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Evolution Championship Series (EVO) is the world’s largest fighting game event. This year’s tournament, held at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, featured the first $100K prize pool in EVO history.
EVO’s 2016 Street Fighter V tournament pool was $101,070, with Lee “Infiltration” Seon Woo of South Korea taking home the first-place prize of $50,642. Ai “Fuudo” Keita of Japan took home $20,214 for 2nd place, and Fujimura “yukadon” Atsushi, also of Japan, got $12,107 for finishing third.
Earnings for fighting game stars are skyrocketing. Just three years ago, the entire prize pool in EVO’s 2013 Street Fighter tournament was just $16,370—with winner Ho “Xian” Kun Xian getting less than six grand.
What’s driving the prize money up? TV coverage could be one reason. ESPN televised Evo 2016, with Sunday night’s final airing live in primetime. More than 200,000 people tuned in on ESPN2, with another 400,000 watching on Twitch. All told, it was one of the three most-watched eSports events of the year.
Other sports tournaments have longer histories, more viewers, and thus higher purses. For example, The Masters Golf Tournament had 13.9 million viewers for its Sunday final in 2016. Its total purse was $10 million, with $1.8 million going to winner Danny Willett. Someday, will a Street Fighter champion earn as much? If audiences keep growing, absolutely.