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Evolution Championship Series

EVO 2016 Nevada Brings Esports Back To ESPN This Weekend

Joss Wood July 15, 2016

The Evolution Championship Series (EVO), which takes place the weekend of July 15 to July 17, will be broadcast with 18 hours of coverage on ESPN.

The self-proclaimed “largest and longest-running fighting game tournament in the world,” is being held in Nevada at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

Nine fighting games are on offer:

  • Street Fighter V
  • Super Smash Bros. Melee
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
  • Killer Instinct
  • Pokkén Tournament
  • Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator
  • Tekken 7: Fated Retribution

More than 15,000 players will be competing, a new record for the EVO series, although the ESPN2 coverage will focus on Street Fighter V.

ESPN Digital Media VP John Lasker said:

“The Street Fighter V World Championship will be one of the must-see competitions from the Evo finals. We are always exploring ways to serve the growing and passionate audience of competitive gaming, and we look forward to delivering this event to fans.”

Evo CEO Joey Cuellar added:

“Evo is excited to bring the energy and excitement of our world finals to a wider audience. ESPN brings us an amazing opportunity to showcase the fighting game community competing at its highest level.”

ESPN is an early entrant to esports broadcasting

ESPN3 launched esports broadcasting in 2014 with coverage of BlizzCon and The International Dota 2 Championships as well as the 2014 League of Legends tournament.

The network has provided live coverage of Heroes of the Dorm in 2015 and 2016, with the final airing live on ESPN2.

In 2016, ESPN added “an esports vertical offering comprehensive coverage surrounding the world of competitive gaming.”

Esports profiles aren’t all suitable for mainstream broadcast

Despite the clear intention of ESPN to add esports coverage, the transition to making esports an integral part of the network has not been easy.

The focus on the Street Fighter V matches at EVO can be considered a response to concerns about the violence of some of the games on offer at the tournament. Street Fighter V characters are more representative of comic strips and the action is a long way from the graphic violence displayed in Mortal Kombat.

The video below is typical of the Mortal Combat titles available on YouTube.

Understanding the action is critical to audience engagement

The last major esports broadcast on ESPN2 was coverage of EA’s Madden NFL 16 Championship held on June 14. Based on American football, Madden has the advantage that the action is understandable to a broader audience than just Madden players.

Complex strategy games like League of Legends demand some familiarity with the game to understand what is happening on screen. This requirement reduces the potential audience for broadcasts of such games.

Street Fighter V provides an ideal compromise between violence and complexity. The fights between individual characters are simple to understand in outline.

Even if the detail of the moves each player makes is described by commentators using technical in-game jargon, it is clear to see who is winning or losing.

The next few years will see mainstream TV exercise a role in picking the winners and losers from the range of esports now available. To be a TV winner, an esport has to appeal to an audience greater than its own players.

Over time, the need to make attractive viewing is likely to affect game design—less violent and simpler to understand events are more likely to succeed.

As viewership expands, interest in esports betting on televised events is likely to grow rapidly.

Image credit: Bucchi Francesco / Shutterstock.com

This Will (Probably) Be The First Esports Bet Taken In A Las Vegas Casino

Joss Wood June 1, 2016

This year’s EVO 2016 tournament is set to be the biggest in the event’s history.

Entries for the Street Fighter V tournament had exceeded 4,000 by early April, which is one reason why the Downtown Grand Casino (DTG) wants EVO 2016 to be the first esports event on which players can legally wager on the outcome in a Las Vegas casino.

EVO 2016 is scheduled from July 15 to July 17, with the early rounds taking place at the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sunday finals booked for the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

All the tournaments on the schedule are fighting games. The full list of games is out, but the schedule and times for the tournaments have not yet been released.

Full list of games at the event

  • Street Fighter V
  • Super Smash Bros
  • Melee
  • Super Smash Bros. for Wii U
  • Guilty Gear Xrd:REVELATOR
  • Mortal Kombat X
  • Pokkén Tournament
  • Killer Instinct
  • Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3
  • Tekken 7: Fated Retribution

Size and data history give the DTG confidence it can make a book

The first EVO was held in 2002, and since 2005, the event has been held at various locations in Nevada. In 2009, it passed the benchmark of 1,000 entrants for the first time, and has been growing rapidly since.

The event’s relative longevity and the size of the fan base it attracts make it an attractive proposition for being the first esports event on which a Las Vegas casino wants to take bets.

ESBR interviewed DTG’s CEO Seth Schorr to get his take on both the process of applying for a license to take esports bets, and his plans to develop esports betting further.

DTG and EVO could offer the first legal esports bets in the U.S.

The DTG is the first casino in Las Vegas to create a dedicated esports lounge, and every weekend it holds esports tournaments with real money prizes. DTG began its journey into esports by sponsoring the Renegades team to live and train at the hotel.

The DTG’s bookmakers, William Hill, have submitted an application to the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) to take wagers on this summer’s EVO competition.

Schorr explained to ESBR that he and his team are working closely with the NGCB to help process the application which is the first of its type in Nevada.

“We’re taking a very proactive and personal role working with the NGCB getting them comfortable with the nuance of the culture and understanding how this is being facilitated in regulated markets today.”

At the last Nevada Gaming Policy Committee meeting, the governor of Nevada, Brian Sandoval, took the chair and led the members in presenting a very positive approach to the possibility of permitting esports betting.

Schorr gave evidence at that meeting, and was left with the impression that the NGCB would approve the license application if the DTG could clearly show that it could manage the wagering at the high standard of consumer protection required by the NGCB.

If all goes well, EVO could make history as the first esports event on which fans in Las Vegas can legally place bets. If so, the credit will go to both Seth Schorr and the NGCB for their bold innovation.

Image credit: Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com