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Caesar’s Palace has been home to some of the most legendary fights in history, champions like Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Sugar Ray Leonard have all graced the famed outdoor arena. But a fight of a totally different kind takes over the strip this year, attracting thousands of hungry competitors to the Palace. Enter the EVO fighting game World Championships, the video game version of the WBA Heavyweight title fight, which brings together the world’s top players with one common goal—to find out which player reigns supreme.
It’s this collective spirit of one-upmanship and competition, born from the days of classic arcade rivalries, that fuels the tournament. Back in the day, quarters on the arcade cabinet meant your spot was next, but with today’s online play, rivalries have gone global, with players emerging from all over the world. It’s from this deep love of competition and urge to be the best that EVO was born:
“There’s something about one-on-one combat that makes it intense,” said Joey Cuellar, one of EVO’s founding members and an administrator at the fighting-game website Shoryuken.com. “It’s almost like you personally take it out on the other guy.”
The idea for the tournament originally started out on the old usenet network that later became Shoryuken.com, emerging from an argument among the community about who was the top Street Fighter player.
“Back then it was more of an underground and grass-root,” Cuellar said. “It took on a life of its own. It’s out of control.”
There were 40 people at the inaugural EVO tournament, and the only arcade cabinet available was the old Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Now the event has 4,500 entrants and over 8,000 spectators are expected to attend. The event, now officially sponsored by Capcom, will also feature guest appearances by Street Fighter IV producer Yoshinari Ono, and the producer of the upcoming Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Ryota Nitsuma. Capcom is also giving EVO attendants first crack at playing MVC3, months before its official release.
EVO 2010 will host six different fighting games, with the main attraction being the freshly released Super Street Fighter IV. EVO still caters to its hardcore fanbase though, with tournaments for Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Tekken 6 and the eclectic anime fighter Melty-Blood: Actress Again.
Despite its current success, it’s important to note that fighting games were on the ropes for a long time, especially in America where arcades quickly began to go belly up as internet gaming gained popularity.“Fighting games have always been around, but over the past few years it’s been dead,” Cuellar said. He added that the emergence of Street Fighter IV helped bring the genre back to prominence.
Street Fighter’s triumphant return has brought fighting games back to the mainstream, and coupled with the advent of X-Box Live and the Playstation Network, has allowed gamers to easily challenge each other and keep the spirit of competition alive.