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Nations digitally duke it out this weekend at Evo 2014, the world’s largest international fighting game tournament

evocrowdThis weekend, from July 11 to 13, thousands of players from countries all over the world will be competing in various fighting video games at the Evo Championship Series in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Officially, there are 8 games that make up the Evo 2014 line-up: Ultra Street Fighter IV, Killer Instinct, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Blazblue Chrono Phantasma, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Super Smash Bros. Meleeand King of Fighters XIII. There are even more games at the even unofficially as side tournaments, including games like Persona 4: Arena, Skullgirls and SoulCalibur II HD Online. The list of games doesn’t end there if you’re at the event yourself. Roaming the hallways of the hotel, you’re likely to find a bunch of people crammed into a room playing whatever game you can think of, maybe even laying down some paper for a few Windjammers money matches.

Evo registration dwarfs attendance from last year, with nearly 2000 registered entrants, and at least 800 international competitors, representing 46 different countries. Last year, online viewership broke more than 100,000 simultaneous viewers. As it tends to be with events like these, this year looks to be the biggest Evo yet.

Fighting for Glory

Evo could be considered video game Olympics pr fighting games’ version of the World Cup. You’ve got the best players in the world, fighting it out on the world’s biggest stage for this type of thing, complete with roaring crowds and excellent sports broadcast-like commentary (and if you haven’t heard competitive video game commentary before, it’s a real treat!). If you want a taste of what Evo has to offer, check out this incredible set from last year.

Every summer, the highest level of fighting game players from all over the globe convene in a city in the desert to compete in the Evo Championship Series. People from Mexico, Korea, Singapore, Japan, France, and even our little town of Paris, Texas come to represent their region and be recognized as a top player in games such as Street Fighter and Tekken. As with all competitors, they want to do their country proud and perhaps gain a tiny bit of fame. Oh, and there’s lots of money involved. I mean, this is Vegas, after all!

For Money

“Esports” is a growing industry, but Evo is a little different from the sanitized and extremely commercial atmosphere of something like Major League Gaming. Evo, and most fighting game tournaments, are community-run events. Most people play and compete for the fun and camaraderie that comes with sharing your passion for competitive video games. Having said that, Evo has helped the community and the scene grow considerably, and now there’s major money to be made here!

If someone’s ever told you that no one’s ever made any serious money playing video games, they should check out the prize pool for this year’s Evo. Player entry fees usually fund the prize pots for these tournaments, so player turnout determines cash prizes. When player counts run up to the likes of 1,979 (such is the case with Ultra Street Fighter IV), there’s going to be a lot of money involved! In addition to that, sponsors are able to throw in additional prize money as pot bonuses. With Ultra Street Fighter IV, the total prize money ends up as $29,790 spread out among the Top 8 players! That’s pretty crazy, but, then again, that’s 8 players out of 1,979, so if you want a piece of that pie, you better be darn good.

So there’s a lot of money going around to the top players in each game, but they won’t be the only ones benefitting! In 2012, Evo began a scholarship drive to help fund the education of students in the fighting game community looking to break into the video game industry. The Evo Scholarship is a partnership between the New York University Game Center, Evo and Twitch. Last year, Evo 2013 raised more than $20,000 towards the scholarship fund. This year, when purchasing a $12 Twitch subscription for Evo, 100 percent of that subscription fee will go towards the Evo Scholarship fund. The Twitch subscription will also net you a digital subscriber badge, 13 exclusive emoticons to use in Twitch chats, and access to the official Evo subscriber-only chat channel. Of course, you won’t need the subscription to watch Evo itself. It’s entirely optional, but you get some pretty neat perks in addition to supporting a good cause.

