With EVO 2019's lineup set to be revealed later tonight, we take a look at what will, what could, and what won't be a part of the Evolution Championship Series this year.

The road to the biggest fighting game tournament of the year kicks off tonight, as the Evolution Championship Series or EVO will livestream the reveal of its 2019 main stage games. The fighting game landscape has vastly changed even since EVO 2018 last August, with Dead or Alive 6 and Mortal Kombat 11 releasing between now and then. There’s also a few under-the-radar games that could shock the gaming world and make it into the official EVO lineup, as well as a few stalwarts that could be unseated. Here’s my predictions for what’s in and what’s out at EVO 2019.

Street Fighter V should once again lead the EVO charge in 2019.

Lock ‘Em In

Street Fighter V - Capcom will hold the coveted “final game” at EVO for as long as it wants it, so expect Street Fighter V to once again anchor EVO 2019. The real question is how different  -- or completely unchanged -- SFV will look between now and August 2nd, because other than Kage and inconsequential DLC we’ve not seen a dang thing about upcoming content.

Dragon Ball FighterZ - When 2019 started Dragon Ball FighterZ’s esports future was in jeopardy, as someone over at Toei Animation didn’t want the game featured at EVO Japan 2019 and a few other tournaments. Now that Bandai Namco has announced a second World Tour starting at CEO in June, DBFZ’s EVO future seems a little more certain. It would be a real shame to see it left out, considering how it electrified last year’s crowd from start to finish, but I don’t think they can keep it off the main show this year.

Mortal Kombat 11 - The newest kid on the fighting game block is 100% a lock for this year’s EVO, there’s not a doubt in my mind. This is the biggest launch in 2019 for fighting games, NetherRealm Studios has supported EVO for years going back to MK9, and Injustice 2 had a strong showing at last year’s tournament as the first main series Grand Finals. The only question surrounding MK11 is this: Saturday or Sunday?

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate - Some might have expected me to write Melee in that slot -- oh, we’ll get to that one, friends -- but the incredible early competitive scene for Ultimate will absolutely earn it a spot on the main roster. From the first major at NEC 19 to the ongoing North American Online Open, there’s plenty of backup on Ultimate’s side to make a strong case not only for the main lineup, but for a Sunday spot.

Tekken 7 - Maybe it’s just me, but I’m more entertained by watching Tekken 7 matches than perhaps any other fighting game out there. Every match is dripping with tension, one false move spelling doom for the poor sap that made it. Tekken 7 has more than earned its Sunday spot at EVO 2019, the only weird thing now is potentially seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan crack Dragunov over the head with a barbed-wire bat in the EVO Grand Finals.

(Seriously, fighting game DLC has gone off the rails in the best way, but that’s a discussion for another day…)

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle could be left out of the EVO lineup, though it's not very likely.

The Coin Flips

Dead or Alive 6 - Two weeks ago I would have told you this game was a solid lock, another new game to feature alongside Mortal Kombat 11. Then the #CoreValues controversy materialized at EVO Japan, and now I’m not so sure. Does Joey Cuellar really want to open that can of worms again? It might already be too late, DoA6 could have been locked in a month ago and we don’t know about it, but if it’s still in his power I would think Mr Wiz would just leave it alone for this year. If -- and that’s a big IF -- Koei Tecmo brings a booth back to the convention hall, let them host their own tournament.

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle and Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 - These need to be lumped together, because they could affect each other’s EVO futures. They’re both weird to see in this position, as BBTAG’s EVO debut last year was a huge success and GGXrd served as a terrific opener for last year’s Sunday main stage, However, the field of potential games is much more crowded this year, and there’s not enough room for both of these games to make the lineup. Arc System Works holding their own Championship Series helps them, sure, but if ASW has a booth like last year they could always hold tournaments there too. This is the second most interesting story going into tonight’s reveal, the first being…

Super Smash Bros. Melee - The longest tenured game in EVO history, a game that has stood the test of time for 17 years, may have finally met its Ultimate match. Melee can still draw viewers and make money like crazy, no doubt, however Ultimate has that same potential and needs the singular spotlight to prove it. If it should disappoint then this could be a one-year absence, but right now Melee could be on the outside looking in.

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] might shock the world and end up at EVO.

The Dark Horses

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] - I’m bound to get a lot of looks on this one, but the UNIST community has slowly been growing in popularity right under our noses. It officially launched in the US territory last July, just before EVO 2018 in fact, so if there were ever a time to strike while the iron is hot it’s now.

Windjammers - This is more of a hopeful choice, but with Windjammers 2 coming this year putting it on the EVO stage would be a great way for fans who might not know about this classic game to learn about it and prepare. Windjammers can get incredibly hype at times, and I’d love to see a main stage EVO crowd see it for themselves.

Tetris 99 - ..ok, this one is a joke, but admit it: 99 Tetris players on one stage duking it out would be nuts.

The Odd Game Out

Injustice 2 - Mortal Kombat 11 is here. There’s not much more I need to say. Nothing against the DC Comics crew, but Scorpion said I had to GET OVER HERE and I’m not about to make him mad.

So who's in?!

Final Prediction

Based on all of this analysis -- and assuming EVO will be keeping the eight-game format from 2018 and not expanding to more games -- here’s how I see the official EVO 2019 lineup shaping up:

Sunday Main Stage:

Street Fighter V

Dragon Ball FighterZ

Tekken 7

Super Smash Bros Ultimate

Mortal Kombat 11

Saturday Finals:

Super Smash Bros Melee

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle

Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2

First One Out:

Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st]

The DoA6 scandal turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to Arc System Works, as dropping that game from contention opens the door for both BBTAG and GGXrd to appear on EVO’s main stage and once again give ASW an EVO hat trick. However, I think both games are relegated to Saturday finals to make way for MK11 on Sunday, with DBFZ serving as the lone “anime” fighting game on Finals day.

If a ninth game were to be added to this mix, I would still skip DoA6 and give it to the dark horse UNIST to open the Finals on Saturday. I truly do not think Cuellar will open that rabbit hole again.

Do you agree with my picks? Do you have picks of your own? Let us know in the comments and check out the livestream tonight at 9PM Eastern, 6PM Pacific to find out who’s going to EVO 2019. Don’t know how to tune in? Check out our handy viewing guide of the Evo 2019 game lineup reveal.


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