The Evolution Championship Series, an illegal hotel-room gambling event with ancillary fighting game tournaments based out of Las Vegas, has predictably cancelled its planned 2020 festivities, due to the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 1 million Americans and lead to nearly 60,000 deaths in the United States alone.
“Due to COVID-19, we are sadly cancelling Evo 2020 at Mandalay Bay and refunding all purchased tickets,” the announcement on the event’s official Twitter reads. “But to keep the Evo spirit alive, we’re bringing the event online this summer. More information coming soon! The health and well-being of our community is our highest priority. We hope everyone stays safe during this time.”
“All arena tickets and hotel room reservations will be refunded automatically, there is no need to call in,” according to a subsequent tweet. “We will have a form up next week for tournament registration cancelation [sic] options.”
Considering that online video game tournaments are prone to any number of technical hiccups (which can easily affect the outcome of said tournaments), Evo fans and prospective participants alike were quick to voice their skepticism over the plausibility of an online-only Evo. Street Fighter V, for instance, an Evo main-stage staple since its release in 2016, is notorious for the incomprehensibly poor state of its online infrastructure, where players can induce heavy lag by quickly alternating directional inputs, among other methods. Complicating things further, Granblue Fantasy Versus allows players to rage quit out of a match in such a way as to prompt a server disconnection error, which cannot be definitively attributed to either participant. How can an Evo where such hurdles exist be considered legitimate?
A message from the Evo team… pic.twitter.com/ANXUXDiNGK
— EVO (@EVO) May 1, 2020
“The intent is not at all to port a traditional Evo to online and pretend it’s the same,” said Evo founder Tom Cannon on Twitter. “It’s going to be a different kind of event. Eager to share more…we just need to button up some loose ends.”
This is, obviously, directly at odds with the stated plan to “bring the event online,” but that’s just how the FGC rolls, y’all. Messaging coherence is for esports, which fighting games definitely are not, despite the fact that Evo routinely fills actual boxing arenas in Las Vegas, or that esports teams like Evil Geniuses routinely participate in Evo and earn podium finishes, or that both individual players and teams are sponsored by myriad corporate interests, as is the entire event itself. Not esports!
Originally scheduled for the weekend of July 31, Evo 2020 would have been the nineteenth consecutive installment of the Evolution Championship Series, which has grown into the global fighting game community’s de facto Super Bowl over the last two decades. More than 9,000 people from around the world participated in last year’s Evo (with additional, non-competing folk in attendance to watch), and prior to the pandemic, no one had any reason to believe that Evo 2020 would be any smaller.
Though Evo is routinely home to dozens of smaller side tournaments (and the aforementioned illegal hotel money matches), Evo 2020’s primary tournaments were to include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Tekken 7, Soulcalibur 6, Street Fighter V Champion Edition, Samurai Shodown, Granblue Fantasy Versus, and Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[cl-r], which is the real name of an actual fighting game. There was also to be an invitational Marvel vs. Capcom 2 tournament featuring eight heavyweights of the game’s competitive history, including Justin Wong and Michael “Yipes” Mendoza, to celebrate Marvel vs. Capcom 2‘s twentieth anniversary.