixed (venue expense, consoles, TV’s) and variable (electricity from consoles, TV’s, etc.) costs of running a tournament are too high for a $5 or $10 venue fee to cover. Although the contribution margin (Revenue minus the variable costs) might be in the positive, it’s really the fixed expenses that kills money, since taking into account only one station costs around $350 ($120 TV, $60 game, $200 console, give or take), and we have to count the rent of the venue, which for a whole weekend for a major must be immense. If we want tournaments to continue, we are going to have to accept that we have to pay more for these things to keep going.
Increasing pots is not the answer to attract more players. Although the prospect of winning $5,000 is very appealing, I’m sure at least half of the players who enter know that their chances of winning are not likely. So why do they come back? It’s because of the experience of going to a major, and that’s where I feel we should be focusing our attention. Just a specific sample: Final Round 2013 UMVC3 had 380 entrants. Out of those entrants, let’s say Top 32 are the people who actually had a more than decent chance of winning (not counting ChrisG entering the tournament). That means that players to whom the high pot prize can be possibility account for 8.5%, or rounding up 10% of the players in total, not counting the spectators who have a 0 chance of winning, thus meaning the prize pot has a negligent effect on their attendance. Yes, it is true that having multiple top player’s names on the trailers does attract more people to come, but is it enough to justify adding about $3000 to the prize? In other words, do you expect to gain $3000 worth of more money from the players who only decide to go because said top player decides to go? We have to set the pot bonus to a reasonable amount to where we aren’t offering more than what we can handle. What the exact number should be, that’s not for me to say, since I don’t have all the numbers, but tournament organizers need to evaluate this in a business perspective.
What the FGC needs is exposure. More people attending these majors mean that more money is being made, even if it means appealing more to the casual, lesser-skilled player, who make up a larger portion of fighting games.
Although preferable, it isn’t smart to maintain that mentality in a business perspective. Sports teams don’t handpick their audience; they offer attendance to anyone with money to pay. All we are offering to people and players of that caliber is the experience, while offering entry to the tournaments to see how they fare. More people = more revenue = more opportunities to expand = higher Net Profit Value we can demonstrate to other companies saying “Hey, we’re making money. Care to join?”
Another way to expose more people to the scene is by making tournaments not only for Fighting Games, but for multiple genres of games. As someone stated before, there are tons of people who have never heard of fighting game tournaments. Some people only have heard of EVO because Smash was included in it one year. If we could have players come to our majors who play sports genres, Call of Duty, or even people who spectate speed-runners (AGDQ), and they see/hear the crowd hype of someone making a comeback/pulling off a swag combo, they’ll have a firsthand experience of what the FGC is about. We don’t even have to buy the other games and incur further costs: just draw up a contract with the tournament organizers from the other genres, saying “How about we combine our tournaments together, we have a great venue lined up, both our scenes with gain extra exposure, and we can split the expenses,” and right there we can save money while bringing in more people
Another idea, and although this may seem a bit outlandish, is that someone needs to approach Microsoft. Right now, we are amidst the situation of PS3’s not running FG’s well, but most majors still run with it with the main reason being it is EVO’s standard. If we can clearly present this to Microsoft and say “Right now PS3’s are the standard of Fighting Games mainly because of the fact that EVO carries them. However, as of recent, the problem with PS3’s lagging under certain situations has become apparent in the FG scene, as well as the push to make XBOX the new tournament standard. If you sponsor EVO by giving/selling XBOX’s at a cheaper price, you can automatically make the XBOX the standard for fighting games across the country. This would result in not only XBOX sales increasing, but you also take away sales from your competitor since there is a lesser need to buy a less-quality product solely for the sake that our largest, international Tournament still carries them.”
I cannot contend this, since I am not an expert when it comes to how “poverty” games perform on separate systems. However, SF4 and Marvel still make up the majority, which are what companies are interested in, since they would be investing in the larger portion of the FGC. This suggestion isn’t implying that every single game HAS to be run on XBOX, nor is it arguing which console is better for which game, because I’m sure both consoles have their advantages and disadvantages. This is more so as a way to put our name, the FGC, out there. Maybe it could make the news on some website; or someone will write an article about it; or other potential sponsors will see this and view us with a more serious outlook rather than a bunch of people playing video games. Having our community associated with a big name like Microsoft is a good look to me.
With the issues of sponsors and eSports, I am kind of unsure about it. If I was a company and I did my research on the current state of the FGC, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near this scene. As of now most of our sponsors have been limited to electronic equipment and energy drinks, because we share similar customer bases. As brought up (in sort of a joking manner) in Texas Showdown, imagine if Domino’s pizza were to become a sponsor. I’m sure most people would agree that they would make a load of money, since that’s mainly what our diet in a major is made up of, outside of Chinese and chicken wings. Just picture how easy this could be: Domino’s sponsors an event, we advertise the coupon code “FGC” that can be used on the phone and online that offers a discount on two large pizzas. Not only would the majority of people at the actual major itself would use this code, but even the stream monsters from around the US could show their support right at home by using this code to buy their pizza. Dominos could get an exact number of the result of this sponsorship by tracking not only how many people use this code, but where they use this code.
This is just an example, but we have to look at what kind of sponsors we want to attract (from a tournament perspective.) It is good that we have companies like AGE and RZR sponsoring players and offering discounts on electronic equipment: eSports have shown success in this manner. The reason I feel eSports are able to continuously advertise expensive PC Hardware is because even if a minor percentage of their fan base buys their product, it is still a significant number to justify the venture, since their fan base is so large. If you take that same percentage and apply it to the FGC, whose size is not as comparable, it might not.
I’m not saying that this is bad, but we have to look at what sponsorships could benefit EVERYONE, not just pad warriors or stick players who need to replace/upgrade their equipment once every few months. This benefits the players, but how about we offer something to the spectators, to the friends and girlfriends (sorry, that’s a negligible number … jk) who tag along with their buddy to see what the fuss is about. What I’m thinking is having a nearby local restaurant offer a discount for the after-tournament dinner, or have tour guides offer discounts of local tourist attractions. One personal anecdote of mine is traveling to Philly for Winter Brawl and not having a chance to see the Liberty Bell. I don’t need to point out the number of foreigners and out-of-towners who attend these majors, and how beneficial this can be for both sides, but what I am trying to say is that we need to broaden our view of what kind of experience we can offer as a whole.
However, in order to appeal to these larger companies, we not only have to show that organizing these tournaments is a successful business venture, but we need the right person to actually get Domino’s attention, not just a regular employee. Jebailey has shown success this way by getting NOS on board, but we need more big tournament organizers to get involved in this. We can’t be an attractive prospect to many sponsors if we can’t show that we are generating a profit from organizing these tournaments.
TL:DR To keep tournaments alive and getting more people to come, we need to be more business oriented.