In 1996, a webmaster for a fighting game website organized “Battle by the Bay,” an organized tournament with 40 contestants playing popular fighting games “Street Fighter II Turbo” and “Street Fighter Alpha 2.” Its success made it an annual event, where it grew in scope until in 2002 it took its present name, the Evolution Championship Series or EVO. Moving from classic arcade cabinets to powerful next-gen videogame consoles, EVO established itself as a pillar of the international E-sports scene. While the 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID and internal controversies, come 2021 EVO is slated to return in an online format, with a new part-owner to boot: Sony.

According to IGN, the Evolution Championship Series is now under the joint ownership of talent and media holding company Endeavor, via its RTS E-sports venture, and Sony Interactive Entertainment, the Japanese electronic giant’s videogame arm. As a result of the joint venture’s acquisition of EVO’s assets and properties, Sony can now guarantee that the gaming platform being used in future EVO tournaments are their PlayStation series consoles. The tournament’s founders, Tom and Tony Cannon, are announced to be remaining in EVO, re-designated as key advisors.

Sony Interactive VP for global competitive gaming Steven Roberts spoke of how fighting games have been one of the major legacies held by PlayStation, and that their joint acquisition of EVO with Endeavor-RTS, after years of official partnership, will offer a new chapter in fighting game e-sport competition. They have thus announced dates for EVO 2021, a fully-digital event happening on August 6-8 and then on 13-15. “Tekken 7,” “Street Fighter 5: Champion Edition,’ “Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate,” and “Guilty Gear – Strive” are among the major current fighting game titles to be contested for EVO.

While Sony looks fit to reap benefits from their new stomping grounds at EVO, things seem to be uncertain for other game systems such as Microsoft’s Xbox One and Series, and Nintendo’s Switch, especially what exclusive fighting games they might have. EVO business developer Mark Julio assures that Sony part-ownership does not mean the exile of all non-PlayStation platforms from the event. Nintendo however has announced that they will resume assessing EVO on whether it will continue official hosting of “Smash Bros” tournaments come August.

Image courtesy of Dot Esports