The Evolution Championship Series, or EVO for short, celebrated its 15th year as one of the biggest, hypest fighting game tournaments in the world this year, and I was lucky enough to be able to cover it from pools to finals.
The first 2 days of EVO this year were held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and to say it was big is kinda an understatement. EVO is great in that anyone willing to pay the attendance fee and the game specific tournament registration fee is welcome to compete. Thus, over 10,000 separate game tourney registrations occurred this year, and even accounting for crossover for some of the games, that's easily over 7,000 people, from more than 45 countries around the world, competing for cash and glory. And you don't have to compete to attend! There's a bit of a con going on as well during the first 2 days! The "convention" side of EVO isn't super big: just a small handful of panels, a few artist alley booths, some sponsors and dealers booths, and various free play setups. However, you won't be wanting for more to do. I managed to keep myself busy watching pools and upper level matches, playing games, watching side tourneys, and just general chitchat with other attendees.
Most of the first day is dedicated to the entry pools for the main game tourneys, and you could walk around the floor and watch them happen. As the day went on, quarter and semifinals started lining up, being shown on the bigger stages and streamed on Twitch. By Saturday, some of the games with smaller entry pools were already holding finals, and anyone in the room could watch and cheer.
Along with the main 9 games, loads of side tournaments were being held on the spot. Bandai Namco held an improptu Dragonball Fighter Z tourney, Square Enix had a Dissidia NT tourney, and AnimEVO had a whole slew of various tourneys ranging from old anime fighting games to Puyo Puyo Tetris. Austin Creed (aka Xavier Woods of WWE's The New Day) even held a Windjammers one late Friday night! There were also game previews from big companies, an indie showcase, and even a few cosplayers here and there.
The first two days of EVO are quite the blast. You don't even have to be huge into fighting games to have a good time there. People were super friendly, I saw competitors of all ages playing, and even entire families milling about, enjoying themselves. Everyone I talked to about their time at EVO seemed to have nothing but good things to say. EVO is honestly one of my favorite events to attend. It might not be huge in terms of things to do, but I've had fun every time, and watching competitors be respectful even in crushing defeat is always nice. Plus the idea that an relative unknown kid could take an entire tournament is good.
Check out the gallery and videos below!