Mortal Kombat 11 isn't out yet, but already plans are in the works for its first major tournament at Beyond The Summit. One Australian will be representing the region at the tournament, but the process by which they got there shows just how far Aussies have to go to get their foot in the door.
The exhibition is run by the Beyond The Summit esports production group, the same team responsible for the Dota Summit and CS_Summit crowdfunded tournaments. The Mortal Kombat event is called Summit of Time, and it's a three day event featuring the best and most prominent 16 Mortal Kombat players across 1v1, teams, and other shenanigans.
The major differentiator with Summit of Time, and one that borrows heavily from the HomeStory Cup model established in the early days of StarCraft 2, is the collegiate atmosphere. Like the other Summit tournaments, the event takes place within a large house, with teams playing in separate rooms, players providing their own insight from a couch, and people just generally having a bit more of a fun time.
It's traditionally been a tournament series that's focused on FPS and MOBA games, but Beyond the Summit expanded into fighting games last year. Summit of Power was a Dragon Ball Fighter Z event that saw the unanimous favourite GO1 finish behind HookGangGod and SonicFox. Summit of Time represents a further expansion into the FGC, as well as the continued use of their crowdfunding model.
Here's how it works. The first 10 players for Summit of Time were invited directly by the organisers, with another two earning their spots through qualifiers being held on May 1.
The other four players are invited through what is, essentially, a community donation drive. A pool of players is built from previous tournaments, extending as far back as the Mortal Kombat X/XL tournaments at EVO 2015. Once voting begins, two players are eliminated every day, with four players ultimately being invited based on the amount of votes they have at the time.
Players and fans also have the option of buying extra votes, through various means. Buying merchandise through the Beyond The Summit store offers additional votes, but users can also donate money directly to various parts of the prize pools. Some of those include a rock/paper/scissors tournament. Another includes a streamed game of Mafia. But because players also get votes for donating directly to the main tournament, it effectively creates a scenario where players and teams can just buy votes outright.
And given that the tournament is already weighted towards inviting North American players - where most of the Mortal Kombat tournaments still are - it forces players from other regions into a race, getting communities to rally behind them to garner not just enough votes, but enough cash to buy the votes they need to get through.
It's a scenario where Australia's smaller scene actually becomes a benefit. With Tasman "Waz" Stoker the only Aussie eligible for voting, courtesy of a top 8 finish at Combo Breaker 2018 last year. It was the Australian's best placing at a major tournament, having previously finished 25th at EVO 2018 for Injustice 2. (You can watch the Australian below from 47:52.)
I spoke to Stoker, who represents Dark Sided, earlier this morning following his announcement, and he said while he was thrilled to have made it into Summit of Time, he'd have to practice exclusively from Australia. "I'll be grinding every day with all of our players alongside training outside of the game," Stoker said. "We have strong talented players who can help me level up to be ready for Summit," he said.
Getting into Summit required a significant investment on his part. Along with the thousands raised through various streams, Stoker also put $1000 of his own money towards votes just in case. "Looking back now it wouldn't have even been necessary but it was worth the investment," he said, with the Australian scene pitching in around $3,000 on their own.
— Dark Sided (@DarkSided) April 15, 2019
It's worth noting that some of the proceeds are directed to all the players that miss out. "Those that are eliminated from the voting phase will receive a portion of the funds raised through voting relative to the singles prize pool," the official page reads. "This amount will not exceed the amount earned from 13th place at Summit of Time."
There's also some hope that Stoker's attendance will boost interest outside of North America in MK11, and Netherealm games (like Injustice) in general. In an interview with Red Bull last week, he explained that the marketing for MK11 has been received well so far, which will hopefully translate to interest in the final game.
When asked about what he'd like to see post-launch, Stoker mentioned that he'd like to see a path extended to Australians for international events, similar to what was done for the Injustice Pro Series last year. "I would love to see that more throughout each year," he said.
For now, he'll be concentrating on practising his combo strings and strategies for May 10, when Summit of Time kicks off.