The yearly Evo Championship Series fighting game tournament has been jointly acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment and RTS. Evo 2021 Online will be played out over two weekends, August 6-8 and 13-15, and will feature Guilty Gear -Strive- (PS4/PS5), Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate (PS4/PS5), Street Fighter 5: Champion Edition (PS4/PS5/PC), and Tekken 7 (PC), as well as other games that have yet to be announced. While this will be the second year Evo Online has been planned, it will probably be the first time it actually takes place due to last year’s cancellation after allegations of sexual misconduct against former tournament organizer Joey "Mr. Wizard" Cuellar.
While many are happy that the community-representing tournament is still going to be around (without involvement from Joey Cuellar), this announcement has fans of platform-exclusive games worried. Even with a statement from Evo employee Mark Julio that Evo is committed to remaining open to all platforms, there are concerns of Sony PlayStation bias, and that Microsoft and Nintendo will refuse to allow their few fighting games to have any kind of presence. That is a worst-case scenario, however, and this acquisition should propel Evo to brand new heights.
The best part of this deal, for both Evo itself and the larger fighting game community, is that not much will change with how the event is actually run. Sony and RTS are essentially permanent joint sponsors, funneling money into the event. Sony has made it pretty clear in its statements that it doesn't intend to try and do things “its way” and instead wants to preserve the authenticity of the event that the fans expect. It does want to grow the tournament further and see its events and broadcasts continue to improve, but Sony and RTS aren’t going to try doing anything they don’t understand.
To that end, the usual Evo staff is still present. Familiar faces like Mark Julio, and Tom and Tony Cannon will still be involved in the organizing and running of the event each year. The Cannon brothers co-founded Evo back when it was called Battle By The Bay, and while they have been more focused on other projects in recent years (like their upcoming Project L fighting game with Riot), they are still involved with Evo in advisory roles. The talent that manages the massive number of entrants Evo sees each year is still intact, and that ensures the event will stay as good as it ever was.
The one major change that Evo regulars will notice now won’t even be present at Evo itself; rather, Sony will make sure to give the tournament more advertising than it ever had. Evo is already the largest yearly fighting game tournament by a landslide, attracting players from all over the world and tons of visitors and entrants from around North America. The tournament series even started running Evo Japan events a few years ago, as it had enough Asian interest to hold competitions there as well.
Now, those events (if Evo Japan is still planned to return) will have a fair bit more commercial presence than they used to thanks to Sony. There could be online commercials and trailers aired months in advance, more interviews with players, and perhaps even an Evo ad spot during a State of Play.
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