The biggest fighting game event in the land, EVO was dead. Until this week, where Sony and esports venture RTS stepped in and purchased the brand. In a blog post, Sony announced that EVO 2021 was happening as an online-only event but what would 2022 look like? So looking into the future of the FGC’s World Cup, here’s three reasons why Sony buying EVO is great. And one that might cause some issues.
1. Stability and Accountability
The only reason why Sony even had the ability to purchase EVO was born of scandal. One of the founders of EVO, Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar was accused of sexual misconduct. As more information came out, multiple casters and marquee competitors pulled out of the event. And with the specter of COVID-19 looming over all of 2020, EVO was outright cancelled. With no clear future in sight, most of the FGC accepted that EVO ’21 would see the same fate.
With this acquisition comes something quite unique, Big company perks. And while the FGC and most gamers scoff at the corporatization of esports, in this case, it might be a positive. For one, when someone in leadership leaves EVO, for better or worse, they can be replaced. The whole event doesn’t have to vanish. And even still Tom and Tony Cannon, also founders of EVO, will remain on as advisors.
2. Platform Integration
Sony has a choke-hold on the console market. And even with PS5 shortages still rampant, the PS4 is the largest gaming platform besides PC and Mobile. Part of what makes PC esports feel so cohesive is their integrations with their games. From League or Overwatch you can open a link to matches, right from the launcher. Scores are displayed when you log into the game, branded skins are available for purchase. All of it feels like one big experience.
Fighting Games are much less likely to have such a ecosystem. Not just because most were console only in the past, but also because the market didn’t demand it of them. However, with Sony backing, EVO can get premium placement in the XMB, or ads that run within the Playstation Store. It can boost any competition through its own Twitch and Youtube Channels. The apparatus of Sony could be used to forward the agenda of fighting games in a way that almost no developer could do alone, save Nintendo.
EDIT (3-19-21, 10:53pm): Nintendo isn’t budging on saying if they will participate in EVO in the future.
3. Prize Pools
We can only hope that with Sony’s coffers we’d see a bump in prize pools. I personally think this would be a good way to increase interest and participation with little extra investment. In 2019, the total pot for EVERY game was roughly $254,000. And that includes 50k from Capcom, 30k from SNK and 15k from Neatherrealm Games as prize money. With an injection of less than a half a million USD, Sony could effectively double the prize offerings for all games at EVO. Something that’s sorely needed for the FGC.
For example, the 2019 champion for Street Fighter V, Masato “Bonchan” Takahashi, walked away with $31.7k for his efforts. That would equal a yearly salary at a $16/hr job, before taxes. Most certainly below the millions we see doled out for League of Legends, DOTA 2 or even Fortnite. And remember, most FGC pros are freelance. They aren’t getting checks from pro teams or sponsorships, so that makes each win that much more important. Sony could garner a lot of good will with this move and would all but assure that the top talent will come out for the event.
With all this said there’s a certain loss of identity that comes with a big purchase. Its impossible to separate Alex Jebailey from Community Effort Orlando. And its going to feel strange knowing that Sony is the driving force behind EVO. The FGC thrives on community and freedom and having Sony involved could rub people the wrong way. And even though Sony has sponsored small amateur events, they’ve not taken on a spectacle the size of EVO. It could crash and burn under the weight of “esports by committee”.
Either way, having EVO back is a good thing. And even if 2021 is an online event, I’m legitimately excited to have it back in full force for 2022. This years EVO Online runs from August 6th-8th and August 13th-15th. Games include Street Fighter V, Guilty Gear: Strive and Mortal Kombat 11.