Esports has become a legitimate entertainment category in the last few years, with millions of people logging onto various streaming sites such as Twitch to watch games being played. There are a number of esports tournaments held annually, with millions of dollars in prize money up for grabs, and there are professional teams who compete for these prizes. Teams now have corporate sponsors and are often found practicing for months for the big annual events, which has helped improve the quality of these events as well. It is also interesting that esports is popular enough now to have many sports betting outlets providing odds on various tournaments and matches. This sort of esports betting became even more popular last year during the pandemic, where esports operators did not have live sports to offer odds on, and therefore turned to esports as an alternative.
It must be noted that most tournaments are based around specific games, so you have a separate tournament for DOTA, one for Fortnite, another for League of Legends, and so on. There are leagues and competitions which are conducted for the entire year, and teams and players need to play in them to qualify for the main event. One such tournament, which has long been one of the biggest names on the esports calendar, is Evo, or to give it its proper name, the Evolution Championship Series.
Evo focuses exclusively on fighting games since it was founded in 1996 when it featured the Super Street Fighter II Turbo and Street Fighter Alpha 2 games. Since then, the number of attendees has grown progressively, and it has been held at various venues in and around Las Vegas since 2005. It was known as the Battle of the Bay up until 2002, which is when the current name was born.
It is quite interesting that the qualification for the tournament is completely open, and so you do not need to be part of a professional team or organization to be eligible to qualify and play at Evo. The tournament originally started out with arcade games, as seen with the Street Fighter games in the 1990s, but then moved over to consoles in 2004, which generated a lot of controversies. Most games were played on the PlayStation 3, but in 2014, we saw Evo host games on the Xbox 360. There are multiple tournaments and games being played at Evo, while there is also a ‘Bring Your Own Console’ area where attendees can play other games and there are smaller tournaments held for spectators.
One of the biggest moments in its history took place in 2004, which helped cement Evo’s place in esports history. This was Evo Moment 37, where Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong played each other in the final of the Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike tournament. Daigo managed to block all of Wong’s attacks and was then able to launch a combo with his character to end up as the winner, with Daigo’s technical mastery of the game, along with the crowd’s stunned and joyous reactions becoming one of the most famous moments in esports history.
Evo has grown from being a 40-player tournament in 1996 to getting over 5000 players for just the Street Fighter V game tournament in 2016, and the numbers have continued to go up in subsequent years. There have been a number of controversies along the way as well, but the tournament continues to be extremely popular. Evo 2020 had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the physical event being converted into an online tournament. However, before the online tournament could begin in July 2020, there were sexual misconduct charges leveled against EVO CEO Joey Cuellar, which led to a number of game publishers such as Capcom, Bandai Namco, Mane6, and NetherRealm pulling out, and Evo 2020 was eventually canceled entirely. Thus, it is still uncertain as to whether we will have EVO taking place in 2021, but it is hoped that this event will take place, as it is a big part of the esports calendar.