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Is All-FGC World Cup Possible?

Is All-FGC World Cup Possible?

Elizbar Ramazashvili
10 min

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Discussions about legitimizing video games through various means have been around forever. One of the loudest calls is to include them in the Olympics—the real Olympics, which are held once every four years. But the pushback against this was also quite predictable – most competitive video games feature violence, blood, killing, and such and, therefore, go against the Olympic code. However, this stance seems to be getting mellower. Last year, the International Olympic Committee held an Olympic Esports Week 2023 in Singapore, which featured athletes competing against each other in various VR and AR titles. To say that it looked… humorous is to say nothing. But hey, baby steps, right? There’s more, though. In addition to this, they also held the Exhibition Matches, which featured proper games this time around – Rocket League, NBA2K23, and… yes, Street Fighter 6. It was a show-match format, so no conclusions could be drawn from it, but it still represents the willingness to connect.

The biggest recognition of esports came at the Asian Games. The 2018 event featured games like League of Legends, Hearthstone, StarCraft II, PES 2018, and others as demonstrations, but the 2022 Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China, last September had esports as a proper medal event. The game lineup now featured Dota 2 and EA Sports FC Online, but most importantly, there was also a Street Fighter V tournament. And let me tell you, it was a proper event with some of the biggest stars participating – Kawano was there, as were Oil King, Mago, Chris Wong, and GamerBee. The eventual winner was Kim "M.Lizard" Gwan-woo, who accomplished this feat at the tender age of 44. And to drive the point that this event wasn’t a performative act home: Korean players who got gold medals in the League of Legends event got military service exemptions just like gold medalists in any traditional sport.

So far, Asia understands better than everyone else that esports is as legitimate as any other sports discipline, and hopefully, this will help break down the walls elsewhere in the world.

But to be quite honest, we don’t actually need it at this point. Video games as an industry legitimized itself time and again, and esports gets looked down upon less and less. So, what if we had our own, fighting games-only Olympics or World Cup? Well, strictly speaking, we do. Multiple, actually.

The International Esports Federation, or IeSF, has been around since 2008. Founded in Korea to serve the mission of legitimizing esports, the organization has been holding “Esports World Championships” since 2009. It started out with only a handful of members and a lone event in FIFA Online, but now IeSF consists of 144 members, and last year’s event had tournaments in six games, Tekken 7 being one of them. In fact, the Tekken World Tour Finals 2022 champion Atif Butt is also an IESF World Esports Championships 2023 winner representing Pakistan.

And while it’s cool that this exists, there are several issues with the format and the game selection that we’ll discuss shortly.

Another “Esports World Cup” is being planned by Gamers8 and the Saudi Esports Federation to be held this summer in Riyadh. Strictly speaking, we don’t actually know whether or not there will be any fighting game present there, but considering the organization’s previous extensive involvement in fgc event hosting, it’s hard to imagine that it won’t. Gamers8 Tekken 7 event last year was a glimpse into what their World Cup format could look like – a team-based event where each nationality or club has three players representing them. We have already made a video denoting how traditional esports organizations could take note of huge payouts at Saudi events and try to get their slice of this pie by signing FGC players. Take a look at it if you haven’t yet.

But both IeSF and Gamers8 events run into the same problem – they’re incredibly top-heavy. Most fighting games have several dominant regions that will be pretty much expected to win every time. And while it’s a smaller issue for a game like Street Fighter, it would be a genuine sensation if anyone outside of Pakistan or Korea took the crown, especially if it’s a team-based event. How’s that any different from any traditional sport, you may ask? Well, it isn’t, and that’s the issue.

In the almost 100-year history of football World Cups, only eight national teams have ever won it. Exactly eight teams have won the Ice Hockey World Championship as well. Rugby only has four. You get the idea. Video games and esports, in general, have been brought up upon the idea that anyone with a computer, a console, and an internet connection can pick up any game and become a champion. We have great grassroots systems in place that allow anyone to become great. Yeah, the top 8s at Evo, Capcom Cup, TWT become crowded by the dominant regions, but individual underdog stories are always a highlight. Just remember Ghirlanda’s TWT run and how everyone rooted for him. Now open the IESF website and take a look at who the winner of the IESF’s Tekken 7 championship is. It’s Pakistan. Yup, not Atif Butt, but his country. And while there’s nothing wrong in representing your country – and many do it with hearts full of pride – we should also cherish the individuality and uniqueness of each and every individual player. It wasn’t Pakistan that won last year’s Evo. It was Arslan Ash.

There could be a valid argument for a World Cup in many esports titles. League of Legends has franchised regional leagues with only two international events a year, and while it technically has a “Worlds” event, it’s club-, not nationality-based. Asian Games last year showed that there is interest in this kind of event – it’s a team-based sport, and it’d be very interesting to see top players from each country but different esports organizations play together without much pre-built synergy – much like football.

But FGC doesn’t suffer from this segregation. Every major fighting game event is full of players from all around the world. There are no what-ifs between Tokido and MenaRD – they’ve played against each other many times. And a matchup like Arslan Ash vs. Knee is already an FGC classic.

And even beyond that, hosting something as big as a proper World Cup is a logistical nightmare with so much overhead.

First, you’d need to get a license or explicit permission from the publishers even to host the tournaments for the games you want. Then, you need to secure the venue. It’s a World Cup, you need something substantial, not a small 200-seat arena. After that, you need to somehow organize the qualifiers for your event in various games. The best way to do that would be to contact the esports federations of each country – and they’d require some convincing and motivation to host something on your behalf. Then comes the question of motivating the players to participate. Now, listen. There are players that would love to visit any tournament they can just for the competitive spirit, and World Cups in traditional sports are known to be less about monetary gain and more for the sheer prestige of it. But for esports, it’s different. Doubly so for the FGC. The simple truth is, no one will travel to your event if you don’t give players financial incentive to do so, and it doesn’t matter if you call it a World Cup or Interplanetary Mega Olympics. And it’s not FGC being greedy, it’s that there’s not a lot of money in the niche, so not a lot of players have the ability to just spend cash willy-nilly.

After that, you also need a production crew, hardware, connectivity (you can ask Alex Jebaily how much it costs to have a simple internet connection at CEO), accommodations, security, amenities… Sigh, the list goes on and on and on. The fact is, there’s virtually no one right now who’d have the ability, money, and will to host something as big as this for the entire FGC. IESF has events in only six games, not because they’re bad at organizing, or don’t want to do more – it’s simply their limit for now. It’s still genuinely baffling how they’re doing it at all. Saudi example is much more understandable, regardless of how you look at their involvement in sports and esports. They have money that’s being exchanged for goods and services. And goodwill, in this case.

It’s hard to argue that an all-FGC World Cup sounds simply romantic, in spite of all the arguments we made against it. The scope of it, the prestige. But we live in a world where not much of it is plausible, let alone feasible. So let’s enjoy thinking about it, and after that, watch some great upcoming FGC events and forget about this.

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