Evolution Championship Series

A staple in any fighting games fans’ schedule, the Evolution Championship Series tournament series is one of the biggest names in fighting game tournaments worldwide. With a history of over 20 years of tournaments, the EVO events always draw a large crowd of dedicated fans and talented players, along with featuring the best competitive fighting games. Ndsfnsfks.

There’s loads of tradition behind these events, with some of the biggest moments in esports taking place here. However, the tournament doesn’t just rest on its laurels. Each year EVO holds the biggest tournaments in fighting games. New champions are crowned. New games see their communities come together. And, every few EVOs, brand new legendary moments happen, the kind of thing that every fighting game fan is going to remember.

It’s no surprise that EVO series has branched out considerably from its first few forays into the world of esports. EVO events focus exclusively on fighting titles. However, they now feature over half a dozen headlining games, along with top talent from all over the world.

Evolution Championship Series

© EVO

The history and events

Founded in 1996 under the title Battle by the Bay, the Evolution Championship Series has always been open to the public. They’ve exclusively hosted fighting games. Anyone who wants to play, can. Anyone is free to test their might against other players. It quickly became a center point for western fighting game esports.

In 2002, the event series changed its name to EVO, or Evolution Championship Series. That’s the identity that we are all familiar with now. Most other things stayed the same – the games were played using a double-elimination format, and players who sign up are randomly matched. During the days of the event, successive matches are played out in open pools first. These whittle the contenders down to just the best of the best. These top players then face off on the final day of the EVO tournament.

That’s when the winners are crowned and receive their titles and rewards – given the number of games played, there are always several fantastic players to be celebrated. Originally, games took place on arcade machines, before the organizers made the controversial decision to upgrade to consoles. Despite skepticism, the move led to success – newer titles were played on formats like the Xbox 360 and PS4. More recently, the choice of hardware has changed yet again. EVO is now played on PlayStation entirely.

The change came after Sony purchased the tournament in 2021. They now run the event directly along with Endeavor. This was another controversial change, but it seems like the added attention of announcements at EVO are going to bring more eyes to the tournament as a whole.

EVO’s Biggest Players

Previously, players like Justin Wong, Daigo Umehara and Seon-Woo Lee have really made history at EVO – with over half a dozen titles in different years and competitions each. A total of 25 players have managed to achieve multiple titles across the 22 years the competition has been running – most recently, Arslan Siddique joined their ranks after two triumphant wins in the 2019 competitions in Las Vegas and Japan.

Justin Wong holds the record for most wins overall with 9 separate championships. His exploits at the tournament date back quite a while.

However, one of the most recognizable early moments was a loss for Wong. He was facing Daigo. The player managed a miraculous comeback against Justin Wong. He parried every single hit of Wong’s attack, leading to a combo with insane damage to take back what looked like an unwinnable matchup. Since then,, Justin’s gone on to win an insane amount of tournaments.

In recent years, SonicFox has become a pretty big part of the tournament. He’s a five-time winner of EVO, taking wins in Injustice in 2014, Mortal Kombat in 2015, 2016, and 2019, along with FighterZ in 2018, and Skullgirls side events.

The locations

Since 2005, the America-based EVO events have been held in Las Vegas. Although the location often differed, the events have taken place in the Mandalay Bay hotel ever since 2017. Before that, organisers moved, year-to-year. In 2022, EVO is taking place at the Mandalay Bay once again, in Las Vegas.

In addition to the main events in the US, there is a second part to the series. Fighting games are notoriously popular in Asia. Probably nowhere more than in Japan. It came as no surprise that events for this market were announced in 2013. Because of an earthquake followed by some administrative troubles, it wasn’t actually until 2017 that the first EVO Japan actually happened though! Once the event did run, it was a smashing success.

Thousands of players singed up, and the games played focused particularly on titles that are popular in Japan, such as Guilty Gear, the BlazBlue series, ARMS and Street Fighter. Titles that do well in the west such as Super Smash Bros aren’t part of the event. These aren’t as easy to play competitive in this region though.

evo championship series las vegas

© EVO

The games

While the headlining events have changed considerably since the first events. The very first event saw 40 players competing in two Street Fighter competitions. The second time around, Marvel vs Capcom joined along with multiple other Street Fighter titles. Over the years, as new games were released, more and more joined – along with more Street Fighter games, titles like Tekken, SoulCalibur, VirtuaFighter and Guilty Gear joined the line-up.

In the EVO 2019, games played also include Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st], and Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Smaller and less well-known titles are nothing new at these competitions – while it’s big franchises like Mortal Kombat or Tekken headlining, other games like Skullgirls, Windjammers, Killer Instinct and more also participate. Additionally, each EVO competition features BYOC (bring your own console) competitions. Here, a designated area allows players to casually or not-so-casually compete with others in games of their choice.

