Saturday, December 20, 2014

Capcom Cup 2014

Capcom Cup 2014

All roads led to Capcom Cup on December 13, as the year-end championship pitted the top 16 Ultra Street Fighter IV players on the international Capcom Pro Tour against one another in a contest to crown the best player of 2014. In addition to the cup and the title, there was more than $50,000 in prize money at stake, including $30,000 (plus a bonus based on proceeds from a T-shirt sales campaign) for 1st place—by far the largest cash prize ever in the history of competitive Street Fighter. (Outside of Capcom Cup, a prize of $5,000 for 1st place would be considered a huge paycheck.)

Here were my personal highlights from the tournament:

Ryan Hart Goes Ryu

Ryan "Prodigal Son” Hart of the UK was the first qualifier for Capcom Cup, winning his ticket way back in March. Quite a lot happened between then and Capcom Cup in December, most notably the tour’s transition from Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012 to Ultra Street Fighter IV, which affected every player in some way. In Hart’s case, his main character, Sagat, already not a powerhouse in Ver. 2012, was downgraded for Ultra, and Hart was having a hard time moving past it.

Any time a game switches from one version to the next, every player understands that they face this possibility—that the tools they have come to depend upon could be taken away. When it happens, it can feel awfully unfair, to find essentially that the rules of the game have been rewritten to your disadvantage, your competitive capability crippled by something out of your control. But it’s rarely productive to get upset about it. You either adjust and make the best of it, or you find a different character (or even a different game) to play.

Hart did try competing more with some of his secondary characters, but, for his main in the bulk of the Ultra Street Fighter IV tournaments he entered, he continued to stick with Sagat—a character he clearly no longer believed in. That’s not good.

Furthermore, Japanese Sagat specialist Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, after an already impressive 2013, was actually surging, following the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV, despite the changes to Sagat. Even just a year ago, there was an argument to be had over who the greatest Sagat in the world was—Bonchan or Ryan Hart. In 2014, there was no doubt that it was Bonchan, and Hart’s looked second-rate by comparison. At Capcom Cup, it would not have been a good look for any hopeful contender to enter as the second-rate version of another competitor present at the same event.

And so I loved Hart’s decision to go with Ryu instead. To me, this was Hart saying, Screw it. I did not become Europe’s top fighting game player of all time by relying on a character’s strength in place of my own.

Ryu is the one character that everybody knows how to fight as and against. He does have his favorable and unfavorable matchups, just like every character, but he’s not generally someone you go to as a counter-pick. So when Ryan Hart went to Ryu, it showed me that he was over playing the tiers or the character matchup charts, and was turning instead to his own skill, playing his own game, expressing his own ability through the purest character in the game.

His first-round opponent was one guy who has never worried too much about playing the matchups. The youngest competitor at Capcom Cup, Florida teenager Du “NuckleDu” Dang has had a lot of success with an unorthodox aggressive Guile that goes against all conventional wisdom on the “correct” way to play the character. Against Hart, he would go with his other character, Decapre, the newest, perhaps least understood addition to the game.

Although considered by some to be the least deserving qualifier into Capcom Cup, since he made it without winning any major tournaments in his own region, let alone internationally, NuckleDu knew how to work the crowd. Known for his penchant for performing taunts even in the biggest of matches, he got the crowd on its feet with his first one here. They roared even louder when Ryan Hart reciprocated. When Hart then lost that game, one got the sense that NuckleDu had been working not only the crowd but also his opponent, goading Hart into sinking to NuckleDu’s level. The next time NuckleDu went for it, Hart did not bite. Rather, he let the confidence on that last Shoryuken do the talking for him—the sickest moment in the tournament up to that point.

Hart’s next opponent was Japan’s Yusuke Momochi, the greatest Ken player in the world. These two had gone back and forth over their previous encounters, albeit those had been in different versions of the game and with different characters. This time, Hart kept it going with his Ryu, while Momochi, although capable with multiple characters, stuck with Ken.

Ryu vs. Ken is one of the classic matchups in all of Street Fighter—the oldest, in fact, dating back to the original 1987 arcade game, where they were the only two playable characters. Both characters have certainly changed a lot since then, but still this would be a match involving few tricks—truly, a pure contest to determine who was the stronger player.

