ELEAGUE expands to fighting games with $250,000 Street Fighter V Invitational
For its next iteration, ELEAGUE is trading in AKs and M4s for fireballs and dragon punches.
Turner Broadcasting's esports venture announced its expansion into fighting games on Thursday with the creation of the ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational. The competition, which begins on March 27 and runs through late May, will feature 32 of the world's best players fighting for a share of a $250,000 prize pool.
The Street Fighter V Invitational will be the fifth competition held under the ELEAGUE banner, but the first to feature a fighting game. The organization, a partnership between entertainment agency IMG and broadcast giant Turner, ran two seasons of televised Counter Strike: Global Offensive competition in 2016 as well as last month's ELEAGUE Atlanta Major. The group also helped produce the Overwatch Open last year.
"[W]e’re thrilled to further diversify our ELEAGUE portfolio with this exciting esports title,” Craig Barry, the chief content officer and executive vice president of Turner Sports, said.
The invitational event will begin with preliminary rounds, which will take place on March 27-30 and will narrow the field from 32 players down to 24. The prelims will be streamed live on Twitch, and TBS will air a recap of these rounds on March 31 at 10pm ET.
The 24 players who survive the prelims will move on to the regular season, with six players competing each week to earn a spot in the finals. Group place will take place on April 7, April 21, May 5, and May 12. The finals will be held on May 26.
Early rounds of each week's competition will be streamed live on Twitch, while the later rounds of each group will be simulcast on both Twitch and TBS at 10pm ET. The finals will follow an identical schedule.
In addition to the competition itself, TBS will air a "feature show" on April 28 and a finals preview on May 19. These specials will also air at 10pm.
Half of the 32-player field will be chosen based on the final standings of both the global and regional leaderboards of the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour. The top 12 players in the global standings are slated to receive invitations, as well as the top player in each of the four regions not among the global top 12.
Based on that criteria, the initial list of invitees is slated to be:
- Lee "Infiltration" Seonwoo
- Taniguchi "Tokido" Hajime
- Justin Wong
- Du "NuckleDu" Dang
- Ai "Fuudo" Keita
- Zeng "Xiao Hai" Zhuojun
- Bruce "GamerBee" Hsiang
- Egami "MOV" Joe
- Umehara Daigo
- Julio Fuentes
- Arman "Phenom" Hanjani
- Momochi Yusuke
- Ryan "FChamp" Ramirez
- Olivier "Luffy" Hay
- Thomas "Brolynho" Proenca
- Nagata "Eita" Hiroyuki
This list has not been confirmed by Capcom and may change due to player commitments and obligations.
The remaining half of the field will be selected by Capcom and announced at a later date.
While ELEAGUE is a newcomer to the world of fighting games, Street Fighter V is no newcomer to the world of broadcast television. The finals of the game's tournament at Evo were broadcast on ESPN2 last year, as were the finals of the Capcom Cup, but each of those events had existed before 2016. This will be the first Street Fighter V event created specifically for a television broadcast.
"Being on TBS allows Street Fighter and the Capcom Pro Tour to reach a much wider mainstream audience," said John Diamonon, Capcom's director of licensing. "We see this as a vehicle and opportunity to grow the Fighting Game Community and fighting games in general to new heights."
The ELEAGUE Street Fighter V Invitational will not be part of the 2017 Capcom Pro Tour, but footage from previous Pro Tour events will be featured during ELEAGUE broadcasts.
The ELEAGUE finals will add more Street Fighter V action to an already jam-packed Memorial Day weekend. Combo Breaker, a Premier event on the Capcom Pro Tour, takes place during that weekend, as does Red Bull Kumite, a 16-player invitational event that is one of the most prestigious non-Pro Tour events of the year.