For Honor

One of the most exciting parts of Evo for those following the fighting game scene is the culmination of yearlong personal storylines. Rivalries develop from Evo to Evo, and people can’t wait to see if last year’s champ still has it. There are surprises every year, with new blood constantly being injected into the competition (a notable example being an 8-year-old player named Noah who did pretty well in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 in 2011). There’s always an underdog who comes out of nowhere and plows his way in to Top 8. There are upsets, there are comebacks, and all of it defines the hype that surrounds the biggest fighting game tournament out there. If you’re new to the scene, here’s a few fellows to keep an eye on this year! It’s always more exciting when you know the stakes hiding behind those silly-sounding names in the top corners of the screen. I’ll be listing player name handles in parentheses next to their real names.

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Coming fresh off its return to Evo in 2013, this year has been huge for Smash Bros. Somehow, this 12-year-old game is still being played competitively, and it’s the oldest game on the Evo main stage. Evo 2014 is going to be the largest Melee tournament to date, with 970 registered entrants.

The rivalry to watch this year for Melee is between last year’s Evo champion Joseph Marquez (aka, Mango), America’s own, and Adam Lindgren (Armada) from Sweden. They’ve been taking wins and losses off each other at various tournaments all year. Another one to watch is Masaya Chikamoto (Amsa) from Japan, who has become a fan favorite due to his preference for Yoshi, a character you don’t see played very often in competitive Smash Bros.

King of Fighters XIII

This will be KOFXIII’s third year at Evo. Despite not being as big as other fighters, it has stuck around on the Evo line-up this long for being so incredibly entertaining to watch. Almost high level match of this game is a tense game of back-and-forth, and I highly recommend everyone check out the finals on Saturday.

Unfortunately, America’s reigning Evo champ, Reynald Tacsuan, isn’t going to be able to make it to this year’s tournament. KOF, however, is also known for its international competition. There are 319 entrants this year, and more than a third of them are of international talent. You’ve got killers like Kwang no Lee (MadKoF) from Korea, Felipe Torres (Misterio) from Chile and Jiahong Lin (ET) from Taiwan. Japan’s Hajime Taniguchi (Tokido) looks like the one to watch this year. Tokido is known for his proficiency in multiple fighting games, but this year he’s focusing on Street Fighter and KOF, so don’t be surprised if you see him placing high in more than one game!

Blazblue Chrono Phantasma

Evo always has room for one “anime” game in the line-up, and this year that game is the new Blazblue. Surprisingly, this is where the big money is at! The generous sponsors of the game have donated a total pot bonus of $30,000 to the game, so whoever wins is going to be swimming in bills.

Being an “anime” game, most people expect Japan to wipe the floor with whoever they’re up against. However, America’s impressive showing at Persona 4 Arena last year might have changed the story! Known U.S. players include Steve Barthelemy (Lord Knight) and Jose Llera (Bananaken).

Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Tekken wasn’t even supposed to be part of the Evo 2014 line-up originally, but thanks to the hard work of some passionate fans and backing from developer Namco-Bandai, Evo has its 3D fighting game for the year! Competitors from all over are coming to kick some butt at Tekken, including Japan and Saudi Arabia. Weirdly enough, there is no Korean presence this year, despite nurturing some of the fiercest Tekken competitors in the world. Perhaps they were scared off by incredible performance of the U.S.’s own Bronson Tran from last year? Or, more likely, the late addition of Tekken to the line-up had an unfortunate effect on player turn out.

Killer Instinct

This is the newest game to be a part of Evo this year (if you don’t count Ultra Street Fighter IV). With most American fighting games, you don’t see much international competition, and it doesn’t help that the Xbox One isn’t even out in other countries, but the main players at Killer Instinct seem to be pretty consistent with tournament placing. Justin Wong seems to be the favorite to win, but we’ll also see some brutal competition from the likes of Jonathan Deleon (Rico Suave) and former Mortal Kombat player Emmanuel Brito (CD Jr.)

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Speaking of Mortal Kombat, Netherrealm’s DC superhero fighting game will be making its second appearance at Evo this year. Due to various balances changes made to the gameplay, the landscape for this game has changed a lot since last year, which was plagued by a Superman snoozefest. Hopefully this year will be more exciting! A player named Jivan Karapetian (Theo) has apparently been destroying players left and right with his Aquaman. Many Injustice competitors have been transplanted from the Mortal Kombat community, so you’ll likely see former Mortal Kombat players like Dominique Mclean (Sonic Fox), Steve Brownback (16 Bit) and Brant Mccaskill (Pig of the Hut) dominate the brackets. If not, they’ll certainly be around for Mortal Kombat X when that hopefully makes its Evo debut next year!