Actually, it ended up being one of the least clean matches of the tournament. Momochi looked in his comfort zone for much of it, but then Ryan Hart, with that clutch factor that defines all the greats, would pull these crazy Ultra Combo comebacks to steal round after round. Again, it was not clean, maybe even the opposite—I’ve always hated Super and Ultra Combos on principle, as tools that nonsensically reward the player getting their ass kicked. But, like a true gamer, Hart seized the opportunity when he saw it.

Hart’s momentum would finally come to a halt against French rival Olivier “Luffy” Hay, who had had his number all year, but, still alive in the losers bracket of this double-elimination tournament, he ended up in a "double jeopardy" situation (sometimes, but not always, a sign that someone in charge screwed up the brackets), having to face Momochi for the second time in the same tournament.

Some would say it was karma. After all the times Momochi had rounds stolen from him, he finally got one back. Despite the result, it was still an impressive run for Ryan Hart, who proved that he was not a second-rate anything.

The Hardest Fight in the Game . . . Solved in Under 10 Minutes!

The first of several ding-dong bouts—a match between two players considered legitimate favorites to win it all—was that between Evo 2011 champion Keita “Fuudo” Ai of Japan and Evo 2012 champion Seonwoo “Infiltration” Lee of South Korea.

Fuudo has been perennially one of the most dreaded opponents on the Street Fighter IV competitive circuit. He plays a distilled form of Fei Long, arguably the strongest character in the game. There is no waste whatsoever to Fuudo’s game, as he dominates the ground with Fei Long’s superior pokes, and discourages jump-ins with his own peerless anti-air reflexes. The strategy is, on paper, nearly without flaw, and needs not discriminate for any opponent. I’ve always said that, in order to overcome Fuudo, a player needs something intangible beyond mere skill—something more akin to inspiration. Otherwise, even if you were to execute your own strategy to perfection, every simulation you could run of “the perfect match” would still have Fuudo coming out on top.

That said, there is only one player on the tour that I would consider to exude a more demoralizing presence than even Fuudo, and that is Infiltration. The most complete player in Street Fighter IV, in my opinion, Infiltration was just about untouchable in 2012, and, even two years removed from “the year of Infiltration,” the memory of his dominance still lingers strong in opponents’ minds, mantling him with an aura of invincibility that eclipses even the dread that Fuudo inspires.

Infiltration was the first true “scientist” of Street Fighter IV, a player known to study up on his opponents, always consulting the notes on his phone, or conferring between games with his partner/coach at the time, fellow South Korean player Ryan “Laugh” Ahn—tactics that were then unheard of even at the highest levels in Japan. Although best known for his Akuma, Infiltration is recognized also for having an arsenal of secondary characters, including relative obscurities, such as Gouken and Oni. These are not exhibition match novelties; Infiltration will turn to them in legitimate competition, even in critical situations, such as when facing elimination at a major, and, more often than not, he’ll win with them. The only dimension to his game that was once considered lacking was his level of charisma, as a South Korean who formerly spoke very little English and came off as somewhat detached while being almost “too dominating.” But Infiltration even eventually figured that out. Facing American underdog Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez in front of a partisan US audience on the biggest stage in the world last year at Evo, Infiltration managed, with one inspired low-tier character choice, to instantly win the crowd. At Capcom Cup 2014 against Fuudo, Infiltration would bring to bear all of these facets to his game.

Fuudo was, of course, going to go with Fei Long, but Infiltration had a deep bullpen of characters from which to select. He had already used Chun-Li in the first round to combat Brazil’s Eric Moreira “Chuchu” Silva, and, besides Akuma, he was also known to play Ryu, Hakan, Rolento, and Evil Ryu. Even for those who had followed Infiltration’s season closely, however, his pick against Fuudo came out of nowhere. He went with Elena—not one of his known secondary characters, maybe not even a tertiary character!

A new addition in Ultra Street Fighter IV, Elena was considered one of the game’s more ineffectual characters, even after Taiwan’s Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang nearly went the distance with her against Fuudo in the grand final of DreamHack Winter 2014, the last stop on the Capcom Pro Tour before Capcom Cup. That pick raised eyebrows when GamerBee pulled it out, but maybe the Taiwanese player knew something about the Elena-Fei Long matchup. And maybe Infiltration had spotted it too.

It’s one of the quirks of a game with such a large cast—that even a fairly low-tier character as Elena can actually match up well specifically against one of the strongest fighters in Fei Long. She’s not the better character, certainly, but her awkward attacks just happen to stick her limbs out in exactly the right places to foil Fei Long’s normally solid techniques.

