This year, during EVO 2018, I heard a confounding statement from an Arc System Works fan. “Man, ASW really had nothing to announce this year, did they?”

My response was to stare blankly with my jaw hanging open, as if I was listening to him speak some strange alien language.

Nothing to announce this year? What?!

They announced nine new characters and a brand new franchise crossover for BlazBlue Cross-Tag Battle, and said that these new characters would be playable in just a few days. That’s one of the biggest announcements of any game at EVO.

“Oh… I guess I missed it,” they replied.

Of course they missed it, because ASW was a victim of the EVO Snub.

It’s not a popularity contest

Every year, fighting game fans talk about which game is going to get the EVO bump. The EVO Bump is a simple concept. If a game is featured at EVO, people are going to want to play it. This drives sales and hype for the game and aids it in succeeding in a market that is currently saturated with fighting games.

Getting the EVO Bump is great news for your game. Even if you don’t make the main stage, the simple existence of your game at EVO is enough to get people playing.

However, we rarely talk about what happens to games that don’t get invited to EVO in their first year of release. This is the EVO Snub.

To be clear, the EVO Snub doesn’t have to necessarily refer to EVO omitting a game from their lineup. It refers to any behavior that EVO takes that could somehow decrease the popularity of a game. EVO is not just a reactive tournament organization. Believe it or not, their decisions do a lot to shape the fighting game landscape. Since EVO has routinely said that they “are not a popularity contest” and can include whatever games in whatever slots they wish, this means that EVO can play favorites with certain titles, choosing which ones succeed and which ones fail.

A historic example

Of course, EVO doesn’t always play favorites. Some examples of the EVO snub actually were a result of a literal popularity contest.

The most notable example was from EVO 2013, when Smash Bros. Melee and Skullgirls went head to head in a charity donate-off to get the coveted “ninth slot” on the EVO main stage. Skullgirls put up a good fight but Melee eventually edged out a win, earning it the slot. The result? The Melee tournament scene was reinvigorated, so much so that it is now one of the biggest and most profitable alternative fighting game scenes out there? Skullgirls, despite its quality, faded from existence. No one is going to play a game with a prize pool that consists of a bottle of water and a granola bar for very long.

Still snubbing today

This brings us to the modern day and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. We all liked to joke around about how small the MVCI community was, and how it simply didn’t deserve a space in EVO. We looked at the Steam charts and saw that MVCI only had about 300 people playing it at any given time, and this was way, way too low for a game to get on EVO’s main stage. We laughed and pointed and watched as MVCI faded into the distance, a memory of what could have been in Capcom just listened to fans.

But things aren’t that simple.Let’s go back to the Steam charts.

You know what other game only has 275 players playing at time of writing? Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2. Yet this was a game that not only got into EVO, but ended up on Sunday’s main stage. Like it or not, the two had similar levels of popularity at the time that EVO made its decision to leave Marvel out of the lineup. EVO chose to exclude Marvel, and that helped it to fail.

And look at the two games now. MVCI has had all support cut, ending up in the dead game pile, while Guilty Gear has something new being developed and a new tournament series to support it.

The EVO Snub was a huge part of why that happened.

“Nothing to announce this year?”

This brings us back to the original sentiment, that Arc System Works had nothing to announce this year. This too is because of the EVO Snub, but on  a smaller scale.

You see, while Guilty Gear Xrd Rev2 had 275 players on steam at time of writing, BlazBlue Cross-Tag Battle had over 1000. BBCTAG pulls better numbers than Guilty Gear in every way, pulling in double the tournament entrants. Yet, BBCTAG didn’t get to be on the main stage. It had its pools rushed, and its finals aired on Saturday, which is a day that a good portion of the FGC isn’t watching EVO.Why? Because it’s not a main event.

EVO played favorites. They defended themselves saying, one again, that they have never been a popularity contest. And you know what? They are right. They are a privately owned tournament series, they can do whatever they want. If they like Guilty Gear more than BlazBlue there’s nothing we can do about it.

However, they have to accept that this means they are making decisions that can decide the fate of games. So much of the BBCTAG fandom was not even aware of the new DLC trailer or release date. While, yes, some people will complain that all this info has been long since datamined, not everyone keeps up with fighting game news that religiously. Plenty would have missed the datamine, and even those who were fully spoiled got hype when all nine of these new DLC characters were not only shown off, but revealed to be playable in a manner of days.

However, anyone who tuned in to finals day wouldn’t have seen that. They saw ASW say that they had a new tournament series, and if you count DBFZ as an ASW game (despite the fact that Bandai Namco produces it) then they saw a re-announcement of two DBFZ characters we already knew about, and a teaser for a third without a release date. That’s not a lot.

When a company doesn’t have a lot of news to share, their fans dwindle, and when fans dwindle fighting games die.

What to do about the snub?

EVO has the right to include whatever game they think is best, and they will try to highlight popular titles as much as possible because that brings in tickets and views and tickets and views earn them money. However, no one, not even the EVO organizers are immune to bias, which is where the concept of the EVO Snub originates.

Perhaps the most ethical thing to do is make EVO a popularity contest. The games with the most entrants and highest views get on the main stage. The titles that have the most active players should probably be main events rather than side tournaments. EVO is going to have an effect on the success and failure of fighting games whether they want to or not. The only way to minimize that effect is to simply give bumps or snubs to games that were succeeding or failing in the first place.

But who knows. Maybe EVO is perfectly content wielding the power they have. Maybe this is how the fighting game old guard gets their voice heard, and maybe this is why some franchises, like Street Fighter will never die. Is that really such a bad thing?

Let us know what you think in the comments.