The EVO 2012 World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada, next weekend will be the biggest in the event's history, EVO co-founder and Shoryuken.com president Tom "inkblot" Cannon told GameSpot.
"We will have over 3,500 competitors (actual human beings), which is a record for us," Cannon said. "I estimate another 4,000-6,000 spectators, but it's impossible to say accurately as it's free to attend except Sunday."
Among the record number of challengers at the event will be Team MadCatz's Daigo "The Beast" Umehara and Evil Geniuses' Justin Wong. There were 2,500 competitors in 2011, and approximately 1,700 in 2010. Not only is this year's number of competitors the most ever, it's also the biggest jump from one year to the next.
This year's EVO Championships will have more support from developers and publishers than ever before as well, setting a record amount of prize money for the event with more than $100,000 at stake. Capcom leads the way with $25,000 for Super Street Fighter IV, $15,000 for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and $9,000 for Street Fighter X Tekken. Warner Bros. is supporting with a $23,000 purse for last year's Mortal Kombat, and Sega will be there with $15,000 for the best Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown players. Prize money will be paid out to the top eight finishers in each game, awarding those who may not win, but still beat out hundreds if not thousands on the way there.
"The record prize pool is fantastic for the players," Cannon said. "It's also a real testament to the support the developers have for the in-person and online communities that form around their games. In my opinion the money isn't going to make anyone play harder. These guys do it for the love of the game and the competition."
The stream will once again be provided by Team Spooky and IPlayWinner, while EVO and TwitchTV have built a custom player for simultaneous viewing. You can test it and view the full stream schedule at Shoryuken.
For the first time at EVO, would-be spectators will be able to purchase a high-quality 720p streaming video option, with EVO donating all of the proceeds of the HD stream to the formation of a new EVO $10,000 scholarship for gamers. Cannon feels so strongly about this that he has personally guaranteed the $10,000, no matter how well the HD stream does.
"Scholarships is something we've wanted to do for a long time. We just had to figure out the right way to pull it off," said Cannon, who wants to do this every year. "We wanted to make a big statement that gaming communities can be positive experiences for young people, not a waste of time or negative as often portrayed in the media. It is a much stronger statement to say that 100 percent of the PPV goes to college scholarships, instead of saying, 'Some goes, but some goes in our pockets.'"
As Cannon said, "EVO is fundamentally about competition and community. Players come from around the world to test their mettle against the best, but also to reconnect with old friends, make new friends, and share their passion for these games with their fellow gamers. I think this is a message that really resonates with gamers. Every year EVO gets bigger. This year, with our record prize pool and new scholarship, I'm glad that we've upped the ante in both the competitive and community aspects."
EVO takes place July 6-8 at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Check back with GameSpot for more coverage from the event.