The Importance of Evo to a Fighting Game’s Success

Do you all remember the release of BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle and it’s weird inclusion into EVO, despite the game not coming out yet? And ArcSys was so proud of it that they put it on the cover that the game would be at EVO? Was that weird to anyone else? Maybe not a lot of people noticed it, but I did. I was confused as to why that had to be a selling point. As time went on, we saw this weird effect happen where games announced for EVO suddenly are on the forefront. And to my recollection, this only happened with EVO.

The Evo Effect?

Take Under Night In-Birth. That game was a no-name anime game when it released. There was a small community of players, but nothing like how it is now. People suddenly saw it on the EVO 2019 lineup and the scene practically exploded. Pros and streamers were trying it out, online was alive (for better or worse); even now it has a stable and larger community because of it. Now it’s Evo Online 2020 and we’re back here again as the Killer Instinct and Skullgirls communities come back to life and Them’s Fighting Herds is given a fair chance. No, I don’t think that would have happened without EVO. Look at it. The only people who would have played it were the people who played it’s prior incarnation as a My Little Pony fighting game or people who give every fighting game a chance.

New More Evo Power

I say all that to show the scene shaping power Evo seems to have. Or at least, that’s the perception. What makes me doubt the “power” of EVO is Smash Bros Melee. According to many people who have been tired of seeing the game, Melee was dead. Gone. Finished. The scene was over. Anyone who knows fighting games knows that game is just fine. The community is as strong as it was before Evo and that may never change. Still, naysayers were certain of its death because of the absence in 2019. Now, some games actually are dead, but that’s less to do with Evo and more to do with their own shortcomings. Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and KOFXIV are standout examples, though others are arguable. That’s when we start getting into “what is a dead game” and start looking at things like Guilty Gear Xrd or Injustice 2 and that’s not quite the discussion I want to have. Again.

If it dies, it dies

No, this is more of an examination of how games, presumably live and die by Evo. Do I think that’s the case? Actually, yes. Anyone with a passing interest in fighting games knows Evo to be the largest gaming tournament and is like the Super Bowl when it comes to prestige and notoriety. Evo has even found its way onto ESPN and many of the highlights of Evo 2019 can be found on the ESPN YouTube page right now. Evo is huge, so it’s little surprise that it gives games a boost in popularity. They’re basically using their platform to boost the popularity of a game. Not many tournaments can do that.

Evo Approved Fighting Games

So then, does EVO deserve that ability to just sway people to certain games? That depends on who you ask. There are some who don’t think EVO holds the same relevance it once did while others think that EVO is as great now as it’s ever been. Not counting 2020, which was going to be a great year. Those in the former corner are usually spectators or people who’re there to casually play games. Some say EVO isn’t for the casual experience. I haven’t personally gone, Michael has once. As someone who casually spectates and plays at setups, Michael’s experience was very mixed on what Evo had to offer. In contrast, he’s gone to Combo Breaker for the last three years and I’ve gone for the last two. I don’t need to praise it here, you’ve heard us gush before. But for those who haven’t heard, it’s an amazing tournament for newcomers to fighting games and pros alike.

For those who’re in the competitive crowd, most will say that there’s no greater trophy than the Evo trophy. That’s evident in the attendees and the champions that have won previous games. Often, players of a certain community are referred to as the Evo Champ or the “X” time Evo champ. It’s a huge title, and even those who don’t normally compete come out to Vegas for a chance at the trophy. Or at the very least, they want to showcase their skills and maybe get a sponsor or a following. Some players even became more popular just from having a hype match or doing well at Evo. It’s actually kind of amazing.

The Surge

Will this ever change? No. Even now in a year where people are weirdly saying “EVO is dead” because of the pandemic, the EVO legacy is working its magic. Skullgirls and Killer Instinct are seemingly back from the (near) dead and their online scenes are thriving. On Steam alone, Skullgirl’s numbers went from 113 average players online in January 2020 to 602 players as I write this article. Mind you, this game is almost ALWAYS on sale for less than $5, so it wasn’t a price barrier. Killer Instinct won’t show that same sort of growth, admittedly, but the Steam version of KI never really took off. At its peak, it was under 700 players compared to Skullgirl’s peak of almost 4000 players.

The Evo Legacy Continues

Is this a bad thing? Not really. At the end of the game, I strongly believe in playing the games you love. To this day, I am playing Street Fighter X Tekken and will be playing that game for the foreseeable future. Still, it’s hard to ignore the influence EVO has on players of all levels. At the lowest level, it’s exposure. At the highest, it’s a trophy to chase for. Plus, that kind of support helps games get further support. I don’t think Under Night In-Birth would have gotten any attention without EVO’s influence. I also don’t think BBCTag would have the healthy player base it currently has without EVO. It isn’t a bad thing , but inherently it can have consequences such as people thinking Melee is dead. Or that other game that hasn’t been at EVO aren’t worth your time. Branch out and explore new games. EVO is a fine look into fighting games, but I promise there are other games out there that are great. Just keep an open eye and enjoy your favorite games.

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