EVO Japan 2023 took place from 31 March to 4 April, and was the first in-person Evo held in the country since 2020. Hosted at Tokyo Big Sight, the world's premiere fighting game competition was coming home and hopes were high… but it all turned out to be a bit of a mess.
There were still plenty of great fights to be seen, eventually, but the problems were numerous. There were a lack of staff, the venue was cramped, disorganisation over brackets in certain games saw enormous downtime between matches, and many players complained about the game setups being laggy.
Some fans thought that players, rather unfairly, were being salty about losses, but Evo general manager Richard Thiher subsequently confirmed the technical issues. "It is important to confirm that Punk and others were right, the Evo Japan 2023 stage setup negatively impacted players," said Thiher. "It is also necessary to confirm it was the stage and stream design itself, not the INZONE monitors. We will prove that to you at other events this year."
Now Evo has issued an apologetic statement, acknowledging the issues and promising to do better in future:
"Evo Japan 2023 excited an incredible number of players and viewers with its new location, presentation, and expanded activities this year. We also know that the event produced a flawed competitor experience throughout the tournament. That imbalance will never happen again.
"We are committed to making great player experiences globally. Our US team will work closely with our partners in Japan to align this event series with community expectations. Evo Japan has limitless potential as an experience and destination. We will ensure it reaches it for you."
As several fans have noted, what's surprising about this is that Evo is a long-established tournament that has a pretty great track record: You'd think if anyone knew how to do a fighting game tournament, it would be this lot. But players should also perhaps cut Evo a little slack, at least this time: Every events company is struggling to deal with our post-Covid reality, budgets are tighter than ever, and trying to re-start something after three years off is easier said than done. Evo says it'll improve things next time around, and will have the chance to.