The profitability of the fighting game community

It seems to me that some individuals have a hard time with the concept of video games being a business. They somehow feel like video game companies are creating games just to entertain people, but most of us know their main goal is to make money. The strange thing is that some people seem offended by that fact.

Video games have always been a business. The difference is that back in the 90’s, it was still a small business. This created the illusion that game companies got involved in the industry to entertain people, and make their lives more fun. The video game industry is now a corporate business, but the beauty of it is that their games can now become a source of income to players. This is the reason why you hear about professional gamers that make full-time cash playing games. They have taken an entertaining hobby and turned it into a profitable business.

I know the FCG is still taking baby steps in terms of profitability – but things are moving fast and they are looking good. It’s important to understand how players are using their skills and their personalities to brand themselves. This is an important time in gaming because these players are the pioneers to a whole new generation of people – a generation that is making a living out of video games. While it’s safe to say none of them are driving Sports cars they bought with their gaming paychecks, it’s also safe to say that the potential for big bucks is there, and things are looking up for those with a sharp business mind. Only the developers made the big bucks before, but that is changing day by day.

I think anyone who sells their skills in the entertainment business needs to have a personality to go with those skills. This is essential if they want to make the most out of it. Just look at people like Connor McGregor. That guy is 99% personality and 1% fighting. No one is denying that he can fight, but his popularity and his complete dominance in terms of earnings come from his behavior inside, and outside the octagon. The over the top bravado and machismo have made him a celebrity all over the world. Selling the Skill + Personality combo is the ticket to success in any business that requires your presence.

In the world of fighting games, you are either Ryu or Ken. You have the Ryu type player that is only looking for the thrill of the fight, and the challenge of beating the best players. Then you have the Ken type players that like to build hype around their fights and draw crowds. These two are great examples of business 101. There is a reason why Ryu is a scruffy guy with no possessions, and Ken is driving sports cars and attending galas.

When your product is a time killing experience (entertainment in a nutshell) you need to make sure that you are able to stand out from the crowds. People who play video games competitively are selling two things. The first one is their skills, and the second is their personality. One is important for success as a player, and the other is very useful for financial success.

With that said, let’s look at some of the names that are very popular in the FGC for different reasons. This is from the perspective of the audience, and not from the perspective of people who know these players personally. The monetary value of these players resides in their public appeal, and not in their personal relationships.

Note: This is not meant to be an accurate list of the most popular players based on specific numbers in terms of earnings. There are other players that are not mentioned here who are very good, and they are also sponsored. Most of the top earners according to various lists are mainly known in Asia.

Daigo Umehara

Daigo is probably the one FGC member that has a truly unique branding strategy. I feel that his quiet demeanor allowed him to create a brand that is very mystical. Daigo is known as the superhuman beast of the FGC, and he owes much of that reputation to EVO moment #37. There is no need to analyze the reasons why the video is so popular, but we can all agree that the execution levels under pressure are incredible.

Daigo has branded himself as the mystical beast that needs not speak. He might no longer be at the very top in major tournaments, but I see him as the equivalent of someone like Anderson Silva in the UFC. Even though his prime might be over, there are still people lining up to train and spar with him. The exact same thing happens with Daigo. People respect his trajectory, and they want to pick his brain.

I remember feeling privileged to play Super Turbo online against people like Damdai and DGV, but I know that my dream set would be a Ryu Mirror with Daigo in ST. Even now that he never plays ST, he would completely destroy my Ryu – but the experience would be great. That is where Daigo’s brand power resides in the long run. In that mystical vibe.


Justin Wong

Justin is also a very popular player who happened to be on the losing side of EVO moment #37. This is definitely not a defining moment in his career because he has won many tournaments since then, and he has defeated Daigo Plenty of times in other games, but it was certainly the moment that placed him at the top of the FGC radar.

Watch this great moment between Justin and Daigo in SFV.



