The Evolution Championship Series, also known as just Evo, the annual celebration of everything fighting game, is returning in Las Vegas this weekend after a two-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic.
Thousands of fighting game players and fans will pack the Mandalay Bay casino’s halls and arena to compete for a top 8 finish, play friendly matches with players from around the world, attend panels, peruse Artist Alley, and just generally enjoy the chance to spend time offline with the fighting game community once more.
How Evo works
Perhaps the iconic Evo Moment 37 video or Sony’s purchase of the tournament series in 2021 are the reasons you may have heard of Evo before. If you’re not already a fan of watching fighting game tournaments, here are the fundamentals of how Evo functions. Eight primary games, which I’ll mention below, are included, in addition to a great number of less recognized side competitions. The basic rules of each game are the same; you begin in a group of players with everyone on an even playing field.
Double-elimination tournament rules state that in order to be eliminated, you must lose twice. If you manage to win numerous games in your pool without going out, you advance to the following one, which finally results in a top 24 bracket, a top 8, and the championship match.
The upsets that occur during pool games add to the excitement. The reigning champion must begin the same as everyone else, and there is no assurance that they won’t suffer their first defeat at the hands of an unproven opponent, dropping them into the losers’ bracket and ending their hopes of repeating in the top eight.
As you advance deeper into the matches, the level of play becomes more high-level and tense, so if you’re less inclined to spend hours watching, the safe bet is to catch a top 24 or wait for the top 8 to see the real high-stakes matches play out.
Every game will feature commentary by people who are experts in understanding and explaining the on-screen action. With a few basics under your belt and their patterns, you should be able to keep up even with games you’re not familiar with.
The key to understanding the double-elimination format is that everyone starts out in the winner’s bracket. If you lose once, you go to the loser’s bracket. Lose from there and you can sit and watch the rest; you’re done. Mathematically this means that when you get to top 8, half will be in the loser’s bracket, half in the winner’s bracket, and the grand finals match will have a winner’s side and a loser’s side.
To win the entire tournament from the loser’s side, you need to beat the other player twice, once to send them to loser’s (known as resetting the bracket). Making a loser’s run is no easy task, but a bracket reset always gets the crowd hyped up. They love an underdog, but it also means another set to watch.
If you see an L or a W next to someone’s name on the stream overlay, that’s indicating if they’re playing from the winner’s or loser’s bracket. The last thing that’s handy to know is most games are run as first to two, so you have to win two games to beat someone. This generally becomes the first to three wins in top 8.
The fact that everyone begins in the winner’s bracket is the key to comprehending the double-elimination system. You move to the losers’ bracket if you lose once. If you lose from there, you’re done and may sit and watch the rest. According to the math, this means that when you reach the final eight, half of the players will be in the loser’s bracket and half will be in the winner’s bracket, and there will be a winner’s side and a loser’s side in the championship game.
You must defeat the opposing player twice, one to advance them to the losers’ side, in order to win the entire tournament from that side (known as resetting the bracket). Making a loser’s run is difficult, but the crowd always gets excited when the bracket is reset. They enjoy rooting for the underdog, but it also means another series to watch.
Someone’s playing from the winner’s or loser’s bracket is indicated by a L or a W next to their name on the stream overlay. The final useful fact to know is that most games are first-to-two, meaning you must win both games to defeat an opponent. This usually results in the first three winners in the top eight.
The major video games on display at Evo this year are:
- Street Fighter V: Champion Edition
- Guilty Gear Strive
- Mortal Kombat 11: Ultimate
- Tekken 7
- The King of Fighters XV
- Melty Blood: Type Lumina
- Dragon Ball FighterZ
- Granblue Fantasy: Versus
- Skullgirls: 2nd Encore