Intel has announced the Intel World Open, an esports event that will feature $250,000 tournaments in both Rocket League and Street Fighter V as part of the official run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
The event is not officially part of the Olympics—the champions certainly won’t be receiving Olympic gold medals. However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is officially supporting its organization and production. The IOC worked with event organizers to select games with mass appeal. Games that might be easy to understand for a large audience spectating high-level gaming for the first time.
“These two titles are something that the average consumer or audience member can look at and get what’s going on, and that’s unfortunately not always the case in esports.”
-Mark Subotnick, Intel Director of Business Development
Unlike many other esports, Rocket League and Street Fighter V are directly analogous to traditional sports that are contested in the Summer Olympic Games. Rocket League, with its two-goaled field and pass-heavy strategies, is immediately recognizable to fans of soccer or handball, while Street Fighter V is akin to martial arts such as judo or boxing.
On the other hand, there’s no sport in Olympics that quite matches the magical shenanigans of League of Legends or Dota 2.
Street Fighter V is a particularly fitting esport for an Olympic-adjacent event due to the international nature of its competitive scene. In past years, players from the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia have occupied the highest echelons of the esport.
The most dominant demographic is Japanese players, with champions such as Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi and Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi leading the charge. Both well-spoken and level-headed competitors have potential to be strong ambassadors for the esports world at large.
For Rocket League and its developer Psyonix, the Intel World Open represents an opportunity to seize the limelight for the relatively small esport, as well as an opportunity to showcase the excitement of international Rocket League competition.
“We haven’t really done anything like this before, and it’s something our fans have been asking for for a really, really long time—to have national pride on the line whenever they’re playing Rocket League,”
– Jeremy Dunham, Psyonix Vice President of Publishing
Image via Facebook/Intel Extreme Masters
This isn’t the first time esports have made an appearance at an event adjacent to the Olympics; last year, with the support of the IOC, Intel and ESL hosted Intel Extreme Masters Pyeong Chang, a $150,000 StarCraft II tournament, less than a week before the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The Intel World Open is a sign of Intel’s commitment to expanding the relationship between esports and the Olympics.
$250,000 is a record-breaking prize pool for both the Rocket League and Street Fighter V scenes. Rocket League tournaments typically offer five-figure sums to competitors, with top-tier events maxing out at around $100,000. Street Fighter V has seen higher prize pools for invitational events—last year’s Capcom Cup awarded a staggering $380,000 to its 32 participants. But $250,000 is the highest prize pool ever offered by an open Street Fighter V tournament.
With $500,000 on the line, the Intel World Open is another step forward for the integration of competitive gaming into the Olympic Games. Open qualifiers for the event will begin early next year.
However, the event itself will take place from July 22 to 24, before the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
Credit: Alexander Lee