Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar Discusses Evo 2015’s Lineup

By on January 23, 2015 at 9:55 am
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A few days ago, Evo organizer Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar announced this year’s official lineup. While the event will consist of high-profile titles like Ultra Street Fighter IV, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee, it’s also scheduled to introduce a number of newcomers to the proceedings.

For a bit more insight into the process of choosing the Evo 2015 games, we conducted a quick interview with Cuellar shortly after his live appearance from Twitch headquarters.

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usfiv-posterAs recently as January 12, you were still looking to the community for feedback on Evo 2015. What is the process like for deciding which games make it in?

Joey “Mr. Wizard” Cuellar: It was more of a confirming that the community was still rooting for certain games in droves more than anything else. Stuff can change in a months’ time frame, so we wanted to make sure our lineup reflected the community’s thoughts on the subject. Many things go into what games makes it to Evo, but the most obvious one is, “Is the community playing this game?” A prime example of this is King of Fighters. After last year’s Evo, the game just stopped being played. Even in SoCal (Arguably the home of KOF in the United States), no one was playing this game. Even though it’s still a good game, the interest died out.

Were any titles given the final push they needed to make it into the official lineup with that last round of input? Maybe ones you changed your mind on?

Mr. Wizard: No, the lineup was pretty much decided by that point.

Ultra Street Fighter IV was practically given at this point, but Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 feels as if it’s fallen off a bit since Evo 2014. Was there any discussion about cutting it to make room or was it always considered a lock?

Mr. Wizard: It was always considered a lock. Last year Marvel has the highest viewership at Evo, and it was super exciting top eight. Players are still playing it around the country, so I don’t get the whole “dead” argument. Marvel is still the most exciting game to watch, in my opinion.

Super Smash Bros. Melee continues to enjoy an incredible resurgence, thanks in part to its inclusion at Evo 2014. Do you think it has the ability to pull off a feat like Marvel vs. Capcom 2’s nine straight appearances before throwing in the towel?

Mr. Wizard: It very well could. You have to remember this game is 15 years old, and it’s getting record numbers. Anything is possible with a very strong community like Smash.

This is Evo’s first year featuring two Arc System Works titles, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. What is it about those two games that caused you to break the tradition?

Mr. Wizard: BlazBlue having a big year last year certainly opened the door for this decision. Guilty Gear has always been an Evo favorite and it was back this year, and everyone seemed to be playing it. Persona also seems to cater to the not fully anime crowd and more on the mainstream side of things. This can lead to big things at Evo. BlazBlue had a version update that not to many players were fond of, and we rarely put a title in Evo based on the previous year’s top eight.

p4u2-jp-art-cropUltimax in particular seemed to come out of left field, even for folks like myself who had their fingers crossed it would be included. What helped it more: the strong showing its predecessor had at Evo 2013, the promise of international competition, or something else?

Mr. Wizard: Both to be honest. It had a great showing in 2013 and appealed to the audience, and a strong international presence is never a bad thing (see King of Fighters!).

Killer Instinct is an interesting title in that it’s seeing frequent updating in the form of new characters, balance patches, etc. Would it have returned to Evo if that wasn’t the case?

Mr. Wizard: No, it would not be in Evo if the game wasn’t updated with fresh content. Keeping players coming back for updates and new characters is what every game needs, and it definitely contributed to Killer Instinct coming back a second year.

Mortal Kombat X will have very little tournament exposure between its release in April and Evo in July. What is it that you’ve seen from the newcomer that makes you believe it will be a viable entry?

Mr. Wizard: Mortal Kombat 9 was a huge game for Evo and had a three-year run. Based on that alone, we have no doubt Mortal Kombat X will be a huge hit at Evo.

It’s been quite some time since Evo was played on arcade cabinets, but you’ve decided to return to the fighting game community’s roots in an effort to include Tekken 7 at this year’s event. What kind of logistics are involved in using such a platform?

Mr. Wizard: It really isn’t going to be played on cabinets. It’s more of a supergun type setup where they will have monitors and boards, and you will be able to plug in various pads and joysticks to play. This will make it easier for the community to play at Evo without having to sacrifice the controller that they love.

At this point in time, Tekken 7’s launch in March is confined to Japan. Do you expect other regions to have good showings if this remains the same or can we look forward to an all-Japan top eight?

Mr. Wizard: I think by going back to single characters instead of tag, a lot of players will return, and there are a lot of American players that play one character particularly  well. You saw this when a lot of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 teams consisted of two characters with the similar playstyle. A lot of these are the stronger players, and will have no problem picking up Tekken 7 fast, and I think the United States will have several players that place high at Evo.

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Evo 2015 is shaping up to be one of the most inclusive installments the tournament series has ever seen in terms of community representation. Any advice for folks out there who feel they’ve been left out in the cold that would help their game’s chances of making Evo 2016?

Mr. Wizard: The easiest way is to show up to tournaments year round. Just because you have a big side tournament at Evo, don’t expect a free pass into Evo next year. Players need to be excited and playing the game year round for consideration into Evo. Keeping up with your local scene and supporting it there will go a long way into showing support for your favorite game.

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What do you think of the Evo 2015 lineup? Feel free to let us know in the comments.