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Evo 2017: Attendance drop is just returning to the mean

Evolution 2017 has seen massive drop-offs in terms of entrances. Street Fighter V is down nearly 50% from 2016, both Smash games lost almost 1,000 unique entrants, and the newer released games failed to reach their expected marks. So, what’s causing this?

The game to focus on here is Street Fighter V. SFV was wildly successful in its first year as players seemed ready to move on from Street Fighter IV. This caused the spike in attendance from Evo 2015 to Evo 2016. The extra 2,800 players created a trickle down effect for the rest of the games as there were the most crossover entrances in Evo history.

The fighting game community was buzzing around the time Evo 2016 rolled around. SFV was still a new game and no one wanted to miss out on the first Evo featuring the newest Street Fighter game. Evo 2016 had the most first timers in its history. While first time attendees are a good thing, it’s fleeting and not sustainable. It created unreasonable expectations for the follow-up year because the numbers exploded.

Additionally, Evo made the jump from the Westgate to the Las Vegas Convention Center while moving championship Sunday to the Mandalay Bay Sports Arena. It was a perfect combination of Evo taking strides to enhance the experience and a new game that brought extra attention to the tournament. It all culminated into the biggest Evo in its 14-year history.

evo 2017
Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

Fast forward to today, the buzz from last year has died off. In some respects, players now consider SFV to be an under-developed game that was rushed to market. Even with an influx of other fighting games being released in 2017, the sour taste SFV left in players mouths might have dissuaded them from attending Evo.

The direct result of SFV’s lackluster year is what we’re seeing now. Attendance is down across the board, with a few exceptions. SFV took the biggest hit. It’s not the sole reason attendance is down, but the larger player pool provided by SFV facilitated growth for nearly every other game.

Was 2016 an outlier? 

On the other hand, 2016 could be considered an outlier. Before 2016, Evo had never reached over 10,000 unique entrants. The numbers have been skewed by new releases and don’t provide an accurate estimate.

Take the release of the new Super Smash Brothers game for example. Three years ago, the popularity spiked and broke the record for the second most entered event in Evo history. Then the release of SFV started the trickle down and Smash re-broke their same record.

Returning to the present time, the Smash 4 numbers have dropped significantly. Is it because the community has shrunken in size? No, it’s just coming back to the average. Evo had doubled the entrants of most Smash majors last year. It’s no surprise to see the Evo numbers coming down.

As for Melee, the lack of a Sunday slot seemed to hurt the overall total. Part of the draw of Evo is having your favorite game on the main stage Sunday afternoon. Melee’s numbers dropping are correlated to the move to Saturday’s night. The trickle down hurts melee as well but not nearly as bad as Smash 4. It’s Evo’s lowest number of entrants for Melee since 2013.

In reality, the combination of factors when realizing that last year was a total outlier and not indicative of actual Evo numbers explains the drop. It’s still the third largest Evo in the tournaments history and will bring the same level of competition as ever. The general fan decided to stay and watch from home this year.


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Featured image courtesy of twitch.tv/capcomfighters

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