Enlarge /. Street Fighter Vs Top 8 World Finals at EVO 2017 at the Mandalay Bay Casino Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
When it comes to acquisitions in the gaming industry, the headlines usually revolve around big ticket video games or backend software. In some news from Sony on Wednesday, there was a major acquisition in an entirely different form: the EVO gaming tournament series.
When it comes to fighting game tournaments, none has proven larger or more durable than EVO, which went from a grassroots community in the '90s to a formal series of physical events in 2002. EVO Japan in 2018 and hosted over 14,000 players in 2019 to compete for a prize pool of over $ 200,000.
After the 2020 tournaments were turned into an all-online pandemic-time series, EVO co-founder Joey Cuellar was accused of sexually assaulting minors – and he confirmed the allegations in a public statement (since removed from Twitter). Shortly thereafter, EVO removed Cuellar from all operational tasks and canceled its EVO 2020 plans.
Go online, roll back (a bit)
Sony Interactive Entertainment did not mention the 2020 cancellation in its announcement on Wednesday. Instead, the industry giant is jumping ahead to confirm it will be pushing a fully online EVO 2021 tournament series. Fans wishing to compete will have to wait for details on "Online Qualifiers" as the official finals will take place over two weekends, August 6-8 and August 13-15.
In a break with the EVO tradition, this event can register and participate in it completely free of charge. Previous EVO tournaments have set their prize pools in part based on the number of paying participants. How the prize pools for EVO will change in 2021 remains to be seen.
Games announced for EVO 2021 include Tekken 7, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and the upcoming Guilty Gear Strive. Coincidentally, all of these games are available on PlayStation, and two of these series are currently exclusive to the PlayStation console.
On Twitter, EVO Business Development Relations Representative Mark Julio announced that "EVO is still open to all platforms" and that the leadership of PlayStation "allows us to continue to work with our community to support fighting games." Whether this means that long-term EVO series, especially Nintendo's Smash Bros., will appear at future EVO events remains to be seen. However, in the 2021 online-only edition of EVO, the focus is on PlayStation-only games.
Only two of the announced games (MK11, GGS) contain a fully functional, delay-based rollback netcode to ensure a smoother connection when opponents in completely different regions compete against each other and hit the inherent limits of latency. (Developers at Tekken and Street Fighter claim they have implemented similar systems as well, but real-world performance doesn't add up.) We're pretty optimistic about wanting more rollback, and in a dream world, Sony's new relationship with EVO could prioritize such netcode in future fighting games.