Is Mortal Kombat 11’s EVO 2020 Absence Actually Surprising?

Is Mortal Kombat 11’s EVO 2020 Absence Actually Surprising?

With Mortal Kombat 11 being absent from Evo 2020, I was pretty shocked. However, maybe it isn't as shocking as I initially thought.

Last night, the Evo 2020 game lineup was announced bringing eight modern games and one classic to the biggest fighting game tournament of the year. Just as a reminder, here are the nine games that will be on the big stage:

  • Street Fighter V: Championship Edition
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
  • Dragon Ball FighterZ
  • Tekken 7
  • Soul Calibur 6
  • GranBlue Fantasy Versus
  • Samurai Shodown
  • Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[cl-r]
  • Marvel vs. Capcom 2

While there are many games that did not make the cut, there is one standout title that has surprised both the FGC (fighting game community) and the general gaming community. No, it is not Super Smash Bros. Melee. NetherRealm Studios’ 2019 release Mortal Kombat 11 did not make the cut this year for Evo 2020.

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Considering how well the game has been doing in terms of sales, critical acclaim, and garnering entries for Evo last year, it seemed like a lock for Evo 2020. But as Evo co-founder Joey Cuellar was revealing the games, with the first four being the shoo-in games for the tournament, it became clear Mortal Kombat 11 wasn’t going to be making the cut. Initially, this was a surprise to me. Mostly because this is the fighting game I’ve followed the most since its release. In my eyes, this community seemed rather active with a presence at every major fighting game tournament. But is Mortal Kombat 11‘s absence really a surprise?

To begin, let’s look at the numbers Mortal Kombat 11 brought in at Evo 2019. Last year, Cuellar posted the final entrant numbers for each game. There were a total of 14,321 entrants split between nine games. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate had the largest pool garnering 3,492 entrants, while BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle had the smallest pool, with 640 entrants. Mortal Kombat 11 had a total of 1,567 entrants, which was roughly 10% of all entrants at Evo 2019.

Assuming bringing in entrants for the event is important for Evo since it makes money from players registering, I do not believe Mortal Kombat 11 was cut because it wasn’t bringing in enough people to the actual event. If that were the case, Soul Calibur VI would have been cut as it only brought in 742 players. Outside of Evo, Mortal Kombat 11 has brought in plenty of entrants to the events that showcase it. It had the second-largest pool with 531 entrants at CEO 2019 and the larget pool at Combo Breaker with 758 entrants.

Since it seems like Mortal Kombat 11 was bringing in people physically to the venue, maybe it wasn’t bringing in enough people to its Twitch stream. Using for the metrics, it seems like the NRS fighter did pretty well. It wasn’t the best out of the bunch, but it certainly was not the worst. At Evo 2019, Mortal Kombat 11 had an average of 51,719 viewers with its peak being 74,987 viewers during its slot on August 3, 2019. There were a total of 466k viewers that popped in during the tournament, with the Evo Twitch channel garnering 3.7K followers during its 4.6-hour duration.

Dragon Ball FighterZ was the other big game that day and actually had an earlier slot. It had over 60k viewers on average, with over 96k viewers at its peak during the Sonic Fox and Go1 final. It did have a lower viewership with 222k viewers in total but garnered more followers for the channel. Depending on one what determines “success” either one of the two could be considered good draws for the tournament.

evo 2020

Even though those aren’t bad numbers, Mortal Kombat 11 certainly did not keep up with Sunday’s competition. Tekken 7 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brought in the most viewers and followers overall. But it did do better (in regards to these stats) than Samurai Shodown, UNIST (Under Night In-Birth) and Soul Calibur IV, all of which are present at Evo 2020. So, it couldn’t be that Mortal Kombat 11 doesn’t draw in an online audience.

I did want to see how well Mortal Kombat 11 has done on Twitch in general since it launched last year. It does take a substantial dip between April 2019 (launch month) and July 2019. Since then it has been pretty steady, albeit lower on viewers. In comparison to another fighter that came out last year, Samurai Shodown seems to be maintaining its popularity among its fanbase while Mortal Kombat 11 has dipped pretty substantially. Those probably aren’t the best comparisons considering how much more popular Mortal Kombat 11 was last year, but there is definitely a dip in interest.

But again, that is just looking at it overall. In a tournament setting, people (like myself) start to get hyped and carve out time to watch their favorite games. That being said, I don’t think Mortal Kombat 11‘s absence is a numbers issue. Clearly, there are less popular games that made it on that list.

When the news broke that Mortal Kombat 11, I started seeing a bit of a pattern in regards to how players were treated at Evo 2019 and how it isn’t really all that surprising that the game isn’t going to be there. A sort of separation between the MK players and the rest of the FGC. Here are a few tweets from some of the top Mortal Kombat players suggesting it’s not just because of numbers.

All of these tweets refer to some sort of politics behind the scenes. They also touch on how the Mortal Kombat 11 community was treated while at Evo. None of them really explicitly say how they were mistreated or what sort of politics would be behind the game’s absence at Evo 2020, but it doesn’t come as a big surprise to these players.

Neither NRS or Evo have not yet commented on why Mortal Kombat 11 is being left out this year. And I’m not quite sure if they will. NRS has its own plans for esports, which will probably be announced at the Final Kombat event in March. Maybe NRS wants its competition to be more online-focused like Tweedy mentioned. There could even be some sort of dispute between NRS and Evo that we don’t know about.

Regardless, Evo isn’t the only stage fighting games are played on competitively. It is almost certain Mortal Kombat 11 will be present at other events like Combo Breaker and CES, but I would be lying if I said I’m not a bit bewildered. Tell us why you think Mortal Kombat 11 isn’t going to be at Evo 2020 in the comments below.