When it comes to the world of eSports, fighting games don’t seem to get a lot of fanfare when compared to the more mainstream competitive video games out there. Most fighting game tournaments cannot rival the amount of money put out for games life Fortnite, Overwatch, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, DOtA 2 and those other ones. Honestly, there are so many I can’t keep track of every one of them!
With so many of them becoming super popular, it’s no wonder so many companies are spending money to make their prize pools and even their events look super grand! League of Legends even have full fledged concerts, complete with K-Pop darlings and CGI models dancing on stage! Even the biggest and most prestigious fighting game tournament, Evo, comes off as minuscule in comparison to these. This is especially crazy as Evo, at the very least, gathers all of the best players from the most contemporary fighting games in one location while Riot can go out with their extravagant opening numbers… and they’re just focused on one single, solitary game!
The winds of change might be on the horizon, though, as it was reported Sony, yes, the same Sony who makes the PlayStation systems, along with a company called RTS, purchased Evo. Lock, stock and barrel. The tournament’s co-founders, Tom and Tony Cannon, will still be there behind the scenes but will be held as “consultants” but they won’t be running things anymore. Now, while this might seem like selling out and, yes, it technically is. However, I do think Sony owning Evo is actually a good thing… for now.
First off, you have to remember what a crapshoot Evo was last year. That’s because we didn’t get one because of a worldwide pandemic… and something as terrible but on a smaller scale, so to speak. There were plans to actually hold Evo as an actual local tournament with everyone flying to one location to compete per usual. Mr. Wizard and Mike Ross went through the lineup of games that were expected to be played in the hopes things would normalize by the time Evo was scheduled. I was extremely excited because the 2020 Evo had a tournament of champions for Marvel vs. Capcom 2! What fighting game fan wouldn’t want to see that?
Too bad the world just didn’t want to cooperate! With the entire world still under lockdown as the Evo date loomed, it was inevitable for the local tournament to be cancelled. In its place, it was announced they were going to have online tournaments only. This was disappointing but understandable. This was something the organizers couldn’t control so they had to change course and do the next best thing and run the entire thing online.
Unfortunately, the online tournament didn’t push through as well because of something they did have control over. More specifically, it was something Mr. Wizard should have had under control. I’m talking about his liking for young males. It suddenly came out Mr. Wizard, the then CEO of Evo, had been preying on underage boys for a long time. This really rocked the fighting game community and it actually seemed to launch a torrent of other allegations from within like in the Smash fighting game community. With everything in chaos due to this and people clamoring for his removal, Mr. Wizard was pulled from his post and the 2020 Evo was officially cancelled.
This does lead us to what happened recently and why Sony buying Evo is a good thing right now. I’m not really aware of what happens backstage at Evo but I do think Mr. Wizard was kind of the frontman for the tournament. He seemed to have a lot of pull with the greater fighting game community then as well as contacts with the companies who actually develop the fighting games which will be put in Evo. He probably had a hand in doing remarkable things for Evo, such as finally getting Smash into the tournament lineup and reserving the big stadium where some of the Top 8 brackets are played. I’m guessing he also played a part of getting the Finals of Smash and Street Fighter V on Disney and ESPN!
So, with him gone, I’m guessing there was this weird vacuum of power. Him leaving must have made it much more difficult to get permission to stream games, finding a suitable location for people to gather, booking a stadium and equipment necessary to stream and much more. Don’t get me wrong! I’m glad he’s not part of Evo anymore but I can’t help but think he’s, at the very least, one of the guys who made Evo possible each and every year. So him leaving must have hit Evo really hard.
Now, this is where Sony can really help out Evo as you can bet they have sufficient connections to get all of the above done and then some! Sony is a huge company and with it, the company has enormous pull with other companies. Most fighting games can be played on the PlayStation 4 so you can bet Sony will try their darndest to contact the required developers to secure permission to stream the games. They also have the necessary resources to ensure everything can go without a hitch when it comes to securing the equipment and bandwidth to stream, hiring the needed personnel like commentators and organizers and even getting other companies to help out with running Evo! Okay, maybe not Nintendo because they can be super strict about their properties. Still, you never know! Probably no… but you never know!
Not only that, with Sony backing Evo, we might even see them push it as something like an event akin to E3 but for fighting games. Evo has already kind of been like that in the past but, with Sony’s backing and press power, more and more gaming companies may want to unveil their new fighting game projects during the tournament more than ever. I can also see Sony dumping a serious amount of money into Evo if they do want this to be the next big gaming event… which does lead me to why I’m still wary about the acquisition.
Let’s say Sony does go all out and evolve Evo (see what I did there) into something really grand. This means Evo will have to go more mainstream than ever. The overall feel of the fighting game community, the rather dingy, underground ambiance it has, will have to go away. We’ve already seen this kind of happen during the Street Fighter V tournament when it was broadcast on ESPN because R. Mika’s outfit was deemed too revealing, leading to Fuudo having to switch costumes. This might not be a terrible thing because of the entire Mr. Wizard fiasco. However, I do feel being “too PC” might remove some of the rough but endearing personality of the fighting game community.
What really worries me is how Sony might treat Evo in the future. Right now, it looks like they’re going to try to play nice with everyone and allow PC players to join Evo. In fact, it was announced Tekken 7 will be a PC only affair this year. There may come a time, however, in the future when Sony only allows games to be played on the PlayStation system. Oh, they’ll try to have that Smash tournament as it does rake in a ton of views so they’ll graciously allow Nintendo systems at Evo for that one event. Other games, like the Xbox exclusive Killer Instinct, may be snubbed, though.
I’m also concerned if Sony does forget that Evo is basically a fighting game tournament and, all of a sudden, switch gears and makes the originally fighting game exclusive event more generalized and allow other competitive games like FIFA, Madden and UFC into the tournament mix. This would make Evo fit into the eSports category a little bit better but the identity of Evo will be stripped away if that does happen.
So, right now, I’m more than okay with Sony buying out Evo. Evo can certainly use all the help it can get to rebuild itself after a disastrous last year. I’m still keeping a sharp eye on you, Sony! Don’t try any funny business, you hear?
What do you think of Sony taking control over Evo? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Let me know in the comments section below!