Sony announced this morning that it has acquired the Evolution Championship Series, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. Fans and contestants simply call it EVO.
Sony Interactive Entertainment and RTS, an esports startup under Endeavour, have acquired the “assets and properties” of the EVO tournament. From today, all future EVO events become PlayStation events with RTS along as a partner. EVO founders Tom and Tony Cannon will remain at the tournament in key advisory positions. In an esports industry desperate to present itself as legitimate competition, the acquisition is a massive win and a huge vote of confidence.
Sony’s take and 2021 dates
“Today, we’re thrilled to announce the next chapter in the story of PlayStation and Evo, the world’s largest and longest-running fighting game tournament,” reads the announcement post on the PlayStation Blog.
“For PlayStation, today’s announcement marks an exciting step in our journey to foster the growth of the fighting game community and esports, and support competitive gamers widely on our consoles,” says PlayStation. “Fighting games are hugely popular on PlayStation consoles, with gamers logging more than 1.1 billion gameplay hours in 2020 alone.”
Along with the acquisition news, PlayStation took the opportunity to announce the dates for EVO 2021. EVO 2021 will be a digital event. It kicks off August 6-8, and continues the following weekend, August 13-15. Games include Tekken 7, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate and Guilty Gear Strive. Those wondering if Super Smash Bros tournaments will go ahead following the buy-out will have to wait and see. News regarding online qualifiers will arrive in the next few weeks.
The 2020 Event and the elephant in the room
Last year’s EVO Online event was cancelled after credible allegations of abuse were levelled at former EVO president Joey Cueller. The allegations saw Bandai Namco, NetherRealm, and Capcom all pull out of the event, in solidarity with the victims. The Cueller scandal was one part of a much larger series of allegations that threatened to engulf the entire fighting game community.
Sony clearly intends for the 2021 event to run more smoothly than the 2020 iteration. Linking back to EVO’s blog about creating a safer community, PlayStation says it intends to “break down barriers” to allow players to compete at any level and confirmed its commitment to a “safe and inclusive environment for players.”