The Evolution Championship Series was already set for an unprecedented year. Initially, they were going to do eight games, plus a special invitational tournament for Marvel vs. Capcom 2 to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. Pesky COVID-19 made it very apparent that a big get-together in Las Vegas at the end of the summer was absolutely not in the cards. Instead, they announced Evo Online. The announced games were dropped and replaced with four games that were at least celebrated for having good-to-great netcode (Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath, Killer Instinct, Skullgirls, and Them’s Fightin’ Herds).
The plan was to start Evo Online on July 4-5 with each weekend based on one of the different games. Then it would culminate on the weekend of July 31-August 2. Not only would we see the Top 8s for those games, but there would be big announcement trailers for other fighting games and the like. It wasn’t the classic Evo, but it would be enough of a distraction from 2020.
But two days away from Evo Online’s opening weekend, everything imploded and Evo is officially off the menu for at least this year.
What the hell happened?
Recently, a massive wave of #MeToo-type allegations has been snowballing from all walks of life, from video games, to comics, to wrestling, to even the fighting game esports scene. On July 1, this vital tweet talked up an old situation involving Joey Cuellar, otherwise known as MrWizard and the CEO of Evo itself.
To spare you the click and read, the gist of it was that about 20 years ago, Cuellar had some shady dealings where he sexually exploited underage boys. With this anecdote out in the open, it didn’t take long for the plans for Evo Online to fall apart.
First, Evo’s Twitter account vaguely addressed the situation and said that they were looking into it. Soon players started announcing that they were dropping out, such as top Mortal Kombat/Skullgirls player Sonicfox. Droves of commentators stepped away, feeling that they could not, in good conscience, take part in Evo amongst the Cuellar allegations. This was already looking bad, but then the other shoe dropped and this shoe was full of lead.
NetherRealm Studios announced that they were pulling Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath from the show. Not only was Evo losing one of its few games, but also their biggest one.
Initially, Mortal Kombat 11 was notably absent from the 2020 roster. Evo only reversed the decision due to their desperate need for a fighter with good netcode in light of COVID-19.
Suddenly the dam broke. Capcom and Bandai-Namco said that they would no longer be involved. Mane6, developers of Them’s Fightin’ Herds, was also pulling their game. That left Skullgirls (which was suffering from its own controversy as is) and Killer Instinct.
Cuellar himself admitted to the accusations and apologized for his past behavior. Not that it was going to do anything to stop the momentum of Evo’s collapse. Considering how Cuellar once got angry at an adult-themed Dead or Alive 6 advertisement at Evo Japan and called it out for being against Evo’s “core values,” the dogpiling on the hypocrisy was predictable.
Finally, Evo’s Twitter made it official.
Cuellar has parted with Evo and going forward, Tony Cannon will act as the CEO. Refunds will happen, natch.
I guess we’ll have to cross our fingers that Community Effort Orlando’s December event works out.