The Japanese leg of the biggest tournament in fighting game esports just temporarily closed its stream because a Dead or Alive 6 promotional segment was getting too raunchy.
Evolution, or Evo, is the biggest fighting game tournament in the world. The main event takes place in Las Vegas, Nevada every summer, but for the last couple of years the Evo team has been bringing its same bombastic, large-scale fighting game tournament design to Japan in a separate event. At that event there are tournaments for a range of games where the best players from around the world compete - and it all kicked off earlier today.
A pretty typical part of Evo is that gaming companies will take over the stage or stream for a while to demo upcoming products. It wouldn't surprise me if we got an update on the next additions to Street Fighter 5 over the course of this weekend, for instance. Last night, it was Dead or Alive 6's turn to take a promotional slot - but it all went south pretty quickly.
It all started with the clip embedded below (which might, depending on how sensitive your workplace is, be NSFW). If you can't watch, here's the rub: while showing of DOA6's free camera control, MCs deliberately paused, zoomed, panned and laughed at freeze frames of in-game moves like piledrivers that, from the right angle, look like a sex act.
It's all a bit thirteen-year-old boys sniggering at something sexual, to be honest - but there you go. It's not exactly hugely offensive, it just seems dumb.
The presentation continued on, with the women presenting the whole thing spanking each other and deliberately bouncing up and down while the camera zoomed in on them. That one is definitely NSFW. The presenters are obviously in on the whole thing - they're deliberately playing up that aspect of Dead or Alive. A crass approach to this sort of thing is in the series' DNA to the point where DOA producers had to come out and reassure fans that a more grounded approach in the latest game wouldn't mean the death of DOA's breast physics - but shortly after this Evo decided to suspend the stream temporarily, until the promotion was over.
"The DOA ad that aired on our stream does not reflect the core values of Evo or the FGC," EVO director Joey Cuellar said in a (since deleted) tweet. "We ended the stream temporarily to protect the integrity of our brand. We sincerely apologize to our fans."
Reaction to the tweet and temporary stream yanking was as mixed as you'd expect. Some praised Evo for its speed in deciding it didn't want to air this content on their channels, while others criticized it as censorship.
One of the most common arguments throughout threads was that Evo has no problem showing a skull being brutally crushed into a million pieces as blood showers everywhere in Mortal Kombat - clearly not family friendly - but is also happy to boot sexual content off its stream. This is undoubtedly a straw man of an argument, but the point about MK's violence is also a fair one in isolation. Regardless, it's easy to see why the content during the DOA6 promotion was deemed inappropriate and not very becoming of a professional operation like Evo.
Fighting games have frequently run into these sorts of problems over the last few years as the concept of becoming a widely watched esport has solidified for the genre. It's a genre dominated by 'fan service', especially in the games coming out of Japan, and a lot of that fan service revolves around female fighters.
Street Fighter 5 wrestled with this issue a few times, first coming under fire for cutting out part of a move that involved pro wrestler R. Mika smacking her own rear as a taunt. Mika couldn't be saved anyway - when Evo's Street Fighter 5 finals were televised on ESPN, one grand finalist was told he couldn't use Mika's default costume because it was too much for TV. SF5 also patched most nipples out of the game fairly early on - those visible through clothes and otherwise for both men and women. Topless bear wrestler Zangief still has no nipples in that game. The no nipples thing always seemed a bit silly to me, but if I'm honest I still don't understand why they haven't followed the movie's lead and given my main Cammy some damn pants.
It's not clear what will come of Evo's decision to cut the DOA6 promo stream just yet, especially as the initially quickly-tweeted apology has since been deleted. Between this sort of thing and the previously-mentioned Mortal Kombat violence debate an interesting discussion about fighting games as esports still rages on - and tournaments like Evo still struggle with finding an answer. If Evo updates its position, we'll update this article.