Sony sent waves through the esports industry recently when it announced the acquisition of the Evolution Championship Series (Evo), the longest-running fighting game tournament in the world. Sony Interactive Entertainment partnered with new esports venture RTS to complete the deal, although an exact ownership breakdown was not spelled out. Evo is returning as Evo Online this August and will be free to enter for players in North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
Evo co-founders Tom and Tony Cannon will remain on the team as key advisors to ensure that Evo maintains its “one-of-a-kind, grassroots” edge. Sony faces a challenge in maintaining Evo’s grassroots vibe, and there’s already concern that games will be limited to their IP or platforms, but Evo has stated otherwise; imposing restrictions in an open, cross-platform gaming era would also be risky for Sony’s business.
Evo already generates millions of views from fans, but PlayStation’s backing could take the event to the next level while giving the tournament the organizational support to move past the unfortunate situation around last year’s Evo cancellation – former CEO Joey Cuellar was accused of sexual abuse (and subsequently removed from the org).
Sony’s investment should go a long way towards giving Evo financial stability, a chance to grow, and technological improvements. Fighting game tournaments have been operated primarily in-person due to network lag, but Sony’s new ownership could result in engineering enhancements to online fighting gameplay, which could ultimately open fighting games up to a larger audience, to the benefit of the wider industry.
While PlayStation has not explicitly led in esports, it now has a legitimate chance to become the home of fighting games and leverage esports culture to drive PlayStation forward. Esports and PC gaming have long been intertwined, but according to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, 29% of current PlayStation owners in the US regularly watch esports, which is only slightly behind the 31% of PC gamers who do the same. For more esports research, be sure to inquire about our twice-monthly insights report, Esports Replay™.