Alex Valle

I think Alex Valle is the true poster boy for the FGC. Unlike Daigo, he has worked hard to become a great player, but also a great supporter of the scene. He was a master of old school games and he continues to show that he can hang with the new generation, even if his focus is in the business now. I have a lot of respect for people who know how to turn something they love into something profitable.

This video is as good as it gets when it comes to a hyped match in the old days.




This is the case of someone who is extremely good at what he does, but is also extremely good at selling his personality. Smug’s Balrog is an incredible character to watch, but Smug, the person behind the character – is just as big of a personality. I have no idea what kind of money smug is making, but I can tell you one thing for sure – he has brand power that matches his skills, and that is the best way to conduct a business in this industry.

Check out some notable smug moments here that showcase his personality.



Tokido is all skill and method, but his personality is quite reserved. His win at EVO has helped build his reputation, and his cold approach with very little emotional display is worthy of a professional poker table. He is the current champion of the most popular fighting game (SFV).

Here is Tokido against Punk at the EVO 2017 grand finals.




Punk is also a very skilled player. He is more likely to showcase an antagonistic personality with his character than he is with his own behavior. His tea bagging has definitely helped his personal brand grow. Punk and Tokido could both do with a stronger personality, but they are the kind of players that let that personality come out through their characters.

You can check out this Punk match. Just one of the many that have earned him a reputation for disrespectful tea bagging, but no one can deny that he can back it up with skills.


Filipino Champ

This guy gets a lot of hate from the FGC, but I think he is a very skilled player who has earned the right to do the things he does and say the things he says. He knows how to taunt opponents and get in their heads – this is the reason why people would much rather see his matches than many others in the community.

This is the McGregor type of player, he talks a lot of smack, but he has the skills to back it all up. Those are undeniable facts. The guy is a Marvel vs Capcom monster, and he made top 8 in EVO 2917 for Street Fighter V. Hate him all you want, he is a huge name in the FGC. If there is one thing you can easily notice about FChamp – it has to be the complete lack of care for what people think of him, and that is a rare thing in this world.

Check out The Excellent adventures of Gooteks & Mike for this great episode featuring Champ. I think he talks about very valuable things that will help most people get better at fighting games in general.


Ricky Ortiz

I think Ricky deserves more credit than she gets. This is a player that has been very good since the old school days, and continues to be a top contender in modern fighting games. I also want to note that there is no need to pretend the elephant is not in the room. I believe people like Ricky deserve extra credit for dealing with transgender issues and discrimination, while also struggling to keep up as a professional player.

It probably takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there when you appear so different to a society that is still growing out of sexually oriented discrimination. A few decades from now, all of that prejudice will be completely wiped out, but sadly, it’s still an issue today. I know some would argue that speaking about it makes it more of an issue, but it is worth mentioning it for a positive purpose.

Find out more about Ricky as a player, and her thoughts on many aspects of fighting games on this episode of the Excellent adventures of Gooteks & Mike.

Other notable players

There are many amazing players in this community. Other popular names include Haitani, Wolfkrone, Brian F, PRBalrog, ZeRo, Salem, JDCRm SAINT, Prodigy and the list goes on. This shows us the potential behind this community in several fighting games.

Teaching new players for profit

These players could potentially make a living out of teaching people (if they aren’t already) how to play fighting games in private sessions. Yes, that is definitely going to turn into a thing for the top players. Just like UFC champions open gyms and teach others how to fight when they retire – there is definitely a market for top players to profit from teaching.

It makes sense that someone with little time to learn on their own would look for a pro to teach them the secrets, and the most effective strategies in a particular game. This would usually take them months, and even years to figure out on their own, so there is an undeniable market value in teaching how to play these games.

Final thoughts

The FGC is growing fast and the coming years will be crucial to see if it will continue to gain momentum. Everything seems to be hinting at a very promising future, and those who invest themselves in it are going to be reaping the rewards.