Evil Geniuses’ Justin Wong and AVerMedia’s Bruce “GamerBee” Hsiang are the first two players confirmed to compete at Red Bull Kumite 2016, a 16-player Street Fighter V invitational tournament in April.
Twelve other players will be invited to compete, with two of these invited players to be announced on a weekly basis, according to a statement released on Friday on Red Bull’s French esports site. The last two spots in the tournament will be awarded in a last-chance qualifier held the day of the event.
GamerBee has long been a favorite player among fighting game fans for both his play and personality, a status that he cemented at Evo 2015. Although he finished second in the Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament, his Losers’ Finals match against Lee “Infiltration” Seonwoo and his Grand Finals match against Yusuke are widely considered among the greatest in the game’s history.
Justin Wong is arguably one of the most popular fighting game players in the world, and certainly the biggest name in American fighting game history. He has a reputation for learning games quickly, a talent that will serve him well at Kumite, which comes just two months after Street Fighter V’s release. Wong won three Killer Instinct tournaments in the two months following the game’s release, and won the first major Ultra Street Fighter IV tournament held in the United States.
Last year’s Kumite was Red Bull’s first fighting game event. It was well-received by fans for the quality of both the gameplay and production. The winner of that tournament, Japan’s Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, went on to sign with Red Bull in September 2015 and became the company’s third fighting game player on their roster.
Red Bull first signed Soul Calibur specialist Marie-Laure “Kayane” Norindr of France in February 2014. But the company made a significant push into fighting game esports in 2015, launching Kumite and signing Street Fighter player Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis of the United States in July (and producing) a documentary series about his journey to Capcom Cup. Red Bull also sponsored ‘salty suites’—after-hours exhibition match streams—for Ultra Street Fighter IV and Super Smash Bros. Melee at Evo 2015, and regularly publishes articles covering popular players in both games on its website.
This year’s Kumite is scheduled to begin on April 24 in Paris.