Despite the cancellation of the nineteenth consecutive Evolution Championship Series tournament earlier this month, the grand spirit of illegal hotel-room betting lives on in Evo Online, a combination exhibition event and online tournament series set to take place over the course of July. Based on the announcement trailer (embedded below for your convenience), it looks like most of the games originally scheduled for Evo 2020 will receive exhibition matches of some kind, while four new games will form the basis of the staggered online tournament series.
Dragon Ball FighterZ, Street Fighter 5 Champion Edition, Samurai Shodown, Granblue Fantasy Versus, Soulcalibur 6, Tekken 7, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[cl-r], and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 will all be part of “special exhibitions and content” planned for Evo Online, though the trailer doesn’t go into specifics about what that entails. Conspicuously missing from this list is Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which was part of the original Evo 2020 schedule but has unceremoniously been axed from this new lineup. Of course, this is the proper-noun Fighting Game Community that we’re talking about here, so leaving Smash Bros. Ultimate off the roster might end up being some kind of “joke” or fake-out.
Meanwhile, every weekend in July will house an online tournament featuring the following four games: Mortal Kombat 11, Killer Instinct, Them’s Fightin’ Herds, and Skullgirls. As for which games will be played when, or how the online tournaments will be structured and/or regulated, we currently have no idea. Same goes for prizes, how pools will work, whether there’ll be entry fees, and other administrative considerations.
While the Mortal Kombat community is still going strong, the other three inclusions might seem like odd choices. Them’s Fightin’ Herds, the legally distinct from My Little Pony indie 2D fighter, is a niche newcomer to the scene that, while assuredly headed toward many hotel-room money matches, was nowhere near Evo 2020’s main stage. Killer Instinct was considered relevant during the early days of our current console generation, but it hasn’t been updated since 2017, and Skullgirls has been around since the Xbox 360. So why pick these games for the online tournaments instead of more modern titles like BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, Dead or Alive 6, or even Fighting EX Layer?
Basically, it’s all about “netcode,” or the framework on which a fighting game’s online matches operate. The two major forms of modern netcode, “rollback” and “delay,” work in fundamentally different ways with most western developers agreeing that rollback netcode is superior, while Japanese developers like Capcom and Arc System Works continue to implement delay-based netcode in the majority of their fighting games. All of the games selected for Evo Online’s public tournaments use rollback-based netcode, which is generally considered to be more stable than delay-based netcode, in addition to being less disruptive to players when connection issues do inevitably occur.
It might be tempting to think this is also why Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is missing from the exhibition roster, but many of the other games on that list also utilize delay-based netcode, so who knows. It could have to do with Nintendo’s notoriously vice-like grip on Smash Bros.‘s use in the competitive scene, or it could just be that the people running Evo Online didn’t want to deal with it. Or, again, it could be an ill-advised grift, because you can’t trust anything the FGC says until it happens.