It’s been a little over six months since Evolution 2012, the fighting game community shook Las Vegas in record-breaking numbers. In those six months, as is the case with what happens every year after the main event, the fighting game community speculated what games would make it in this year.
Last week that speculation came to a close, as EVO organizer Joey “MrWizard” Cuellar announced the 2013 lineup and changes to the road of EVO tournament. Up from six games last year, EVO 2013 will have the most official tournaments since 2004 when there were nine. New titles such as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Persona 4: Arena will be included, while Injustice: Gods Among Us and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale will not.
GameSpot spoke to EVO cofounder Tom Cannon about how he, along with his brother Tony, plan to manage so many games this year, having to leave some games out, voting for charity, and why the Road to EVO format was changed.
You went up to eight games this year, the most since 2004. Seeing first-hand how busy things were in 2012, especially in the last few years with record breaking entrants for SF4 and Marvel…are you guys nuts? Why eight games?
The fighting game genre has really exploded since the release of Street Fighter IV. The number of first rate, competitive games has never been higher, so we thought it appropriate to change our format to showcase as many of them as possible this year.
"Obviously, with 8 games this is the most comprehensive lineup we've had, maybe ever."
Overall, how do you compare this lineup to previous year's lineups?
Obviously, with eight games this is the most comprehensive lineup we've had, maybe ever. We have representation from all the sub-genres of fighting, from classic 2D to 3D to anime-inspired games. There are compelling story lines for so many of these tournaments. It's going to be exciting to watch.
How do you plan to manage all of the games in the same three-day span of the event?
We’ll have some changes to the format of EVO this year, the biggest of which is that we’ll be running tournament finals on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. This will help both with the scheduling and maintaining a better pace of for the weekend for attendees and and viewers online.
Smash Bros. has been at previous EVOs but has generally never been quite as accepted by the FGC as a whole. Still, it led the Shoryuken community vote to be a part of the lineup. Why was it not chosen?
The poll we put on Facebook was a fun way for us to gauge interest in what fighting games people were playing competitively. It was never meant to be a scientific measure of which community or game would be best for the lineup. That said, we did learn that there are tons of fighting games out there with huge fan-bases who all want to see their games played competitively on the world’s largest stage. Rather than single one out, we chose to give them all a shot by creating the Player Choice category.
Mortal Kombat was chosen, but not Injustice: Gods Among Us, which is scheduled to come out next year. Why this decision? Is it because the game hasn't even been released yet? Is there any chance it could make it's way into the lineup?
The April release date of Injustice is just two months away from EVO, which is a very short amount of time to draw out a game’s full potential. Injustice is one of the games which made the cut for the donation drive, so if fighting games fans want to see it in official tournament lineup they can work toward raising money for the Breast Cancer Research Fund on its behalf.
Although you've always had several Capcom titles, with so many fighting games out now, did that make it difficult at all to bring back SFxT again?
Not at all. Street Fighter X Tekken has had a very rocky start, but I think it showed potential in at the recent Capcom 25th Anniversary tournament. Capcom also has a great track record of steadily improving their fighting games with each subsequent revision and we expect Street Fighter X Tekken v2013 to be no exception.
Did KOF get back in on the finals alone last year?
Nope. KoF still has a strong following, especially internationally. I think the haters are underestimating players' commitment to the franchise.
Will SF4 and Marvel continue to be the headliners this year?
As always, we’ll decide which games are featured most prominently on the Sunday Finals based on player interest, but I would be surprised if Super Street Fighter 4 or Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 did not make the cut. Those two game and their previous incarnations have been perennial favorites every EVO since they debuted.
Which game came the closest to making the final list?
Injustice and Playstation All-Stars were both very close to making it.
You've decided to throw up a community vote by donation dollars for the final EVO game. Why this approach?
Fighting game players are hyper-competitive by nature, so we thought it would be great if the fan-bases for all these games could compete for the final spot. The donation drive is a perfect way to channel that passion toward a really great cause while rewarding the community which can best organize itself on behalf of their game.
Someone brought up the possibility of a publisher/developer putting money in to get their game in. Is that fair game in the name of charity?
The donation drive is meant to raise money for a good cause while letting the community decide the 8th game at EVO. We’re confident all the game publishers will respect the spirit of the drive and not try to influence the results..
The Road to EVO was made much smaller this year compared to last year, so that players wouldn't have to grind it out as much. What led you to come to that decision?
A lot of players who wanted to do well at EVO felt that the needed to travel to as many Road to EVO events as they could to boost their ranking as high as possible before July. We don’t think that’s a healthy for the players or the community as a whole.
Several big majors, especially ones on the east coast\northeast, such as ECT and NEC, were left out this year. Is there a plan to fill this gap, and have you heard feedback from these organizer's on the changes this year?
We will have Road to EVO events in Florida and Toronto. Lots of top players have traditionally attended both of these events, so we’re confident that the northeast will earn their share of seeds. There are a lot of great tournaments in the northeast, and we know the organizers will do fantastic job again this year. It was just a matter of us really wanting to concentrate on four events this year.
Are you worried at all about this year's Road to EVO not having enough events for players to get points at, or not enough data to seed at the end?
Actually, last year we felt we seeded too many players. Because we handed out so many seeds, many times two seeded players wound up in the same pool. How do you explain to a seeded player that they have to fight Daigo or Infiltration in the early rounds of the tournament? It caused a lot of confusion. There will be ample opportunity for all the top-tier players to earn their seed this year. We're handing out seeds to the top 16 players at four of the biggest tournaments in the U.S., plus international seeds. That's a pretty low bar to clear if you're truly a world-class player.
We're still a ways out, but are there any other announcements for the event you could tell us now?
There’s of course more to come, but I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait!