PlayStation Acquires EVO Fighting Game Tournament

It is a joint-venture with esports company RTS.

In an odd bit of news today, PlayStation has announced that the Sony Interactive Entertainment company has acquired the Evolution fighting game tournament, usually abbreviated as EVO. Both PlayStation and esports company RTS have joined together to acquire the tournament, which has been running yearly since 1996 until last year.

“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,” a press release from Sony reads. “Sony Interactive Entertainment has teamed up with RTS to acquire Evo through a joint venture partnership. With expertise spanning esports event management, brand and developer consulting and gaming talent management, RTS is a new venture led by CEO Stuart Saw and backed by investors including global entertainment, sports and content company Endeavor.”

Last year, EVO was intending to go online due to the global pandemic eliminating the possibility of an in-person event. However, co-founder and president of EVO was accused of sexual harassment of minors from the past, and was forced to step down from his position. EVO cancelled the tournament last year after these accusations, which likely prompted the remaining team to sell, and for PlayStation to buy.

It’s a bit harder to figure out what PlayStation’s benefit is from this. While the platform holder has dabbled in esports, it’s a big leap from dabbling to buying the biggest fighting game tournament out there. It represents a dramatic rise in interest for Sony and probably some degree of focus on trying to get the entire genre of fighting games associated with the PlayStation brand. These events also, on their own, tend to make quite a bit of money and get a large amount of attention, both of which are good value-adds for PlayStation.

EVO has hosted tournaments headlined by Street Fighter games every year, but is largely agnostic toward platforms and series. TekkenSoulcaliburVirtua Fighter, King of Fighters, and many others have also been a part of the event over the years. While EVO’s Biz Dev director Mark Julio suggested that nothing is changing with regard to what games EVO will host, it is difficult to see Super Smash Bros. being played at a now-PlayStation-owned event without consternation from Nintendo.

There’s still a lot more questions than answers now, but it’s an interesting move from PlayStation. I’m definitely not sure how I feel about a platform holder straight up buying the biggest fighting game tournament in the scene, though. I’d be extremely surprised if it doesn’t result in any changes, but I think the bigger issue for me is that something that used to be independent no longer will be.