PlayStation Acquires EVO Rights, EVO Online Premieres August 2021

Evo Online Sony

Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) and RTS have announced they have acquired the Evolution Championship Series (EVO) fighting game tournaments.

EVO 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, and was altered to EVO Online to take place Summer 2020.  On July 2nd, 2020 EVO Online was then cancelled, due to multiple allegations of sexual harassment and abuse made against co-founder and then CEO Joey “MrWizard” Cuellar and other prominent members of the fighting game community.

As the allegations came to light, multiple publishers and developers pulled support for the event, meaning EVO would have had very few game tournaments even if it had run. It is likely we would have seen announcements regarding updates, DLC, and new games during the event. The “Japan Fighting Game Publishers Roundtable” has seemingly taken its place for announcements.

Now, SIE has announced they have acquired EVO via a joint venture partnership with esports venture RTS. RTS is led by CEO Stuart Saw, and specialize in esports event management, brand and developer consulting, and gaming talent management. EVO co-founders Tom Cannon and Tony Cannon will “remain closely involved in an advisory role to ensure Evo continues to service the fighting game community and support its vibrant growth.”

The announcement also confirmed that EVO Online would return. The fully online competition will run from August 6th to 8th, and again from August 13th to 15th. Entry is free, with players in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America taking part in open format tournaments for Tekken 7, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate (only in North America, Europe and Latin America), and Guilty Gear -Strive-.

The announcement explained PlayStation’s commitment to not just esports and the fighting game community, but also safety and inclusivity.

“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. Fighting games are hugely popular on PlayStation consoles, with gamers logging more than 1.1 billion gameplay hours in 2020 alone. We’re committed to breaking down the barriers for gamers to compete at all levels and providing a best-in-class, global platform for them to showcase their skills and passion.

We also want to voice our support for Evo’s message today about creating a safe and inclusive environment for players. At PlayStation, we’ve always made that our highest priority. As a collective team, we’ll work closely together to ensure future Evo events are safe and welcoming for the entire community.”

The EVO Twitter account also tweeted similar sentiments from the Cannon brothers. More details about EVO 2021 will be revealed at a later date.

EVO’s business developer Mark Julio also tweeted that 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.”

While the news is sure to be a delight to some, those involved may see some changes to what is allowed to be broadcast.

During EVO Japan in 2019, the livestream was cut after two Japanese models hired to promote Dead or Alive 6 attempted to recreate the game’s jiggle physics between matches by slapping each other’s buttocks and bouncing up and down. In addition, producer and director Yohei Shimbori showed off the game’s free camera mode by zooming in on female character’s butts while they were wearing swimsuits, and pausing the game while characters were in suggestive poses.

Then-President Cuellar then spoke to the camera after the livestream returned, explaining the advert “does not reflect the core values of Evo or the FGC.”

In late December 2018, SIE Japan Asia President Atsushi Morita stated the then recent spate of censorship of anime-styled sexual content on PlayStation 4 games had been to meet global standards.” This censorship was seemingly forced in Japan.

As both bodies have rejected anime style fan-service at their events (along with allegations of banning certain female costumes from being used during tournaments), this could end up dictating how fighting games are developed. We will keep you informed as we learn more.

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Ryan was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

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