What was all the more impressive was that Infiltration had allegedly only spent a day learning Elena, prior to taking her into that match against one of the toughest players in the world. That just goes to show how singularly awesome a player Infiltration is—1) that he figured out the matchup in so little time, and 2) that his fundamentals are so solid that he could cleanly outplay one of the world’s best while possessing only the rudiments of his own character.

Finally, this may have been bittersweet validation for the absent GamerBee. After working so hard all year to try to qualify for Capcom Cup, he was thwarted at the very end by Fuudo swooping in to claim the last ticket. But, with his final effort, GamerBee hit upon the answer to the perfect Fei Long, ultimately leaving it to others to see it through.

Super Effective!

Infiltration vs. Fuudo was immediately followed by an even more anticipated match, again between two Evo champions. This time, it was Evo 2013 winner Ho Kun Xian vs. Evo 2009 and 2010 champion Daigo “The Beast” Umehara. Neither had had their winningest year in 2014, but I would say that, more than any other top players, these two are the most passionate, the ones who invest the most of themselves in winning at Street Fighter. The amount of work they put in to perform is evident in their results: Xian competes at the highest level with Gen, possibly the hardest character to master, while Daigo is the No. 1 player on the Japanese arcade leaderboards, a ranking that is largely determined by the number of hours that a player commits to playing continuously at the arcade. But perhaps how much they care is even better reflected in how sincerely disappointed they look when they lose at big events. So you knew that these two players were going to go all-out to try to win Capcom Cup.

Their rivalry had become rather lopsided in Daigo’s favor ever since the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV. Xian’s main, Gen, had suffered in the transition, while Daigo had switched to Evil Ryu, considered by many to be the best character in the game. When they last fought not long ago at Razer’s CPT Asia Finals, Daigo thrashed Xian, and the matchup had looked almost unwinnable for the Gen master.

That’s probably why Xian didn’t go with Gen against Daigo at Capcom Cup 2014. Instead, he went with a counter-pick that must have taken Daigo completely by surprise.

I don’t know if anybody saw the Dhalsim pick coming. It was a reasoned choice, though not an obvious one. Like Elena vs. Fei Long, this is another case where a character generally considered weak (Dhalsim) happens to possess just the right tools to handle a character otherwise considered very strong (Evil Ryu). But, more than that, Daigo, as a player, was believed to have a weakness to Dhalsim, having lost to that character at Evo 2014. Still, the Dhalsim-Evil Ryu match is hardly a free win for Dhalsim. Dhalsim takes away a lot of Evil Ryu’s options at long range, but all it takes is a single mistake to let Evil Ryu in, whereupon the advantage shifts completely.

Also, whatever his supposed weaknesses, Daigo is still Daigo; he’s not going to fall prey to any simple counter-pick tactic by a player using the character to only 50 percent. Most counter-pickers would more likely only be playing Dhalsim at closer to 25 percent, as this is another high-level character that takes a lot of dedication to play competently. But it just so happened that Xian’s Dhalsim was not strictly a counter-pick or pocket character. Most people watching wouldn’t have known this (because most people hadn’t heard of Xian back then), but, before he picked up Gen, Xian actually used Dhalsim as his original main. So he knew what to do with this character.

All in all, it was a brilliant play by Xian. Although the match actually ended up being pretty close, it had the look of a terrible performance by Daigo’s standard, as he was just never able to impose himself in his usual way against Dhalsim.

Afterward, Xian would catch a lot of flack for what many considered to be a “dishonorable” tactic—taking the “easy” way out with a favorable matchup against an opponent who wasn’t prepared for it, instead of relying on his own ability with his “own” character. I guess, to some, it was akin to a street fight between the world’s greatest karate fighter and the world’s greatest kung fu master, who then decided to use a gun—not explicitly against the rules, but still an offense against the purity of the sport.

I actually can somewhat appreciate their disappointment, but I think it has nothing to do with honor and rather stems from spectator attachment to the identities that players such as Xian and GamerBee have cultivated synonymous with their signature characters. One of the things that makes Street Fighter so captivating is the diversity of characters and matchups, but, when analysts debate how Gen or Adon fare at the highest levels, they’re really just basing it all on how Xian and GamerBee perform with those characters, because, in the real world, they are the only relevant competitors representing those characters. So if Xian were ever to abandon Gen, it could mean 1) the loss of a distinct sense of who Xian is as a player, if he went instead to a more common character already represented by other top players, and 2) the “death” of Gen, in the sense that that character would effectively no longer exist in high-level real-world Street Fighter IV.

