Nintendo parts way with Evolution: What happened?


Evolution, originally known as “Battle at the Bay,” is the biggest fighting game tournament of the year hosted at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Players from around the world compete at the highest level in some of the biggest fighting games: Street Fighter, Tekken, Super Smash Bros., and more.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic back in 2020, Evolution has gone through some significant changes. Not only was Evolution 2020 canceled due to the rise of COVID-19, but former Evolution president and co-founder Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cueller was removed due to sexual allegations, and Tony Cannon was hired as CEO. Shortly after, Evolution 2021 was canceled in-person due to the rise of the Delta variant and an online event was planned with only select fighting games. A joint partnership was also made with Evolution joining Sony Interactive Entertainment and RTS.
Evolution recently announced that it would be making a return to Las Vegas this year and on March 8th announced the official lineup of fighting games. However, Evolution made it clear that Super Smash Bros. would not be making a return.
“We want to let you know in advance that Super Smash Bros. will not be making a return appearance, in a recent Instagram post the Evolution team said. “Since 2007, we’ve seen historic Super Smash Bros. moments created at Evo’s events. We are saddened Nintendo has chosen not to continue that legacy with us this year. In the future, we hope to once again celebrate the Super Smash Bros. community alongside them.”
Nintendo’s parting ways with Evolution is a huge deal because Super Smash Bros. has one of the largest communities within the fighting game community; however, Nintendo has had some history with Evolution before their parting ways. The Super Smash Bros. Melee community raised the highest amount of money among all the communities with $94,683, solidifying their spot on Evo’s lineup. Super Smash Bros. Melee was being broadcasted on Twitch and Nintendo tried blocking the broadcast of the tournament. Fortunately, the Evolution team and Nintendo agreed to broadcast the rest of the Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament.
The question that the fighting game community wants to know is what happened between Nintendo and Evolution? What resulted in Nintendo parting ways with Evolution? The biggest piece of evidence for Nintendo’s departure could be because there’s a conflict of interest between Nintendo and Evolution.
In November of last year, Nintendo partnered with Esports team Panda Global to host various Super Smash Bros. tournaments for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate. If Evolution were to have Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the lineup, it would ultimately defeat the purpose of Nintendo partnering with Panda Global to host Super Smash Bros. tournaments. Though we don’t know if this is Nintendo’s reason for parting ways with Evolution, it does make sense that they’d leave due to a conflict of interest. We can also take into account that Nintendo wouldn’t want to be associated with a tournament that’s not hosted by them, respectively. Nintendo has hosted tournaments featuring their IPs played at a competitive level such as Splatoon.
Reactions to Nintendo’s departure have been extreme with the Super Smash Bros. community being upset over Nintendo’s decision. Many fans call this departure the “reason why Nintendo hates its fans” and many claim they won’t be watching Evolution due to Super Smash Bros. not appearing. However, there are fighting game fans that respect Nintendo’s decision to part ways. Many fans believe that Super Smash Bros. isn’t a true fighting game by nature and that this will open the gate for other fighting games and their communities to be represented. Senior D’Yontae Johnson believes that while Nintendo played its role in making Evolution bigger and wide-spreading to casual audiences within the fighting game community, Evolution will do just fine without Nintendo.
The way I see it, Nintendo’s departure will dramatically affect Evolution in the long run and see some of the biggest viewership changes Evolution has seen in recent years. It’s no secret that Super Smash Bros. brings in more audiences and player outputs than any fighting game that’s been on Evo’s lineup. People love and respect the competitive Super Smash Bros., it’s the most audience-friendly fighting game for casual audiences to spectate. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate set a viewership record for Evolution back in 2019 which saw 200,000 viewers and a peak of 279,000 viewers on Twitch.
Evolution that year had an average viewership of 58,286 viewers and a peak of 245,624 viewers. Needless to say, Super Smash Bros. attracts high viewership numbers, but with Super Smash Bros. not being on Evo’s lineup, viewership numbers could look drastically different.
Nintendo’s decision to part ways with Evolution is something that’ll be talked about for a long time within the fighting game community. Even with the evidence for Nintendo’s departure, Nintendo’s decision is unjustified because Nintendo has no reason to back out. This is a classic case of Nintendo not wanting their communities to be happy and play their IPs, and this is not the first time Nintendo has shown their true colors.