White Wolf is offering a 'big' $25000 prize for the winner of their EVE CCG at GenCon this year.
That's a nice prize. I'm sure it'll lure some folks in. Still, how unremarkable is that? GenCon...tournament...cash prize... It's all been done before, and better (I suspect), by Wizards and Upper Deck.
Just spit ballin' here.
If it really is all about the cash, what about giving:
the top 25 finishers a $1000 prize?
the top 50 finishers $500? How many players would that lure in?
The thing about giving a big pile of cash to one player is you'll lure in a semi-large group of really, really competitive players. The winner will be either a previous fan of the game (good, but not great from a marketing perspective) or players who are really good at learning games (but probably don't really care about yours.)
Think about how you could spend $25000 to make the convention game experience top notch for all the players. Moderate prizes, comfortable play area, free food and drink for paid tournament attendees, massages between rounds for the tournament leaders. What would be the coolest thing you could do/provide to the players at your event? What would make everyone walking by the event jealous that they didn't get in on it?
Last year Spoils had I-Pod tournaments. Awesome. THAT's what I'm talking about. Creating prizes that stand out.
Be Remarkable or Be Boring. IMHO, cash is boring.
OP programs seem enamored with the 'pro' player. Of course, any store owner will tell you the pro players are crappy customers. A broad generalization of the pro-player is a male, high-intensity, win oriented, gamer, who buys like he plays. That is, very efficiently. They don't buy from the local store, and they don't pay full price. When they do show up for a local tournament, it's to collect prizes.
Unless your game is designed to cater to that sort of player, and Eve might be, I don't know. I suggest catering to a more casual gamer. It's what most retailers already do, because that's what most of their customers are (even if they want to be pros). They're an under-represented portion of the CCG market. Casual gamers also tend to have lives, jobs, and a tad more money.
Of course, big prizes are sexy. We do like sexy in this business, I guess.