Sony Interactive Entertainment have partnered with new esports venture RTS to purchase the Evolution Championship Series, aka Evo, the long-running and increasingly popular fighting game tournament. The acquisition comes less than a year after Evo Online was cancelled after abuse allegations were made against one of Evo's co-founders.
Evo's statmeent on the acqusition, posted to Twitter, acknowledged those allegations as one of the motivations behind the sale.
We want to reaffirm that harassment or abuse of any kind has no place within Evo or any of our future events, and we're taking every precaution to make sure members of our community will always be treated with the respect, dignity and decency you deserve.
In order to deliver on the trust you have all put in Evo, we realize that we need an experienced strategic partner who truly respects the spirit of the FGC.
Sony's own message mirrored that statement, while announcing that Evo Online would return on August 6th-8th and 13th-15th. It's an online-only event due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will feature Tekken 7, Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate, and Guilty Gear Strive.
Many of those developers had pulled out of the event last year after the allegations of abuse made against Evo co-founder and CEO Joey "MrWizard" Cuellar. The allegations were brought by a fighting game community member and dated back to the turn of the millennium at Southern Hills Golfland, a Californian arcade with a famous Street Fighter scene. He accused Cuellar of often offering large amounts of arcade tokens to boys aged around 12-16 if they'd jump into the miniature golf course's water hazards in only their underwear. He further alleged that Cuellar once instigated a bet about his penis size, which required showing Cuellar his erect penis. The accuser says he was 17 at that time.
Evo responded by removing Cuellar as CEO. Today's statement by Evo does not name Cuellar, but references the cancellation of last year's Evo Online due to "cirumstances surounding... a former team member who has been completely separated from our company."
At the time of the allegations, Cuellar posted a public apology in a since deleted tweet. "I was young and reckless and did things I'm not proud of," he said. "I have been growing and maturing over the past 20 years, but that doesn't excuse anything."
The initial reaction to the acquisiton was concern that Sony might make Evo an event exclusively for games available on Sony's platforms, which would exclude popular fighting games like Nintendo's Smash Bros. Mark Julio from Evo confirmed on Twitter that the event "is still open to all platforms."