After controversy and the pandemic, one of the most prestigious esports events in the world finally returns. The Evolution Championship Series 2022 will run its course this weekend, and here’s why you should take heed.
Evolution 2022 Championship Series
Our story begins with a message board argument in the mid-90s. With the growing popularity of Street Fighters in arcades and the healthy tournament circuit in America, there was only one question left. Who’s the best? A small tournament was held at Golfland Arcade Hall in Sunnyvale, California. Battle by the Bay.
Here on July 20, 1996, this event would change gaming history. At the time, no one could have predicted that this annual would even one day develop into the most prestigious tournament in esports, the Evolution Championship Series. And I understand that some of our regular readers might have no idea what I’m talking about, but don’t worry, ESTNN is here to help you. Evolution or Evo for short is the grand prix of fighting games and is a spectacle that has no equal.
This is where the best players in many fighting games collide in three-day tournaments to give a definitive answer as to who is the best in their discipline. But Evo also doubles as a convention for fighting games, it’s here when new games are announced, demo builds to be tested, all the mind-blowing stuff like new characters sold out. He is going.
image credit evo.com
But why is the Evo so special? If you look at the prize pool compared to other historical events like the League of Legends World Championship or Dota 2K International, it’s not a big deal. Actually, compared to the leagues of some of those fighting games, it seems like a joke. But the answer lies in the open tournament format that most fighting game community (FGC) events often employ. It goes back to the arcade roots of the genre, when everyone could participate and play with only a quarter left.
And year-round league play may be more impressive on paper than being the best in Street Fighter. It doesn’t even come close to the reputation of winning the Evo. For Street Fighter V alone, there are a total of 1320 sign-ups and during the weekend, one of those 1320 players will be declared the champion in the double elimination tournament. But the biggest title yet at Evo this year is Arc System Works Guilty Gear Strive with 2161 players ready to fight for the crown. This will be the first in-person Evo since the start of the pandemic and to be held under new ownership.
In the stream, a total of 9 games will be shown on the platform. Those titles are in order from highest to lowest participants; Guilty Gear Strive, Street Fighter V Championship Edition, Tekken 7, King of Fighters XV, Dragon Ball: FighterZ, GrandBlue Fantasy: Versus, Mortal Kombat 11, Melty Blood: Type Lumina and Skull Girls: Second Encore. With a total number of 8049 signatories from 63 countries.
EVO 2022 will be held from August 5 to 7 at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can find the detailed schedule and links to all the live streams here. We’re also going to keep you updated on any revelations that happen later this week.
image credit evo.com
Disputes, new ownership and absence
Live event Evolution 2020 was canceled in August 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic being hit by the United States. During that time, however, the FGC had to go through a lot of hardship and some serious charges. Several prominent members of the FGC were accused of sexual misconduct and harassment. This turned out to be more and more revelations that painted the entire community in a very bad light.
Years and years of stories about female members of the community being harassed, blatant transphobia, rampant racism and other obnoxious acts really cast a bad light on this entire subdivision of the gaming world. And while some of these stories turned out to be fabricated, most were not, some uncovered even more disturbing stories and that was just a mess. Even if the FGC had always separated itself from esports in general, many communities neglected to hold themselves to high standards and hold each other accountable.
And while the FGC always was and will hopefully still maintain some competitive fun, there was a dire need to draw the line somewhere. The entire riot destroyed many sub-sections of the community, tarnishing the long lasting friendship and reputation of the entire community at large. Many pro players were removed by teams and sponsors as punishment, but we would also like to clarify that some players were unjustly punished and were prematurely kicked out of the community. The story itself is so big, that we have no way of judging, so we will refrain from making any decisions.
Perhaps the biggest story to come out of this whole fiasco in 2020 was the somewhat serious allegations against EVO CEO Joy Kueller (known in the community as Mr. Wizard), one of the founding members of the event. Shortly after the allegations surfaced and countless sponsors and developers pulled out of the event, the board decided to cancel the event and remove Joy Cellular as CEO. Shortly after, the online version of the event was also canceled and the organizers returned tickets and vowed to donate their remaining funds to the NGO Project Hope.
In 2021, Evo announced that they had been acquired in a joint venture by Sony Interactive Entertainment and Endeavor Group Holdings. The event was conducted online and was divided into several areas to deal with latency. All such incidents affected the event series but things are looking better this year.
However, the biggest setback this year is the absence of Smash Bros. Ultimate, when Nintendo decided not to allow the title to appear at the venue. It’s unclear if this is due to the change of ownership, even though Sony has vowed they’ll do their best to feature fighting games on every platform. In the past, Nintendo was notorious about their support for the Smash Bros. community. But he also recently officially licensed circuits in North America for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Melee with esports organization Panda Global.
image credit evo.com
So this year’s event marks a fresh start for the Evolution Championship Series and the fighting game community. Combo Breaker 2022 and Community Effort Orlando 2022 (CEO) already had some strong performances, and Evo will be the biggest event of the year even in the absence of its two strongest titles. Before we transition to Street Fighter 6, this is probably the last big showdown from Street Fighter V.
There have also been rumors for a possible next entry in the Tekken franchise after all Tekken 7 releases in arcades in 2015 and on home consoles and PC in 2017. You can also expect a strong performance by Arc System Works, with the Guilty Gear Strive main event at the Michelob Ultra Arena on Sunday. So hopefully there will be at least one character reveal and possibly a rumored follow-up to Dragon Ball: FighterZ.
Of course, we’ll keep you updated on all this and more here on ESTNN