It's the time of year when the fighting game community makes its annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas to compete and determine the world's finest. The Evolution Championship Series, or Evo for short, kicks off its 2019 event with several large tournaments and a smattering of side bouts in just about every fighting game under the sun.
Nine games take the main stage this year, with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate boasting the headliner spot at Sunday's grand finals. But it's a long road from here to there—we've gotta get a pool of thousands down to just a few, and that process starts today.
Evo has posted a handy at-a-glance schedule to its Twitter, including guides to when each main game (and a few side tournaments) will air on the myriad Evo channels. We're going to focus on the main stage events, but if you want to, there's an entire other side of Evo called AnimEVO, which will feature tournaments for a lot of games, including Catherine and Puyo Puyo Champions. Follow their schedule at this link.
What Games Are Being Played?
Evo's main events are Soulcalibur 6, Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] (or UNIST), Dragon Ball FighterZ, Samurai Shodown, Mortal Kombat 11, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Street Fighter 5, Tekken 7, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Alongside those, the main Evo streams will also feature finals for several classic and side games, including Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, Windjammers, Vampire Savior, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, and more.
When Are the Finals?
The grand finals for each of the nine main games are staggered out across the weekend, though all of them will air live on the main Evo Twitch channel.
- Friday, 8 p.m. PT / 11 p.m. ET: Soulcalibur 6
- Saturday, 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET: Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]
- Saturday, 1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET: Dragon Ball FighterZ
- Saturday, 4 p.m. PT / 7 p.m. ET: Samurai Shodown
- Saturday, 8 p.m. PT / 11 p.m. ET: Mortal Kombat 11
- Sunday, 9 a.m. PT / 12 p.m. ET: BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle
- Sunday, 12 p.m. PT / 3 p.m. ET: Street Fighter V
- Sunday, 3:30 p.m. PT / 6:30 p.m. ET: Tekken 7
- Sunday, 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
What Should I Watch?
Well, that's your call! If you're new to fighting games, I highly recommend following The Jumpoff. Billed as the Red Zone of fighting games, it will air all day on the main Evo channel and on Saturday at the Jumpoff channel. Various fighting game commentators, analysts, and personalities will filter in and out of each game, breaking the action down for a generalist viewer. It's a great way of watching without feeling lost.
Otherwise, each main stage game will have its own individual stream if you want to focus in on those. The grand finals will be a blast, but try to make some time for the side games—the Evo 7 channel will feature a Sailor Moon top four on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT that's sure to be a hoot. At the end of the day, you can't go wrong following the main channel, though you can use this handy Evo stream catch-all to flip around the channels if you're not feeling committed to any one stream.
Who Should I Look out For?
That's an even bigger question. There are big-name players in every game, some with national recognition like SonicFox or Daigo, and others are more renown within their own niche. Commentators will often highlight when a player of note is on the sticks, so Google can be your friend.
Dominique "SonicFox" McLean is always one to watch, as he looks to retain his championship belt in Dragon Ball FighterZ against rival Goichi "GO1" Kishida and tough competitors like Ryota "Kazunoko" Inoue. Many Street Fighter legends will be in attendance, including Daigo Umehara. And Samurai Shodown's revival is bound to bring a lot of old faces out of retirement.
As the headliner, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate will see the series' largest tournament at Evo yet, and whoever takes the crown can feel assured in their place atop the burgeoning Ultimate scene. Leonardo Lopez Perez, a.k.a. MKLeo, is a favorite, but with over 3000 entrants and a relatively new game to play, there could be some surprises lurking in pools.
Will There Be Reveals?
Of course. Evo has grown over the years, and with that has come publisher support and more partners. As a result, it's a little more commercialized, but this also gives developers a giant stage to announce news to a crowd of devotees.
In fact, some of these announcements have already leaked out, like three new fighters coming to Street Fighter 5. NetherRealm Studios also recently put out some footage of klassic series fighter Nightwolf, including a release date.
It's fair to expect some news from most of the main stage games this weekend, save Nintendo—as much as Nintendo is getting involved in the competitive scene with Ultimate, the Dragon Quest Hero just launched this week alongside a new patch. The most I'd expect would be a hint at a Banjo-Kazooie release date, but even that feels like a stretch. For more on Evo 2019, stay tuned to USG for any additional news that might emerge this weekend.