Although I can appreciate that such an outcome would be a bummer, I personally have nothing but respect for how Xian and Infiltration both exercised real shrewdness in their preparations for Capcom Cup, readying characters in secret specifically to counter competitors that they knew would pose major obstacles. You have to remember that, although Xian and Infiltration, being from Asia, sometimes get grouped together with the Japanese players, they’re still too far removed geographically from actually being able to practice daily with the likes of Daigo, Fuudo, Bonchan, etc., who all get to train together in Tokyo. So how are they supposed to make names for themselves in the toughest region in the world, while not getting to enjoy the main benefit that their Japanese rivals get from competing in that region? Well, they do it through relentless self-motivated study, yes, but also with cunning and guile (no pun intended), playing the metagame with tactics rarely considered by the Japanese.

The Red Focus Heard ‘Round the World

Now in the losers bracket, Daigo’s next opponent was local NorCal resident Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez, who knew a thing or two himself about Evil Ryu.

Since the release of Ultra Street Fighter IV, PR Balrog had picked up Evil Ryu, having lost some faith in his signature Balrog (boxer) after Topanga World League, where the Japanese players were breaking down his offense in ways he hadn’t experienced stateside. But PR Balrog never seemed entirely comfortable while playing Evil Ryu either, and he promptly switched back to Balrog after losing his first game at Capcom Cup with Evil Ryu. It didn’t make any difference in his first-round match, which he lost anyway to his NorCal teammate Ricky Ortiz.

It looked like PR Balrog, once considered maybe the strongest Street Fighter IV player in the US, was going to end his 2014 unremarkably, as he ran into none other than Daigo Umehara in the losers bracket much earlier than anyone would have anticipated. Daigo had been considered the safe money to win the whole thing. It is said that, in a closed-entry competition like Capcom Cup, where the supposedly random elements have been removed, Daigo will always emerge as the honest best. Xian had already proven with his Dhalsim, however, that even a closed-entry tournament was not immune to surprises. Maybe PR Balrog too could show Daigo something he hadn't seen before.

That Red Focus!

Ultra Street Fighter IV, the most radically altered edition of Street Fighter IV, is less than a year old, and players are still figuring out how to properly integrate some of the new systems into their playbooks. Red Focus was early on recognized as a great offensive tool that armed a few characters with devastating new combos. Here, PR Balrog utilized the much more rarely seen defensive form of Red Focus to offensive purpose, and Daigo never saw it coming.

I’ll add, however, that Daigo looked beaten well before that Red Focus. This is a guy who made his legend by playing in the moment, never succumbing to it, but actually owning it. In high-level Street Fighter, there has long been this concept of the “Psychic DP,” a Dragon Punch/Shoryuken that is not performed as an anti-air or to complete a combo (these being the move’s two intended functions), but rather connects seemingly out of nowhere based purely on the user’s intuition. Daigo was always better at this psychic game than anybody else (such that, in Japan, the technique is commonly referred to as “Ume-Shoryu”), because, according to him, he never thinks about the consequences. In the match against PR Balrog, the opposite was true.

He won the first game convincingly, but, once PR Balrog picked up some momentum with a round in the second game, Daigo began to fold. Just like in his loss to John Choi at Evo 2014, you could see Daigo begin to tighten up, back down, and play from a position of fear. I’ve been in that situation myself, albeit at a much lower level, with nothing real at stake. But still I recognize the tells. He was looking ahead, thinking about the outcome instead of feeling the moment, processing the possibility of defeat, and, cracking under the pressure to win (which, in fairness, was surely greater on him than on any other player), he began playing not to lose, which doesn’t cut it at this level.

As for PR Balrog, he had pulled off a minor miracle with his upset victory over Daigo, but things would not be getting any easier for him, as he next had to play another former Evo champion, Fuudo.

Again, the odds were against the American, but he now had in his favor two things that he has always fed off: momentum and the crowd. PR Balrog was, by this point, the only remaining American in the tournament, and, as he began to feel his way to some offensive flurries—precisely the sort of inspired play that it takes to knock Fuudo off balance—the crowd was feeling it too with a "U-S-A" chant that further fueled his confidence. When PR Balrog is playing with that much belief in himself, there may not be anyone in the world who can beat him.

His run would finally end with his next match, after he forgot to set one of his buttons to "3 punches." Stick-wielding snobs used to try to tell me that these sorts of "button binds" (mapping multiple inputs to a single button) shouldn't be legal for tournament play, since real arcades didn't have them. Now, even top pro players use them when playing on console.

