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Evo ready for biggest year ever on the Strip

Updated August 4, 2023 - 6:40 pm

It’s almost time for the fighting game community to get its game on in Las Vegas.

The Evolution Championship Series, better known as Evo, returns to Mandalay Bay Aug. 4-6.

And more people than ever will be competing across eight titles.

The recent release of “Street Fighter 6” has helped lead to an influx of entries. Street Fighter 6 broke Evo’s all-time record for competitors with 7,061 entries (Street Fighter 5 held the previous record with 5,107 during that game’s debut at Evo in 2016).

“It’s definitely an enthusiastic time,” Evo General Manager Rick Thiher said. “The thing that is surprising this year is really the fact that a bunch of these games blew past expectations.”

That includes throwback tournaments like Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, which originally debuted in 2011.

“The game is not new and it’s not easy to play online at all,” Thiher said. “But we are hosting the largest tournament in that series’ history.”

In total, 9,182 unique competitors will battle across the eight titles. That is an 81 percent increase from 2022, according to Evo.

While much of the attention will be on the tournaments, including the finals at Michelob Ultra Arena on Sunday, there’s much more for fans to take in during the weekend, including an artist alley, vendors and lounges.

“The arcade is larger this year,” Thiher said. “The vendor village is full of significantly more activity-based exhibitors and vendors rather than just walking and shopping. Artist alley is still there. We’re trying to make sure with this many people present, that there’s enough to do and enough opportunities to rally around with what should be your friends and rivals by the end of the weekend.”

In addition, Evo serves as an opportunity for game developers of all sizes to show off their games to the fighting game community.

“(For the developers), players get to see what makes my offering different and unique,” Thiher said. “Sometimes, those ideas, even in the alpha stage of a game, can be incredibly fun to sit down and play with.”

Thiher believes that Evo can carry the momentum it’s seeing this year into the future. “Mortal Kombat 1” is scheduled to be released in September and “Tekken 8” will be coming in the future as well. In addition, Riot, the company behind “League of Legends,” is also entering the fighting game space with Project L.

Ultimately, Evo is a chance for the fighting game community to come together and connect and that is something Thiher said that Evo will always provide.

“People come to Evo from around the world,” Thiher said. “You have a chance to sit down and play games with people who might not speak the same language as you outside of that game. You can develop friendships and rivalries with all of those players.”

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