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

Continuing the superhero theme, we’ve got Marvel vs. Capcom. If there’s any game you watch from the Evo line-up, it has to be this one. Marvel is one of the greatest games from a spectator’s standpoint. It’s flashy, it’s fast, it’s crazy, and the concentrated hype oozes from the crowd. You might not understand what’s going on half the time, since the action is a cacophony of almost seizure-inducing madness, but that’s what the excellent commentary is for!

Despite being developed in Japan, Marvel is known as America’s game for the number of American players that dominate it. There’s a ton of high-level players to watch in this game. Will Christopher Gonzalez (ChrisG), often seen as the villain of the scene, finally kill the game with his seemingly unbeatable play style? Will the equally villainous Ryan Ramirez (Filipino Champ) regain the championship title that he lost last year? Or will fan favorites like Justin Wong and Nicolas Gonzalez (Kane Blueriver) win it all with their unconventional teams? There’s always a lot of drama going on in Marvel, and Evo is where these stories begin and end.

Ultra Street Fighter IV

This is it. The king of fighting games. The alpha and the omega. Street Fighter is easily the most popular of all the fighting games at Evo, with 1,979 registered entrants! This new version of Street Fighter IV, called Ultra, has only recently been released, (it’s only a month old!) creating a resurgence in a community that was already pretty darn big. Ultra introduces new characters and mechanics, create a freshness that leaves a level of uncertainty that could possibly result in some spectacular matches. Since the game is so new, people will be saving their own secret techniques and strategies to debut at the tournament and blow a few minds.

Street Fighter is known for its large international presence. The U.S. is handily represented by the likes Team Evil Geniuses: Justin Wong, Eduardo Perez-frangie (PR Balrog), Ricky Ortiz) and other amazing players like Arturo Sanchez (TS Sabin) and Darryl Lewis (Snake Eyez). Asia tends to have the strongest players, such as Kun xian Ho (Xian) from Singapore and the unstoppable Seonwoo Lee (Infiltration) of South Korea. And, of course, no Street Fighter tournament is complete without a showcase of godlike skills from Japanese players like Daigo Umehara and Tokido.

How to Watch

So, are you interested in seeing the world’s finest fight it out on the world’s biggest stage in competitive fighting games? Starting this Friday, on July 11, Evo will have 3 official live streams to watch. Pool play and finals for certain games will be streamed at various points over the weekend. If you want to tune in to a specific game, you can check the official schedule here (times in Pacific Daylight Time).

Official Evo 2014 Streams

In addition to Evo’s official streams, many community members will be streaming their own side tournaments and pool play for the less popular games. Madcatz, one of the proud sponsors of Evo and the fighting game community at large, will also be streaming their own side events, including a karaoke competition! You can check the Madcatz schedule here. All the times below have been converted to Central Daylight Time.

Madcatz Stream

Skullgirls, Tekken, SoulCalibur, karaoke, and MORE

Side Streams

Blazblue Chrono Phantasma Pool Play, Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM

Killer Instinct Pool Play, Saturday morning:

Super Smash Bros. Exhibitions:

Super Street Fighter II Turbo: Tournament of Legends, starting Friday at 10:30 AM:

Tekken Tag Tournament 2 Exhibitions, Friday night through Saturday:

Guilty Gear Accent Code +R Tournament, Friday at 2 PM:

Mortal Kombat 9 Tournament, Saturday at 8PM:

Vampire Savior, Top 8, Saturday at 5:30 PM:

As you can plainly see, there are so many games to choose from! If you have to watch only one thing, be sure to check out the Sunday finals, as that’s when the “hype” gets real. For more information, check out the official Evo website.

By Alfredo Dizon, eParisExtra

Young Title Company