The 10 highest-earning Street Fighter IV pros ever
The Street Fighter IV era is over, but who earned the highest winnings over the game’s lifespan?
When Street Fighter V landed on PS4 this February, it was seven years to the day since its predecessor hurricane-kicked its way onto both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Love or hate Street Fighter IV, it’s hard to deny the impetus it put back into the fighting game scene around the world, bringing thousands upon thousands of new fans to the genre as well as giving us countless jaw-dropping, nail-biting matches between the planet’s best professional players.
With an exciting new game now out and a level playing field re-established, pros are already making names for themselves in the year’s biggest tournament Evo 2016 in Las Vegas. But who are the kings of the last generation? We’ve pulled together Street Fighter IV’s ten highest earners from esports-earnings.com’s records to see who’s worth keeping an eye throughout SFV’s lifetime, too.
10. Taniguchi ‘Tokido’ Hajime – $25,325.02
Tokido’s fighting game resume is second to none. He’s won prize money in every competitive version of Street Fighter, as well as Street Fighter X Tekken, King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter, Capcom vs. SNK, Guilty Gear and even BlazBlue. Where others have poured over tier lists and picked up the games’ more powerful characters to boost their chances of success, Tokido’s Akuma has been a mainstay of major tournaments for the last seven years, striking fear into the hearts of his opponents – the sort of fear that has earned him the nickname ‘Tokido Murderface’. His victory at Canada Cup 2015 saw him take home about $6,600, but the bigger prize pots have eluded Tokido thus far. Street Fighter V could be a very different story, though he’ll have to manage without Akuma for now, though he’s found a lot of early success with Ryu, taking CEO 2016 over Infiltration.
9. Masato ‘Bonchan’ Takahashi – $25,549.54
Red Bull’s very own Bonchan narrowly edges out Tokido for ninth place, thanks to some superb tournament performances over the last couple of years. Bonchan has arguably been the best Sagat player in the world for far longer than that, but he had a particularly successful year in 2014, taking third place in the Topanga World League and then second at Evo 2014, where he was on the losing side of a fiercely fought grand finals match with Luffy. Throw in his victory at SoCal Regionals in October last year, and really, no-one in the world was in better form at the end of Street Fighter IV’s reign. With Sagat not announced for Street Fighter V, Bonchan’s struggled to get a good main going, settling on default Ryu.
8. Bruce ‘GamerBee’ Hsiang – $34,343.22
We all have a bit of love for GamerBee. His ever smiling disposition has made him a much loved part of the scene over the last seven years, and he’s always been there or there abouts at the big tournaments, as the lone Adon player in a sea of top tier picks. Perhaps there’s so much worldwide support for GamerBee because we all love an underdog – and though GamerBee has been successful in terms of prize money, he’s only won two tournaments in that time. In fact, his biggest prize pot was his heart-breaking second place to Momochi at Evo 2015, which netted him over $14,000.
7. Olivier ‘Luffy’ Hay – $39,435.38
Frenchman Luffy shocked the world in 2014 when his Rose stormed through the bracket to win Evo, beating number nine Bonchan in the process. In truth, Luffy’s Rose had always been extremely strong, but with the scene focused on the US and Japan, he was one of a few Europeans who ghosted in under the radar and caused a few upsets. Multiple wins and top three places at Dreamhack in 2014 and 2015 had confirmed Luffy as a top-quality player, but the majority of his winnings came from that extraordinary performance at Evo, where he walked away with a chunky $17,000 prize. And all of that playing on a regular PlayStation pad, no less.
6. Ai ‘Fuudo’ Keita – $55,110.09
Fuudo started life as a Virtua Fighter player, and a good one at that, certainly good enough to take first place at Super Battle Opera in 2005 and the World Cyber Games in 2009. Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter are very different games, but Fuudo transitioned almost seamlessly. He was unheralded going into Evo 2011, but he rampaged through the competition, displaying incredibly solid fundamentals and perfect execution to take down the likes of Xian, Latif and Poongko on the way to $10,000 prize pot. Incidentally, that’s less than the $12,000 he won at Topanga League 2 in 2012, and whilst his first place finishes have fallen off since, he’s had a storming early season of SFV with a second place at EVO 2016.