Clash of the Titans

Back to the winners bracket, Infiltration and Xian’s triumphant plays against the Japanese giants that stood in their respective paths set up a potentially climactic semifinal showdown between the Evo 2012 champion and the Evo 2013 champion. This was one that fans had been waiting a long time to see.

During his championship run at Evo 2013, Xian did not have to face Infiltration, who had been beating Xian consistently during the earlier part of 2013. After Evo 2013, the two would not play until Topanga World League. Xian prevailed that time, but the result was not very satisfying, as Infiltration lost the first several games using Chun-Li instead of his signature Akuma.

Through the first two rounds at Capcom Cup 2014, neither had used their signature character yet, but there would be no gamesmanship now in this match between arguably the two greatest Street Fighter IV players of the post-Daigo era, as they both went straight to their mains.

Infiltration had some dominant sequences, but Xian gutted it out with his indomitable will. It was a great end-to-end match that lived up to all expectations, except that it was probably too short—a complaint that the competitors and spectators alike shared about the tournament's best-of-3 format.


Above were my personal top 5 stories of Capcom Cup 2014. But perhaps you’d like to know who actually won the tournament? Read on, then, for coverage of the final matches.

Losers Semi-Final

When a double-elimination bracket is down to the final four competitors—two left on the winners side, two on the losers side—the match between the losers is formally referred to as “losers semi-final.” At Capcom Cup 2014, it would be Infiltration facing off against Momochi for a guaranteed place in the top 3 (and the money).

Of his opponent, I recall Infiltration once saying, “Ken is easy, but Momochi is hard.” The compliment perhaps belied the South Korean’s dominant record against the Japanese Ken player.

The instant Momochi landed that raw Focus Attack to open the first round, I could sense that the match was already over. That Momochi would even go for such a brash maneuver showed that he was still on fire from his crazy comeback against Ryan Hart (which, despite how I’ve presented it on this page, actually took place right before this match). It’s another example of a play that comes out of nowhere and leaves the opponent stunned with the impression that you must be psychic. Infiltration began playing with too much respect, and Momochi was getting away with everything. When Momochi did it again in the second game, it was clear that he had gotten into Infiltration’s head.

Winners Final

On the other side, in the match between the final two in the winners bracket, it was a contest between this year’s Evo champion and last year’s.

As the winner of Evo 2014 (and about a half-dozen other big tournaments this year), Olivier “Luffy” Hay entered Capcom Cup as the No.1 seed, with more than twice as many ranking points as the next closest person. Seeding Capcom Cup based purely on ranking points may not have been the fairest or most sensible approach, as the distribution of events on the Capcom Pro Tour clearly favored some regions over others. This meant that a player could potentially work very hard, collecting many ranking points to earn a high seed, only to be paired up in the first round against a very tough Japanese opponent, who ended up with a low seed only because they didn’t travel to US events.

For Luffy, the brackets did actually work out quite favorably, as he had a leisurely path through to the winners final, beating a Blanka (the weakest character represented in the tournament), US Rufus player Ricky Ortiz (not pegged by anyone to be a factor at Capcom Cup), and longtime rival Ryan Hart (whom Luffy had not lost to in months). His opponent now was a different story. Among other achievements, Evo 2013 champion Xian had the distinction of having been the only player to notch a victory over Luffy at Evo 2014. The match had not been streamed, so nobody was sure how it had played out or how close it had been, which only fueled anticipation for this rematch.

It went back and forth, but Xian ultimately prevailed convincingly, proving that his previous victory over Luffy was no fluke.

Losers Final

Xian’s win sent Luffy down to the losers side to face Momochi, a player whom Luffy had soundly defeated at Evo 2014.

There would be no repeat of Evo 2014. Normally one of the most confident players in the world, Luffy still looked deflated from his loss to Xian, while Momochi was coming in hot from his victories over Ryan Hart and Infiltration.

Grand Final

In the Capcom Cup 2014 grand final, we had, on the winners side, last year’s runner-up, Xian, who, after the Ultra edition nerfs to Gen had some counting him out, was looking very impressive, defeating three Evo champions in a row. His opponent, coming from the losers side, was Momochi, a top 10 player in Japan through the entire life of the Street Fighter IV series. Although never the most exciting competitor, he had the ability and experience to contend with any other player in Japan, which obviously meant he could hang with anyone in the world.

