Sony Interactive Entertainment has teamed up with RTS to acquire Evolution Championship Series (EVO) through a joint venture partnership. Established in 1996, EVO has grown into the top fighting game tournament in the world, with a total of 6.22 million hours watched during EVO 2019 and peak viewership of 245k. So why has EVO decided to sell after 20 years of independence and success?
Evo 2020, which was originally set to take place in Las Vegas, was cancelled due to COVID-19. It got rescheduled as EVO Online later that year, but that too was scrapped due to accusations against EVO’s CEO, Joey Cuellar. Since the accusation, EVO’s top draws including Capcom’s Street Fighter and BANDAI NAMCO’s Tekken had pulled out of the event. And that is definitely a massive step back for EVO’s.
That said, Sony/RTS acquisition of EVO is a triple-win situation for everyone. EVO’s founding team see a graceful exit, though likely one that was cheaper than originally hoped for. Sony & RTS get a top Esports tournament brand and infrastructure, and Sony’s backing could help with keeping Capcom and BANDAI NAMCO on board. Further, RTS is led by Stuart Saw, previously Endeavor’s SVP of Esports, and is backed by Endeavor. This connection could lead to a possibly interesting future for EVO, as Endeavor also owns UFC (yes, they own the entirety of UFC) and that could mean EA’s UFC series soon coming to EVO.
For 2021, EVO is returning as EVO Online – a 100% online competition. Players will be able to compete in BANDAI NAMCO’s Tekken 7, Capcom’s Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Warner Bros’ Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Arc System’s Guilty Gear -Strive- in an open format. Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros Ultimate is nowhere to be seen, and this is what Nintendo has to say – “… We will continue to assess EVO, and other opportunities, as we plan for future online and offline Super Smash Bros. tournament activity.” Translation: Thanks but no thanks, we’ll be pushing the NintendoVS Challenge Cup.