Evo Online 2021 is all systems go, with Sony and RTS announcing their co-ownership of the hugely popular esports event.
Sony has made an unexpected move that has left the esports community in shock, announcing that they have acquired the Evolution Championship Series. Better known as Evo, the series is the world’s largest fighting game tournament, so this is no small acquisition.
The assets and properties of the Evo series have been acquired by Sony Interactive Entertainment alongside RTS, which is an esports venture from Endeavor. As a result, Evo events held in the future will essentially become Sony managed events, with RTS providing auxiliary support and expertise.
Theoretically, not much should change about the events, with co-founders Tony and Tom Cannon remaining key advisors. Most importantly, the competition “is still open to all platforms” according to Evo business developer Mark Julio.
Julio has revealed that the Sony and RTS teams are allowing developers to continue working to support the fighting game community as a whole. This comes as a relief to fighters on different platforms, but doesn’t provide complete confirmation that games from first-party developers like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. will continue to appear at events.
Also very important to note. @EVO is still open to all platforms. The teams at PlayStation and RTS are enabling us to continue working with our community to support fighting games. https://t.co/NKMQUSvkfj
— Mark Julio (マークマン) (@MarkMan23) March 18, 2021
Nintendo has provided a supportive, yet ambiguous statement concerning the acquisition:
“Nintendo has enjoyed engaging with fans at past Evo tournaments and wish the show organisers the best with their new venture. We will continue to assess Evo, and other opportunities, as we plan for future online and offline ‘Super Smash Bros.’ tournament activity.”
In the meantime, Evo Online’s 2021 dates have been dropped, revealing events will take place from August 6-8 and 13-15. Players will be able to compete in Tekken 7, Street Fighter 5: Champion Edition, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Gear Guilty -Strive-, which naturally are all games available on PlayStation.
Sony Interactive Entertainment and new esports venture RTS have jointly acquired the Evolution Championship Series pic.twitter.com/efOkbf61lU
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) March 18, 2021
Sony Interactive Entertainment’s official statement in a blog post emphasised the aim to keep Evo true to its origins:
“Our collective team is laser-focused on one mission: preserving the authenticity of Evo for the fighting game community and finding creative ways, alongside our fans, to grow the tournament and make its events and broadcasts more fun, engaging and accessible than ever. At its core, Evo will remain what it has always been: an open-format competition that gives fighting game fans from different countries a chance to connect, test their skills, and forge new friendships.”
They also voiced their support for Evo’s message about fostering a safe and inclusive community for all players, following the cancellation of last year’s Evo Online event due to abuse allegations against event organiser Joey Cueller. In response to those allegations Cueller was eventually removed from his role, however, not before NetherRealm and Capcom pulled out of the 2020 event; essentially ensuring that the event wouldn’t go ahead.
Sony bought… EVO?!? pic.twitter.com/naA4Zg2mov
— Mollie L Patterson (@mollipen) March 18, 2021
With an increasing need to address potential harassment in the gaming community and abuse at esports events, the Cannons shared their own statement on Twitter to denounce such actions and explain how “an experienced strategic partner who truly respects the spirit of the FGC” like Sony and RTS will help to “deliver on the trust you have all put in Evo” and ensure a safe, respectful environment.
Only with time will the impacts of Sony’s involvement with Evo become clear; with the future of beloved games such as Super Smash Bros. undeniably on shaky ground. However, if Sony truly are able to help create a safer experience for both players and attendees through stronger organisational support, then surely nobody can dispute the positive potential of this move.