Evo, short for the prestigious Evolution Championship Series fighting game tournament, will be an in-person event again for the first time since 2019. Evo was just one of many events that had to do things differently because of COVID-19, and even though the upcoming Evo will be at a convention center again, CEO Rick Thiher tells us: The edge it’s just different now.
“The market is no longer the same as it was when we took a break regarding COVID,” said Thiher. “As COVID is not really completely over at this point, that hiatus has created new concerns and new needs and really restructured expectations both for the workforce and even for the endemic tournament organizers we are working with to bring Evo together.”
According to Thiher, there are many challenges for this year’s event. Potential visitors haven’t been to events regularly due to the pandemic, so they may not be planning them. The costs of organizing an event have increased. And many of the people who help set up the show have moved on to other jobs and starting families, or have just gotten out of the habit of helping with Evo every year.
For players, it’s all about making sure the Evo experience lives up to nostalgia and anticipation. “What we’re trying to do is make sure that Evo delivers everything that was important and loved in the 2018 and 2019 experience and runs in all the ways necessary to make sure that both that nostalgia and that anticipation for the future actually materialize,” said Thiher. That means you’ll need to focus on some of the smaller details, such as adding visitor lounges and hosting community tournaments for games that may not be included in the basic event lineup.
“I think all those little tangible ways to discover and innovate fandom are part of why you go to a convention. If you’re going to participate in something you love, part of what you’re doing there is to reaffirm that love. We’re just really trying to capitalize on that.”
These have been turbulent years for Evo. An online event was planned for 2020, but it was canceled after allegations of sexual assault were filed against Evo’s co-founder and president. In 2021, the event was acquired by Sony and RTS, an Endeavour company, in what the groups called “a joint venture esports partnership,” and an online event took place over two weekends in August.
Despite the company’s new ownership, Thiher is committed to creating an event that still feels like something that represents what the fighting game community wants. “I sit in a room and say yes and say no and consider myself an active member of the community we build the show for. If I can’t leave that room feeling like we’re building a show that I’d like to go to or be a part of, I know we missed the mark and I don’t want to be a part of it.”
Evo takes place August 5-7 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch everything on the show at Evo’s websiteand just this week, the event organizers have announced a special treat for visitors: they will have the chance to experience the long-awaited Street Fighter 6 at Capcom and Sony’s booths.