EVO Online announced, Mortal Kombat 11, Skullgirls added to lineup

EVO, the world’s largest fighting game tournament, is going online, but not how you would expect. It’s been a little over a week since the official event was canceled and many have pointed out that there are some major problems with trying to hold tournaments for the big EVO nine online. Well, it looks like EVO noticed those problems as well, but they came up with a solution, and that solution is generating some hype.

Welcome to EVO Online, a new age of global fighting game tournament.

What is EVO Online?

Well first, instead of being a single day of tournament, it’s a whole month of tournaments.

  • July 4-5
  • July 11-12
  • July 18-19
  • July 25-26
  • July 31-August 2

EVO Online will have live streamed fighting game events every weekend in July, including a major three-day closing event on July 31-August 2, the dates of the original event. This will allow EVO staff to focus more closely on each individual tournament, which will alleviate some of the planning and management problems they would have encountered otherwise.

What about the lineup?

The original EVO nine will still be played, but it looks like they won’t be open entrance anymore. Instead, all nine games will have special “exhibitions” and new “content” to be shown. What does this mean?

It’s not entirely clear yet, but we can hazard a guess. Exhibition tournaments will likely be invite-only, which means that EVO can ensure that all players will have a decent, working internet connection, and that they will be playing on the same platform. It also ensures that players won’t cheat and that the bracket can be efficiently managed.

While this does mean that this will be the first year that the main EVO nine won’t be open entrant tournaments, it’s not as if EVO hasn’t held special invite only exhibitions before. In fact, the Marvel vs. Capcom 2 tournament of champions this year was planned to be one such exhibition. This also means that the at-home Twitch viewing audience can still get their fill of high level play between big name pros, just like they would in any other year.

What’s this “content” all about?

What does content mean? Once again, we don’t know, but we can hazard a pretty good guess. EVO, in recent years, has become more than a tournament. It has become something of a fighting game convention where major fighting game developers announce their plans for the coming year including new releases and upcoming DLC packs. These announcements were always showcased during the finals of the main event tournaments.

Our guess is that all these announcements will still make an appearance during the exhibition tournaments of EVO Online. That means we will probably get new DLC pack announcements, more news about Guilty Gear –Strive-. Heck, we might even hear a few tidbits about the rumored Street Fighter VI.

But you know, we would be happy if most of these companies announced major rollback netcode patches, considering the sticky situation they are in right now.

Will there be any open tournaments?

Actually yes! EVO has taken note of four fighting games with netcode that is good enough to run serious competitive tournaments online and has elevated them to main event status. Those fighting games are:

  • Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath
  • Killer Instinct
  • Skullgirls
  • Them’s Fightin’ Herds

This is major news for anyone who has been following the event for the past decade or so. Mortal Kombat 11 was a strange omission from this year’s lineup, considering it is a big and recent AAA fighting game release. Its recent expansion Aftermath has brought in a bunch of new players and will shake up the meta for the upcoming tournament.

Killer Instinct is in due to gaining a sudden influx of players after COVID-19 quarantines started, due in large part to its solid rollback netcode. While new content hasn’t been made for the game in a long time, it’s no stranger to the EVO main stage, and getting old pros to come out of the woodwork will be a delight.

However, Skullgirls and Them’s Fightin’ Herds are two of the biggest new entrants to the EVO lineup. Like MK11 and Killer Instinct, they too are being included because of their good netcode. However, Skullgirls has a long history with EVO, never making it in as a main event due to losing to Smash Bros. Melee in a charity donation race. Much of the Skullgirls community is now looking at this as their big opportunity, an opportunity they have been waiting for since 2012!

And Them’s Fightin’ Herds started its life as a My Little Pony fan game which was shown off as an exhibition at EVO many years ago. It too is invariably tied into the story of Skullgirls as one of Skullgirls’ Indiegogo stretch goals was to give the Them’s Fightin’ Herds development team the Z-engine, i.e., the same engine that Skullgirls was developed on. This included integration with GGPO, which is the rollback netcode that is allowing both games to be run as main events at EVO online.

What games won’t be at EVO Online?

There are two notable omissions from EVO online this year.

The first is Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid. It has smooth rollback netcode like many of the other new tournaments and cross-platform play to boot! It also, arguably, is a more recognizable IP than Skullgirls or Thems’ Fightin’ Herds. It’s not entirely clear why it didn’t make the lineup, especially since it’s very representative of the VS style of gameplay that other big titles such as Marvel 2 and DBFZ are known for. Of course, that might be exactly why. With Skullgirls entering the lineup, there are now three VS style games on the list, and with the rumored announcement of a new Marvel VS game as a piece of EVO’s new “content” they may not have wanted to oversaturate the lineup.

The next major omission is Smash Bros. Ultimate. Smash Bros. has been a staple of the EVO scene for years now, pulling some of the biggest viewership numbers of any of EVO’s main events. However, it also has some of the worst online play of any fighting game currently on the market. It’s netcode is so bad that there is a separate “online tier list” simply because there are gimmicks and tactics that only work in an online environment where you can’t rely on your inputs to translate to gameplay in time. Add to this a somewhat broken lobby system and random disconnects and there simply isn’t any possible way to run a Smash Bros. online tournament, even an exhibition, smoothly.

We have a LOT of info about EVO Online right now, but more is coming including the official schedule and sign-ups for the new open tournaments. As always, we will keep you posted about any new developments as they come about. Until then, keep practicing and get hyped! EVO Online is right around the corner.