Although Momochi’s Ken had beaten Xian’s Gen pretty badly in their last encounter at South East Asia Major 2014 in June, Xian had already proven his astuteness in learning from his losses, so now we just had to see what he might have figured out about the Ken match. Also, unlike the rest of the tournament, the grand final was best-of-5, plus Xian had an extra set to give, since he was coming from the winners side, so there would be at least a few games for him to experiment with.

The Poison pick showed some promise, but, honestly, after a while, it started to feel like Xian was playing in slow motion, because Momochi seemed able to see his every move coming a mile away. That was actually how most of Momochi's opponents had looked all day, except for Ryan Hart.

Unfortunately for Xian, things did not get better when he switched back to Gen. Until Gen can score a knockdown, the character's only real approach is with his crouching medium punch. Once Momochi got the lead in any round, this move would be all he had to look for to defend against, which, with him somehow slowing down time, was no trouble at all. That left Xian with no other option except to toss up random prayers in the form of unsafe jump-ins. Xian landed a few, but it’s equivalent to an American football team having to go Hail Mary every possession; the odds just aren't going to work out in your favor in the long run.

To be honest, I found it to be a very anticlimactic finish. After some great moments (Ryan Hart's comebacks, Xian's Dhalsim pick, PR Balrog's Red Focus), Momochi ended up taking it with very little drama. Technically, he's a superb player with no apparent flaws to be exploited. In the matches I've seen him lose before, it was usually because he was not, in that moment, as mentally or emotionally tough as his opponent. That wasn't happening on this day. After his Ultra Combo comeback against Ryan Hart, he must have been feeling close to invincible. I don't have much else to say about his play. It’s like watching the San Antonio Spurs win the NBA Championship. They don't do scintillating; they just play the game the right way and come out on top. But, at the end of the day, they don’t have LeBron James or any other superstar that you would seriously pay money to see, so what is any of it worth to the viewer?


Looking Ahead to 2015

Capcom Cup 2014 closed with a trailer and demo for Street Fighter V, still a long way off from completion.

Maybe the most stunning moment of the entire event, however, was the announcement concerning the future of Capcom Cup and the Capcom Pro Tour. First, producer Yoshinori Ono confirmed that the tour would be happening again in 2015—a nice early heads-up to competitors and tournament organizers to start planning out their schedules. Then, addressing Street Fighter V being console-exclusive to the PlayStation 4, he stressed how beneficial the partnership with Sony was going to be for everyone (yes, at an event that had, naturally, just been conducted entirely on Xbox 360, because the PS3 version of the game had been rejected as laggy). Elaborating, he proceeded to drop the bombshell that next year’s prize pool would be upped to $500,000.

There are a lot of questions that still need answering before people lose their minds over this. Is that money going to be split between only the top 3 at Capcom Cup 2015? Is it going to be spread out across events over the entire season? Will it be in the form of US dollars or in Sony Store credit?

In a best-case scenario, this could be a game-changer. I mentioned at the start of this post that the $50,000 prize pool for Capcom Cup 2014 was already the biggest ever for a single tournament. If next year’s purse really is ten times that amount, that would be money that not even the most decorated of the competitors at this year’s event has ever seen before. How might that affect the fighting game community? Could this be the beginning of true professional play in Street Fighter—top players (plural, so not just Daigo!) competing as their full-time jobs, not merely paying the bills but actually living enviably off the winnings? With this much money at stake, might some of the spirit of fun be lost, everybody becoming much more cutthroat? How will this affect the competitive scenes for other fighting games? Will all the Mortal Kombat and Guilty Gear players promptly abandon those games to go full-time Street Fighter and vie for the real money?

It’s not even certain yet what game(s) will be the focus of Capcom Cup 2015. It’s unlikely that Street Fighter V will be out anywhere near in time, so I’m guessing we’ll be seeing another year at least of Ultra Street Fighter IV. That extra time should grant players a deeper understanding of the game, thereby producing yet higher-level competition for next year, but, really, this is, at its core, a game that is already now more than six years old. An extra-large cash incentive is probably what’s necessary to motivate bored players to continue to take it seriously. But, even then, what version? Maybe the upcoming PS4 port? It’s hard to imagine Sony putting so much money into the tour, if it were to continue to run on Xbox 360. But it’s even harder to imagine all the players and all the event hosts ponying up the dough for expensive new PS4 setups and joysticks (unless part of the $500,000 will be going toward covering that).

Some of these questions should be answered shortly, and the others, we'll have to wait and see.

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