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Through all of our coverage of the FGC here at ESI there’s an event that constantly comes up: Evolution Fighting Championship or EVO. The granddaddy of all FGC events, EVO represents the pinnacle of fighting game excellence and in many ways serves as the mecca for all things FGC. But why should you watch? There’s plenty of top level brackets happening all over the world, what makes EVO so special? Well, we’re here to share some of the things that make this tournament appointment viewing for even the most casual of fans.

It’s the World Cup of Fighting Games

First and foremost, EVO over the years has built itself up as the preeminent fighting game tournament in the world. While there’s no shortage of regional and national events like CEO in the US or The Mix Up in France, EVO draws in talent from all over the planet. Because of this, EVO often has special consideration in year-long competitions like Capcom Cup and Tekken World Tour. Winning EVO all but assures your spot in the final bracket for those events. 

And like a true international competition, there’s always surprise runs and upsets that make EVO even more special. Like when Lil’ Majin’s 2018 Tekken 7 run saw him take down legends with a character almost no one uses. But even more than the pathos EVO evokes, it's the bragging rights that put EVO in a class of its own. For many pros, winning EVO means you get to say you’re the best in the world and that’s nothing to scoff at.

The Spectacle Is Second To None

When one thinks of combat sports like Boxing and MMA, you’d be hard pressed to separate them from Las Vegas. Sin City has often been the homebase of some of the world’s most spectacular bouts featuring fighters like Mike Tyson and Oscar de la Hoya. EVO has made the same claim for fighting games as well. Having its roots in the Bay Area of California, EVO moved to Vegas in 2005 and has cemented itself firmly in the sports entertainment culture of the city. 

Since 2017, EVO has called the Mandalay Bay resort its home and its Michelob Ultra Arena serves as the main stage for the finals. In both number and hype, almost no other event even comes close to the grandeur of EVO. The energy of 20,000 fight fans is palpable even through a Twitch stream on those final days. Over 7,000 competitors registered for Street Fighter 6 alone, and many other games have broken registration records as well. So suffice it to say, this year’s EVO should be one of if not the biggest fighting game tournament in history. Expect many moments to be made and new legends to come to the fore.

It’s Become E3/Summer Games Fest For Fighting Games

One key differentiator between FGC tournaments and other esports events is how they operate and what they offer. Esports events like League of Legends worlds, The International and others function more like traditional sports. They have major developer support, only one game is featured and everything is very strictly run. FGC events on the other hand are much more community focused. They have artist allies and casual corners where people can play side matches. There’s usually independent vendors selling merch and there’s often a controller/stick repair service on site in case you need it. And it’s almost all organized by the community. This makes EVO and other events feel much more like conventions than sporting events. But now, the game publishers also see the value in this set up.

Over the past five or so years, EVO has emerged as the top place for fighting game publishers to share what they are working on for the year. New game reveals, DLC announcements and more all take place at EVO. These announcements bring even more hype to the Sunday stream, as typically the biggest announcements are reserved for that day. These reveals get the arena just as much delirium as the actual matches themselves. Coupling this with things like cosplay contests, developer panels and hands-on previews with certain titles and you essentially have E3 but just for fight fans.

You’ll Learn The Scene Quickly

Because it's where everyone converges, EVO is also the best place to start watching FGC events. You’ll see who some of the favorites are, get exposed to new games or studios. You might even be tempted to play one of these games yourself. So if you’re new to the scene, there’s no better place to cut your gums than watching EVO. You’ll see the top players, learn what’s on the horizon for new games and maybe even have one of those “where were you?” moments when a major upset goes down.

Ready to watch all the action? Get started with our full Evo 2023 watch guide