It's fighting game Christmas again. The biggest fighting game tournament in the world is back.
Evolution is the biggest event in the fighting game calendar. While there are larger publisher-sponsored official events focused on individual games like Street Fighter 5's Capcom Cup, Evo is the single biggest event for fighting games in general, with thousands of fans and players descending on the Las Vegas strip to battle it out in large-scale official tournaments for the genre's biggest games and smaller side tournaments for just about every other game you can imagine.
This year is the sixteenth annual Evo, with the tournament managing impressive growth from running out of garages and local arcades to now take over the Mandalay Bay Events Center, with the grand finals on Sunday even taking over the 12,000 seat arena made most famous by boxing and UFC matches and lavish concerts.
As you all probably know from my regular witterings on the site, I bloody love fighting games. I've just erected a 100-inch projector screen to turn my dining room into a makeshift cinema for the weekend, and I'll be drinking my way through hours of bouts with friends all weekends. I'm all about converting people to the cause - so here's how to watch Evo this year. Just be warned - it's pretty addictive.
What games are at EVO 2018?
Evo has a set of 'main' games, and these are the games you'll see officially sponsored and run events for this weekend. The official main event games at the Evo 2018
- DragonBall FighterZ (2575 entrants)
- Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition (2484 entrants)
- Tekken 7 (1538 entrants)
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (1354 entrants)
- Super Smash Bros. Melee (1351 entrants)
- Blazblue: Cross Tag Battle (1178 entrants)
- Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2 (629 entrants)
- Injustice 2 (363 entrants)
In addition to this, fans run an absolute shed load of side tournaments for just about every game you can imagine. If you’re still clinging to Super Street Fighter II Turbo or Ultra Street Fighter IV, the community has you covered. Likewise for things like Tatsunoko vs Capcom, Puzzle Fighter, Gundam Versus... and even things like Puyo Puyo Tetris and Catherine.
Where to watch EVO 2018: streams and schedules for each game
From 10am Pacific time on Friday 3 August you'll be able to tune into several EVO channels to watch different games. At its most intense there'll be a whopping nine channels of action covering different games. Here are all the channels, plus an idea of what to expect on each:
Featuring 'The Jump Off', a live show that skips around everything at Evo to try to give you a glimpse at every facet of the tournament. Also features exhibitions of Super Smash Bros Ultimate and Soulcalibur 6 on Friday evening. The grand finals of every game is also played on this channel, and on Sunday this channel is the only one airing.
Running on Friday and Saturday from 8am Pacific until finish, EVO1 is dedicated to DragonBall FighterZ right up until semi-finals.
Running on Friday and Saturday, the EVO2 channel is dedicated to Smash Melee. It ends on the Smash semi-finals, with the finals taking place on the main channel on Sunday. Once the Smash semi finals are over on Saturday, it'll feature side events and games.
All Super Smash Bros for Wii U, in what'll likely be this game's final Evo. Play from pools through to semi-finals.
On Friday EVO4 is dedicated to Blazblue Cross Tag Battle, while on Saturday it's all Guilty Gear.
On Friday at 8am Pacific this channel leaps into a half-day of Injustice 2 followed by Tekken. On Saturday, Evo5 is all Tekken 7.
When Grand Finals bump The Jump Off away from its prime slot on the main channel, it'll resurface here for a few hours on Friday and Saturday.
All the Friday and Saturday Street Fighter 5 action will be taking place on Capcom's official channel. The Street Fighter grand finals will take place over on the Evo channel.
On Sunday, the Grand Finals order over on the main Evo channel is as follows: Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 (8am Pacific), Super Smash Bros. Melee (10:30am Pacific), Tekken 7 (1:30pm Pacific), DragonBall FighterZ (4pm Pacific), Street Fighter 5: Arcade Edition (7:30pm Pacific).
EVO 2018 stream schedule in full
There's a handy visual version of this info with stream times, too. Here it is:
What should I watch if I'm new to Evo?
If you're new to Evo or Fighting Games at a competitive level, on Friday and Saturday you should try The Jump Off - a special show found on the main EVO channel that jumps between all the main stage games at Evo, putting commentator teams together who can break down the games and explain what makes them special and unique. It's basically a way of learning about all the games at EVO, which is cool, and it should work just as well for complete beginners as it might for a Street Fighter player who wants to learn more about competitive Smash.
If you're into other areas of competitive gaming like the Overwatch League or competitive DOTA and want to learn about fighting games this is a great place to start, or if you're a strict Smash player who wants to dip a toe into Street Fighter or Tekken it should work for that too.
If you just want to watch the main events the main Evo channel is the place to be anyway - every single grand final for every game will take place there - in fact, grand finals are the only time The Jump Off is usurped from its position on the main channel. Speaking of that...
Evo 2018: When are the grand finals of each game?
Over the course of the weekend each game will have its massive entrant numbers reduced through elimination until they reach the top 8 players. These top 8 players will make up the 'grand finals' of each game - and this is where you'll really get players making the biggest effort and where the stakes are raised particularly high, with cash and pride on the line in every match.
For posterity, here's the grand finals times if you want to catch these often nail-biting matches:
- Injustice 2: Saturday, 12pm Pacific US time
- Blazblue Cross Tag Battle: Saturday, 4pm Pacific US time
- Injustice 2: Saturday, 5pm Pacific US time
- Super Smash Bros. for Wii U: Saturday, 8pm Pacific US time
- Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2: Sunday, 8am Pacific US time
- Super Smash Bros. Melee: Sunday, 10:30am Pacific US time
- Tekken 7: Sunday, 1:30pm Pacific US time
- DragonBall FighterZ: Sunday, 4pm Pacific US time
- Street Fighter 5: Sunday, 7:30pm Pacific US time
Seriously, though, why should I watch this?
For my money, the reason you should watch EVO is simple: for my money, fighting games are pound-for-pound the most exciting, easy to grasp esport going. There's no worrying about some of the more obtuse aspects of MOBA games or struggling to understand the greater perspective of a match as you might in a competitive FPS: fighters are easy to understand. Two people going at it. Life bars.
Fighting games were bred and built for competition in arcades, where two people would stand as little as inches apart and duke it out. That element of competition is baked into the genre deep as a result, and that's felt in every pore of EVO and other fighting tournaments. I'm a big fan of things like competitive Overwatch, but the level of emotion on display at Evo is often something else. Honestly, it's amazing stuff. Give it a shot.
Will there be game announcements at EVO?
It's extremely unlikely any actual games will make their debut at EVO, but companies do exhibit at the show and often bring announcements such as DLC or new reveals for upcoming game. The following companies are around:
- Capcom: it's a foregone conclusion that new Street Fighter 5 DLC character G will debut at Evo. But will Capcom have more up their sleeve...?
- Bandai Namco: with Tekken and DragonBall FighterZ both on the main stage, Namco has the strongest Evo presence it's managed in years. Expect some additions to the Soulcalibur 6 character roster - and will we finally learn more about Tekken 7 DLC season 2?
- Nintendo: With two Smash games at the event, this is a natural place for Nintendo to show off Super Smash Bros Ultimate. It'll be shown in an exhibition match on Friday, but could Nintendo use it to show off a new fighter...?
- ArcSys: Arc System Works has a significant presence at Evo in terms of games, and there's a strong chance they might use the event to make announcements.
There are also a lot of indie fighters showing up there - more than we can mention here.