One thing that is clear about Eduardo “PR Balrog” Perez is that he has a smile and a laughter that is infectious. Perez, a member of team Cygames Beast, kept me laughing during the course of our interview and helped make it clear why he is a fan favorite. Perez is very honest and straightforward and I am sure that comes across as you read his thoughts on Echo Fox’s super team, the struggle to stay on top, and his hopes that Capcom fixes some faces.
How do you think EVO has stayed the same, despite constantly changing venues and growing in size?
How do I think it’s stayed the same? I think it’s actually completely different. There’s the stage. [laughter] EVO is ridiculously huge now, there’s booths selling merchandise. This place is literally bigger than anything I’ve seen at EVO. Everything is different in my opinion.
Do you like the direction that Evo’s been heading in?
I think EVO has the right direction. I believe that we’re going more into an esporty side, and I think they’re doing the right thing. But it seems like the set ups are still in an old school way, I’ve heard a lot of headset stuff not working.
I heard you had a headset not work.
Yeah, the headsets were actually mono each, so you couldn’t really hear your opponent, and you could only hear your own character. So you couldn’t really do anything. Maybe some of the referees are still new and need a little more instructions to better understand the setups and logistics.
So you brought up [the FGC] being more like esports. I know that there are some people in the FGC who are very vocal against that direction. Personally for you, is fighting games your full time job or do you have a 9-5?
To be honest, I left having fighting games as my full time job in the last two years, so yes, I have a 9-5 and play fighting games on the side. I would love to be back again to be back one hundred percent back on fighting games, but it doesn’t suit my lifestyle at the moment.
So, personally for you, do you feel like the fact that it’s becoming more esports, is a positive for people in your position or some of the more higher tier players?
Maybe? I’m not sure Street Fighter 5 is the game to do that. Because SF5 is very inconsistent to a lot of people. There are consistent people, like Nuckledu, Punk, Kazunoko, etc, but I feel that for most people it’s a very hard game to go as a full time game. That’s my opinion, but people have been doing it, there’s more teams, there’s more pro players now. And as we’ve seen, I think Dogura, Kazunoko, Daigo, all those people were full time gamers, so it is possible, but I personally need more security.
I totally agree with that. So as someone who has a full time job, because you still stay fairly competitive. It’s not like you got a full time job and PR Balrog faded off into the sunset. So how do you juggle having a life, having a job and being a professional street fighter player?
I literally work 9-5. Sometimes I work longer hours and it’s very very hard to practice. Plus I have my house and I have to take of my house and take care of my fiance, it’s very little time. So I try and balance everything and at least have two hours or three hours of playing. That’s why you always see me streaming, that’s my practice basically. If I go to a place, literally those three hours is thirty minutes to go there, and thirty minutes to go back. It’s tough, but if you can find a balance between everything it’s definitely do-able.
We’ve got a bunch of new games coming out, we have Marvel infinite coming out, DBZ Fighters. Of those two games do any of them pique your interest to add to the rotation, or because you have so little time, do you think you’re just going to stick with Street Fighter?
Well that’s not a very hard decision, I haven’t played Marvel and I haven’t played Dragon ball, so I can’t really say that I’m going to put my time into it. I actually play four games now. And Marvel 3 is probably going to be substituted by Marvel Infinite. But I mean to me, I love playing fighting games, I’ll play all of them, and if one peaks my interest more than the other, I’ll play it more than others. That’s what’s happening now, I’m playing Street Fighter 5 more than anything else, and just branching a little bit on the others. I like helping communities, I think they all deserve it.
I think that’s one of the things I enjoyed since moving from esport category to turning fighting games from just a passion. People make the joke that the word community in FGC might not mean what everybody thinks it means, but the more I get involved, the more it has shown itself to be a community which has helped it grow into EVOs in the Mandalay Bay. Four or five years ago if someone had told you that, would you have believed them?
I actually said that we very very close to being this…when Street Fighter 4 ended, we were already going into Esports, and right when capcom cup ended, Street Fighter 5 was announced to be, if I remember, it was $100,000. This is, this is where it starts. So I’ve been talking to Gootecks and Mike and they said the same thing. I think it was, we were pretty sure that it was the track that we were going was going to end here.
Speaking of teams though, you left Evil Geniuses, and now you’re kind of on a team with Snake Eyes and Daigo. Is it a team or is it more that you guys are just sponsored? How do you view that?
We’re all a team of fighting games and sponsored by a same company, Cygames, which makes us a “team” but we’re not really a team together in a conventional term. Of course support each other, but we’re solo branded, and I think that’s actually the future of fighting games.
You don’t think that the direction that like Echo Fox has gone with creating this super team, where they have the best players, and they try and grab the best players for every game? You don’t think that’s a good model for fighting games?
Yes and No. That’s a really tough question because teams will still be there, but I feel like we’re playing fighting games, it’s 1V1, and I really don’t think having everyone on a team is smart. Even though I like Echo Fox, I think what they did was kind of pick everyone that was good, and it kind of will make it stale if you see Echo Fox all Top 8. But I respect what they did, and I think it’s a smart move overall.
I definitely agree that it’s a smart move, but speaking to that stale point, they have JDCR and Saint, who are the two best Tekken players, so it’s kind of boring when you know they’re both teammates. Oh boy, look it’s JDCR and Saint are in the top 2 again. There’s just no rivalry or anything. And for example, watching Daigo versus Justin Wong, that’s a rivalry, you know seeing you versus Punk at ELEAGUE. I understand that you can still be rivals with someone on your team, but it’s harder to craft story lines.
I agree. Even when I was with EG and we had like top 4 EG, I was like I’m bored. [Laughter] I’m serious. I thought it was really boring, so I actually got this from Snake Eyez, I’m pretty sure he declined a lot of offers to be in EG or Echo Fox etc. I’m not really sure if they did, but I remember him saying, “Yeah, I declined because I don’t want to be in the same team if I’m going to be in the top 8.”
Yeah, it’s good that you guys are sponsored, though. Because I feel like if you are going to be successful, at the level that you, Snake Eyes, and others are at. You did need some sort of sponsorship. You can’t just not travel anymore. Before you could just, I’ll go to this event and go to this event, I’ve made my money. Now it feels more like the Smash scene, where you have to grind events, and you can’t do that by yourself.
Yeah, it’s a lot of money. Coming to EVO here was so expensive. Even though I didn’t pay for it, but I see how the budget goes, and it’s really expensive. And a lot of people can’t afford to go to EVO and then go to another tournament. Yeah you definitely need a sponsor if you want to be a fighting game player.
Does it add any more pressure to you to know that someone is footing the bill?
Yes? But I mean people are going to be there. I don’t think that just because the events are so expensive, I think that people will still go. But I think in the future, when we’re all a bit stale, people will say “Oh I can’t go because it’s too expensive.” etc. But I think for now we’re okay.
As a last question, what do you want to see for Street Fighter Season 3?
I want to see Evil Ryu, I want to see a defensive option, and I want to see Ken’s face fixed, and Ibuki’s.
Do you want to see Nash come back?
NASH?! NASH IS STILL HERE!
Bonchan doesn’t count!
He definitely does. He’s definitely the last Nash, but he’s still there.