Sony and RTS Partner to Acquire Evo Championship Series
The Evo Championship Series has been sold to a partnership of new esports venture RTS and Sony Interactive Entertainment, ending a run of over 20 years of independence for the FGC event.
Evo’s FGC Origins and Spirit Runs True Despite Acquisition
Evo began back in the 90s, originally being branded as the “Battle by the Bay” event series. It was eventually rebranded in 2002. It has played host to some of the biggest fighting games in competitive gaming, most notably Capcom fighting games such as Street Fighter. However, it has also been important in the scenes of Netherealm fighting games, Super Smash Bros., and various ArcSys anime fighting games like Guilty Gear and Dragonball Fighterz. It relocated to the Las Vegas area in 2005 and hasn’t been held elsewhere since.
Now with Sony and RTS, the Evo event looks towards the future and justifiably trying to move on from scandals that saw Evo co-founder Joey Cuellar accused of various counts of sexual abuse of minors. The company refers to those events but does not directly name Cuellar. Unfortunately, this scandal caused the cancellation of the first-ever Evo Online event, held in the wake of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic – itself a stopgap for the given event in Las Vegas, which wasn’t held for the first time since 2005.
“Evo would not be possible without the collective passion and collaboration of the fighting game community, and we’re deeply grateful for your dedication over the past 25 years,” Evo said in a statement. “We know last year was challenging due to the pandemic and the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of Evo Online involving a former team member who has been completely separated from our company. “
Indeed, the company took the chance to double down, reaffirming their commitment to making sure their tournaments are a place of inclusivity, not ones where sexual abuse can run rampant.
“We want to reaffirm that harassment or abuse of any kind has no place within Evo or any of our future events, and we’re taking every precaution to ensure that members of our community will always be treated with the respect, dignity, and decency you deserve.”
Evo Will Be Online in 2021
As part of the announcement, Evo confirmed that this year’s events will also not return to the Las Vegas valley in an abundance of caution as the coronavirus pandemic starts to subside after vaccinations become more widespread. Evo Online 2021 will run from Aug. 6-8 and Aug. 13-15.
“Fighting games have been a vital part of PlayStation’s legacy and our community since the very beginning, and we’ve been thrilled to partner with Evo over the years,” said Steven Roberts, vice president, global competitive gaming, SIE. “This joint acquisition with RTS marks a new chapter of collaboration with Evo’s co-founders, Tom and Tony Cannon, and their passionate community of fighting game fans.”
Entry will be free. North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America players can compete in BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment’s Tekken 7, Capcom’s Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Warner Bros. Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Arc System Works’ Guilty Gear™ -Strive- in an open format. The online qualifiers will be live streamed for fans, with more details to come.
“Tom and I are incredibly excited by the partnership with SIE and RTS,” said Tony Cannon, co-founder of Evo. “Both companies bring a wealth of experience and share our passion for what makes the fighting game community so great. We are looking forward to working with them to launch Evo to the next level while remaining true to our roots.”
As a result of the acquisition, Evo will be operated by the recently formed joint venture between SIE and RTS. The terms of this transaction, including the acquisition cost and ownership split, are not disclosed due to contractual commitments. The acquisition will also see Tony and Tom Cannon and Mark “Markman23” Julio stay on with the brand to help shepherd it forward with RTS.
“Evo is a unique and iconic community unlike any other in the fighting game space, and we’re proud to be partnering with the SIE team and the legends that are Tom and Tony, as well as Mark Julio as head of business development, to help grow Evo,” said Stuart Saw, RTS CEO. “We’ve got so many exciting plans in store for this year and beyond.”
It’s unclear what this means for Evo beyond 2021, whether it will remain a Las Vegas staple, or if it will continue to expand as they already did with the Evo Japan series. The community remains split on if this is a good thing or not. While it’s immediately clear that the acquisition hopes to retain the spirit of Evo, fighting game fans have largely been skeptical of large esports money entering the space. Many decried this move as Evo “selling out” and that this could be the death of the grassroots nature of the FGC, despite dozens of other major grassroots tournaments around the world.