EVO’s lineup doesn’t stay the same from year to year. Most recently, they’ve had to drop Smash Bros despite its long-time presence at the event. This is largely due to Sony taking over the tournament though.

The latest event is featuring fighters big and small. The full roster is definitely representative of the entire fighting game community.  Mixing up the other games along with keeping the big hitters helps to keep EVO the center point of competitive fighters.

The rules

EVO has a whole host of games each year, but most tournaments take the same basic format.

For the main tournaments, the format is double-elim. This means that the players are split into two brackets. Each game in the first round has a winner and a loser – they move to the respective bracket and continue competing. Once someone in the losers bracket loses again, they’re out, while someone who loses a match in the winners bracket then moves down to the losers bracket until they lose again.

At the very end, the winners of each bracket compete again to determine the overall winner of the event. Individual tournaments also have game-specific rules in addition to the normal EVO rules, for example in regard to character selection, restrictions, and custom rules. As players usually bring their own controllers to play on, there are restrictions there as well, specifically regarding the use of macros or other ‘cheating’ tools.

In some cases, there are also restrictions on the games themselves – EVO Japan 2019 actually banned games. More specifically, Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Dragon Ball Fighter Z were banned from the competition. This was because the publishers didn’t give their support for the event, forcing the organizers not to include it.

Super Smash. Bros Ultimate at EVO

© BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment

Evolution Championship Series 2019

As the biggest event so far in the history of the EVO series, 2019 had some pretty interesting plays. One of the biggest shake-ups was the winner of Tekken 7. Arslan “Arslan Ash” Siddique won not just the regular EVO tournament as the first Pakistani player to win such a tournament at all, he also went on to win the EVO Japan 2019 Tekken competition after.

The main event had some 9000 attendees, many of which participated in the 9 official tournaments that were part of the whole thing. These included Mortal Kombat 11, Samurai Shodown, SoulCalibur VI, and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle. Competitions were streamed on Twitch.

Going by participation, the most popular event was the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which saw over 3.500 players taking part. There was a little controversy specifically surrounding the Tekken 7 Grand finals, where EVO organisers showed a joke video featuring the voice of Katsuhiro Harada, without his permission or knowledge. The video caused confusion among fans, and overall most people agreed that it was a bit of a failed effort at a joke.

Read also: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate sets viewership record at EVO 2019

Evolution Championship Series 2020

As in previous years, the 2020 EVO is taking place in Las Vegas – and the EVO Japan 2020 in Japan. With July and August dates, the organisers released the EVO 2020 trailer in January – to get fans hyped. That’s not hard to do – the entire fighting game community is geared up for the yearly EVO tournaments.

With previous iterations of the Evolution Championship Series having ever-increasing attendance numbers, and even the EVO Japan 2019 viewership numbers being higher than ever, 2020 is something to look forward to.

Thousands and thousands of players are expected in Vegas, and it seems like the Evolution championship series 2020 is going to be the biggest one yet. As always, streams will be available in multiple languages on Twitch. Fans are still waiting for the EVO 2020 schedule that will be released soon.

EVO 2021

2021 was a bit of an off-year for the EVO tournament. Due to travel restrictions and problems with large gatherings, it was held online instead of in person. Netcode has come a long way but online still isn’t great.

The tournament was run in a more regional format to try and limit the impact of playing online. There were still quite a few games in competition at this round of EVO.

The games on show included Tekken 7, Guilty Gear -STRIVE-, Mortal Kombat 11, Street Fighter V, and SkullGirls 2nd Encore. This wasn’t as climatic as previous years. But it was still a fun event. Even online, EVO was a spark in a pretty sparse year for fighting game esports.

EVO 2022

EVO 2022 is set to return to in-person events! This is going to be the biggest Evo tournament in quite a while. The changes made by Sony to the tournament will be in full effect with the first proper tournament taking place. The event is going to feature most of the big fighting games with the top players from around the world descending on the tournament.

Some of the biggest events at EVO 2022 are going to include returning games like Guilty Gear -STRIVE-, Street fighter V, SkullGirls, and Mortal Kombat. However, it’ll also feature new and trending fighting games like MultiVersus.

The tournament will be featuring new game reveals and details for upcoming fighting titles too. This is going to make EVO into a must-watch for all gamers now, not just fans of competitive gaming.

Evolution Championship Series Betting

As with almost all esports leagues at this point, there is a lively betting scene surrounding the Evolution tournaments. Plenty of online bookmakers offer odds on the game series, although bookmakers in Nevada itself do not – casinos there don’t cover esports at all. The Nevada Gaming Board hasn’t cleared esports betting in the state.

If you want to bet on esports events like the Evolution Championship series, online sources are your best bet – plenty of online bookmakers offer odds on the events. The most popular game at EVO Japan 2020 is likely Street Fighter – it is expected to offer the best odds for this year’s competition.

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