[UPDATE] East Coast Throwdown Bracket Floating Raises Issues of Fairness in Tournaments, Capcom Releases Statement

By on May 14, 2014 at 9:40 am
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UPDATE – Capcom’s Associate Director of eSports Matt Dalhgren released a statement to onGamers on the matter.

The integrity of the events that we choose to partner with on the Capcom Pro Tour is very important to us, and we have been investigating what happened at ECT. While it doesn’t appear that bracket fixing was done for the personal gain of the tournament organizer or players themselves, none the less it is not an acceptable practice to give select players special treatment.

We don’t feel it is appropriate to take away Capcom Pro Tour points from ECT, as that would punish the players themselves, who had no control over the situation. However, we will be removing ECT from our Ranking Event list for next year’s Capcom Pro Tour, and moving forward, any event that is found to have fixed brackets will immediately and irrevocably have its points removed.  We will be following up with our current partners regarding the importance of following the rules and providing a fair environment for all participants.

East Coast Throwdown 2014 organizer John “SweetJohnnyCage” Gallagher also spoke with onGamers, providing the statement below.

We understand and respect Capcom’s decision. We did not intend for this to happen, nor did we do this with the intent of giving any one player advantage over others. We will continue to provide the best experience possible for our players in the years to come and will learn from this. In the future, we’ll be more clear on how the bracket pathing will work and stick to it.

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One of the most unique things about fighting games in the world of competitive gaming is the fact that anyone, no matter how long they have played the game or who they are sponsored by, is able to sit down next to a figure like Alex Valle or Daigo Umehara and compete on an even playing field. But what happens when a select group of individuals are constantly having concessions made for them at major tournaments, skewing this proud facet of our competitions?

Such concessions were made at last week’s East Coast Throwdown tournament. Like many majors, the Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition ver. 2012 tournament began to wind down on Sunday, merging the various pools down to the top thirty-two competitors. Among these were two familiar faces: Evil Geniuses teammates Justin Wong and Ricky Ortiz. Both were able to secure spots in the winners bracket, with matches against Noel Brown of Unveil Gaming and DaFeetLee scheduled for the first round.

A full look at the winners side of top thirty-two can be found below courtesy of East Coast Throwdown’s official Twitter account.

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When creating brackets, tournament organizers will normally seed at the very beginning of the event to avoid these sorts of close matchups. Team alignments, regional locations, and more are taken into account to make sure that people who play on a regular basis will not have to worry about doing so until much later in the tournament.

By the time this image rolled around, Street Fighter had already seen a full day of competition. Unfortunately, it was at this time that East Coast Throwdown’s organizers saw how close Wong and Ortiz were in the brackets, and floated the latter to the top of the bracket into the position originally occupied by Team PIE’s Lee Chung.

In their official statement, they say they did this entirely on their own, with no input from players. As two of the best players in attendance, this gave both teammates an advantage going into the top thirty-two that was afforded to no one else. Best case scenario, they would both wind up in winners finals, securing at at least two spots in the top three for Evil Geniuses While that’s not exactly how it went down (Wong lost to DaFeetLee in the next round), Ortiz powered his way through the other side of the bracket and eventually defeated Zeus of Team PIE in the grand finals.

This year, Capcom Cup’s participants are being decided through a lengthy pro tour of singles events, of which East Coast Throwdown 2014 is a part. As a ranking tournament, the top sixteen players were awarded a set number of points depending on where they placed, with the most obviously reserved for the champion. By reseeding the members of Team Evil Geniuses in a one-on-one setting, both of those players were given an unearned and entirely unfair advantage, with the only reason being they had a couple of extra letters before their names that matched. And then, as a result, one of those players was able to take home the highest amount of ranking points being offered without having to play through the bracket the way it had been determined after a full day of competition.

As one of the strongest players in the country, smart money was definitely on Ortiz to place high anyways. The problem is that we will never know. We can never know how the bracket would have turned out had the organizers’ own bias not skewed the placings. This was an advantage that, I repeat, was not afforded to any other player in the bracket. While this has certainly been an issue ever since the dawn of competition, the fact that our tournaments reach more and more eyes as the years go on means this can have disastrous implications for the future of our community.

Why would a sponsor be interested in providing support to an event when the very basis of its ruleset can be manipulated on a whim? With tournament profiles the highest they’ve ever been, with rewards on the line that go beyond just the pride of winning, it’s become more important than ever that they have a consistent rule set that is fair to all players. This means less flexibility for the tournament organizers, but it’s absolutely necessary to maintain the trust that events are run fairly for all players, not just those that happen to be sponsored by major organizations.

As of now, it is currently unknown if this problem will affect East Coast Throwdown’s status as a Capcom Pro Tour ranking tournament, but we will keep an eye out and provide updates if more details become available.