5. Kun Xian ‘Xian’ Ho – $63,685.38
You may be noticing a trend by now, that most of this list are Evo winners. Well, that trend doesn’t stop here, and Xian’s Evo victory might have been the most impressive of all. In 2013, Xian picked up Gen – a character roundly considered one of the worst in the game – and promptly romped through the competition at Evo, going undefeated and beating the likes of Luffy, Sako and then annihilating Tokido twice in both the Winner’s Final and the Grand Final. Xian actually won his debut international tournament at Dreamhack Winter in 2009, but it was his Evo 2013 win that put him on the map, and he’ll definitely be a name to watch in Street Fighter V with an experimental F.A.N.G main.
4. Sun Woo ‘Infiltration’ Lee – $72,880.59
Infiltration is a relative newcomer on the scene, compared to the likes of Tokido. He only started playing fighting games seriously with the release of Street Fighter IV, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he’s had so much success with this edition particularly. His win at the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary competition netted him a whopping $25,000, but Infiltration has a tournament history littered with first place finishes. He’s won Evo, Dreamhack, CEO, Sonic Boom, First Attack and NorCal Regionals all in the last five years, and he may be even higher on this list as we’re missing the winnings information for some of them. Although he’s adept with enough of the SFIV cast to switch out of bad matchups, his Akuma has terrorized many a tournament hopeful, and Infiltration’s pinpoint execution and mind-blowing reads have already made him a dominant force in SFV as well.
3. Yusuke ‘Momochi’ Momochi – $92,683.60
Like Tokido and Daigo, Momochi is one of Japan’s elite fighting gamers, and has proved himself time and time again on the world stage. Although he doesn’t have the quantity of tournament wins that someone like Infiltration has, Momochi has had a few huge prize pots that put him at number three on this list. With prize pots going up and up in recent years, Momochi’s victory at Capcom Cup in 2014 netted him about $30,000, as did his impressive win at Evo 2015 – not bad considering that’s three times as much as Fuudo won in 2011. Like Bonchan, Momochi has always been a force but never more so than now, and with his traditional main character Ken undergoing some significant changes, it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue this through SFV too.
2. Inoue ‘Kazunoko’ Ryota – $146,228.03
Unlike the others at the top end of this list, Kazunoko hasn’t been a constant in the top echelons of the pro scene and realistically, he’s been a more successful Guilty Gear player than he has SFIV, if you’re looking at tournament wins. That said, he scored a huge victory over Daigo in the Grand Finals of Capcom Cup last year, one that saw him walk away with a monster $120,000 prize pot that automatically put him high up on this list. His aggressive rushdown Yun play also netted him a win at CEO 2015, and he’s placed highly at SXSW, SoCal Regionals and Topanga League in the past, although a top eight place at Evo still eludes him, as of yet. The Japanese prodigy has been almost completely absent from paying positions in SFV, though has made the quarter finals at multiple events.
1. Daigo Umehara – $171,677.30
‘The Beast’ is undeniably the best fighting gamer in the world, and his record goes way back to the days of Street Fighter II, when he started destroying people with telepathic ‘Ume Shoryus’ and rock-solid fundamentals. Since the release of Street Fighter IV he’s won multiple Topanga Leagues in Japan, two Evo Championships in 2009 and 2010, as well as Dreamhack, NorCal Regionals, Stunfest, Canada Cup and plenty more. His biggest prize pot to date for Street Fighter IV was his second place finish at Capcom Cup 2015 – where he lost to Kazunoko in Grand Finals and he didn’t even keep the money, instead choosing to donate it to the Evo Scholarship, a fund that helps people make a career in video games. Daigo is in many ways the embodiment of Ryu – respectful, but with ice blood running through his veins, and a winner’s mentality that has made him the most successful fighting gamer of all time. Watch out for him in SFV, once he gets his head round that early exhibition match defeat to Lupe Fiasco.