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Sony acquires Evo fighting games championship series

New partnership to manage tournament, which returns with Evo Online 2021 in August

Evolution Championship Series 2019
The Tekken 7 finals of Evo 2019, held Aug. 4, 2019 in Las Vegas.
Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Sony Interactive Entertainment will acquire the Evolution Championship Series — the fighting game tournament known as Evo for almost two decades — through a partnership with another esports venture, the companies announced on Thursday.

Additionally, Evo will return from a year’s absence with an online tournament this August, called Evo Online. Fighting games’ premier championship event will now be owned and operated by a joint venture between Sony and RTS, which is an esports venture whose investors include the Endeavor talent agency.

Evo co-founders Tony and Tom Cannon will remain “closely involved as key advisors,” according to Thursday’s statement from Sony. In a statement to the fighting games community posted to Twitter, the Cannons said they needed “an experienced strategic partner who truly respects the spirit of the FGC.”

Sony’s statement said the Cannons will “ensure that Evo remains a one-of-a-kind, grassroots competitive platform for fighting game players and fans around the globe.” None of the parties to the deal revealed the cost of the acquisition, and Sony and RTS are likewise silent on their stakes and ownership split.

Evo Online will take place Aug. 6-8 and Aug. 13-15 as an open format tournament, offering free entry to players in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. The tournament lineup features Tekken 7, Street Fighter 5: Champion Edition, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Guilty Gear Strive, which launches in June.

Evo 2020 was scrubbed as an in-person event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and organizers made plans to go forward with an online event spread over July 2020. That event was also canceled, however, following allegations of sexual misconduct that ended with the Evolution Championship Series firing its chief executive, Joey Cuellar.

Thursday’s statement from Tony and Tom Cannon reaffirmed “that harassment or abuse of any kind has no place within Evo or any of our future events, and we’re taking every precaution to make sure members of our community will always be treated with the respect, dignity, and decency you deserve.”

The Evolution Championship Series grew out of a tournament series begun in 1996 by the Cannons, Cuellar, and Seth Killian. It became known as Evo in 2002, when the event moved to Los Angeles and crowned champions in three Capcom fighting games.

Since then, the tournament’s prize pool, contestant field, and event lineup have all grown significantly, with the three most recent Evos held at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay casino/resort hotel. Evo has been a qualifying event for the Capcom Pro Tour since its inception in 2014. Evo was televised by ESPN for the first time in 2016.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the business and ownership relationship between Sony and RTS. This story has been corrected and revised.

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