The prize pool for Smite's World Championships has been capped at $1m by publishers Hi-Rez. The move is part of an effort to rejig the financial rewards involved in playing the over-the-shoulder MOBA professionally so that more players can get a share of the winnings and hopefully finance their fledgling eSports career.
In case you were wondering how extreme the issue is in Smite [official site], when it comes to prize pools and how they're divided Hi-Rez have revealed that "Overall, in Season 1, the Top 4 teams in the Smite Pro Scene took home over 90% of the total prize pool distributions given out during the year."
If you want a specific example of how the individual prize amounts rapidly drop from the first place, at the World Championships in January the winners, Cognitive Prime (now Cloud9) took home $1.3m of the $2.6m prize while the second placed team left with around $0.5m. The deciding match was an incredibly close best-of-five, but one team walks away with more than double the other's winnings'.
With a game being lucrative for only 20 or so players you end up with a professional scene that simply might not be worth the time and effort for up-and-coming teams. Fearing stagnation and unsustainability Hi-Rez have thus been having a ponder about how they operate their professional game.
Capping the SWC at $1m is part of that plan (although I should add that the cap is specifically for the PC-based World Championship - Smite is also now on Xbox so there will be a Championship for that platform too which is funded separately, with further detail on that front to come int he next month or two). Other aspects of the plan include holding more events, spreading the prize pools more evenly and guaranteed rewards for participating in the Smite Pro League.
The basic idea here is to have more money given out but to make sure it goes to more players.
It's an approach I've been advocating for a while so I grabbed the opportunity to speak with Hi-Rez president Stew Chisam about some of the thinking and the finer detail. You'll be able to read that this evening - it'll go up about 10pm BST.