The Evolution Championship Series is highly regarded as the largest fighting game summit in the world. On an annual basis, a global contingent of the strongest members from the FGC (Fighting Game Community) converge in Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV to test their mettle. Along with heated competitive play in the biggest fighting games, tournament entrants and non-players alike get to enjoy the event’s expo-like atmosphere. Evo’s only gotten bigger in the years since its origins and has grown into a recognizable entity among the gaming community at large.
Sony's Acquisition of Evo is Shocking and Exciting
2020 threw a huge wrench into Evo's grand plans, however. The current pandemic put a halt to the huge gathering that was planned for Las Vegas, which forced the tourney organizers to regroup and set up an online-only event. Then something even more damning took place - one of the event’s former tournament organizers found himself in hot water due to sexual misconduct allegations, which led to Evo 2020 getting cancelled. After those two horrible events came to pass, the future of Evo came into question. All hope seemed to be lost until two major gaming entities stepped in to right the ship.
On March 18, it was announced that Sony Interactive Entertainment and esports venture RTS had jointly acquired Evo. And thankfully, Tom and Tony Cannon (the twins that originally launched the tourney in the first place) will still be involved in its ongoing operations. Along with that shocking news, it was also announced that Evo 2021 will take place over two weekends in an online-only format. And best of all, admission is free of charge. The four games that are being featured this year include Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Guilty Gear Strive, Tekken 7, and Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate. And to the surprise of no one, all four games will be played on Sony hardware (PS4 and PS5) or PC.
Once the news broke, the FGC erupted with positive and negative reactions. On the positive front, Sony’s involvement could spell big things for the continued growth of EVO itself. Sony’s big pockets could be a godsend when it comes to throwing more money into the pots for certain games, increasing the pomp & circumstance of the event itself, and landing exclusive partnerships with notable fighting game publishers. But with all that good stuff comes a few worrying issues, such as non-Sony fighters not getting any sort of placement at EVO at all. However, we already have confirmation of that scary possibility not being an issue at all - EVO’s director of global business development noted that Sony and RTS are still open to other console platforms for other notable fighting games.
Even with the reassuring statement from Julio, the Smash community is still a bit scared by the possibility of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate not getting slotted into Evo from this point forward. A spokesperson for Nintendo spoke to IGN and made a solid effort to relieve Smash players’ fears - “Nintendo has enjoyed engaging with fans at past Evo tournaments and wish the show organizers the best with their new venture. We will continue to assess Evo, and other opportunities, as we plan for future online and offline Super Smash Bros. tournament activity.” That quote doesn’t make a definitive statement about Smash Ultimate being a part of Evo next year or beyond, but at least that game and other beloved fighters have a good chance at rejoining the event.
Judging by the official Evo site, it seems like the current lineup has a good chance of being expanded. The site makes it quite clear that “all gaming platforms will remain welcome at Evo. Stay tuned for more game announcements.” Here’s hoping that games with great netcode, such as Killer Instinct, Them's Fightin' Herds, and Skullgirls 2nd Encore will join this year’s games lineup. And as far as major announcements go, getting a reveal about an incoming DLC character for Guilty Gear Strive and another roster member reveal for The King of Fighters XV would garner plenty of excitement.
Sony and RTS acquiring Evo spell good things for the event’s future if you ask us. Things can only go up from a financial point of view, plus the PlayStation platform has proven itself as a strong presence for fighting games. If the world is allowed to gather in large quantities in 2022, then we’ll truly get to see if Sony and RTS’s investment in Evo adds to the grandeur of the in-person event. With upcoming fighters, such as DNF Duel and Virtua Fighter x esports, Evo 2022 could be a major coming-out party for Sony and RTS’s first in-person presentation of Evo. Will both companies make an attempt to clean things up and deviate from the grassroots hype that Evo is known for? Hopefully not, but time will tell.