EVO in Las Vegas is known to members of the FGC or fighting game community as the biggest fighting game tournament out there. On February 26th the FGC was shaken when the main stage line-up for Evo was announced.
Under Night In-Birth Exe. Late[st] or UNIST for short, released on arcade in 2012 and in Japan in 2014 with further releases in North America and Europe in 2015. The title was co-developed by Ecole Software and French Bread Studio. It was produced by fighting game monolith, Arc System Works, which is responsible for major titles such as the BlazBlue series, the Guilty Gear series, and Dragon Ball FighterZ.
Despite being a lesser-known game, even to the core of the FGC, Evo executives determined that the UNIST community’s effort and dedication should be rewarded and they earned a main stage spot at the upcoming tournament.
However, according to pro competitor and commentator MakotoScrub, the game’s community wasn’t really trying to get on EVO’s main stage, as he mentioned in an interview conducted by Twinfinite:
“Honestly, the community wasn’t really gunning for Evo, they just wanted people to take notice of their game as a statement that if you’re passionate about what you like you’ll attract others who have the same interest.”
He also mentioned that the inclusion in the tournament may have triggered relevant growth for the community.
“…within five days I’ve seen more people say that they’re going to buy UNIST and give it an honest shot [since the game’s release]…and that should speak for itself.”
Huge names in the FGC such as HookGangGod, Punk, and Sajam have all stated that they are picking up the game and beginning the journey of learning its fundamentals. This is especially surprising for a community that, for the most part, only picks up newer games on a competitive level. UNIST is over six years old.
This surge in support is huge for the game’s community and symbolizes the dedication and effort that pros such as MakotoScrub and other fans of the game have put in.
Under Night In-Birth Exe. Late[st] is more of a niche fighting game and it is unlikely that gamers outside of the FGC have even heard of it, but due to its community’s dedication, it made its way onto the same stage as massive titles such as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11. Some would even argue that UNIST is responsible for booting Super Smash Bros. Melee, one of the most commercially successful fighting games of all time, from the main stage at EVO. That would make this the first time in over five years that Melee hasn’t been on the main stage.
Even MakotoScrub, a dedicated UNIST player admits:
“From a business standpoint, I would personally keep Melee [at Evo] because the game usually breaks over 1000 competitors and that alone trumps most other games that get in.”
Yet, he believes that having diverse and more niche games improves the presentation.
“Having more unique games that people normally don’t get to see would also mean that Evo is being more diverse in its presentation of the types of games that are run.”
Whether UNIST was responsible for Melee’s downfall or not, it is a positive change to see more niche and less known titles seeing equal representation on the competitive scene.
UNIST’s ascension to the main stage was a shock to the FGC and in addition to pleasing the game’s dedicated player base and bolstering its numbers, it also upset a lot of people, predominantly among Melee players. According to MakotoScrub, “considering most people’s prior knowledge of what makes an EVO game a main title, [UNIST was highly unexpected.]”
EVO in Las Vegas is considered by many the pinnacle of fighting game tournaments and for a six-year-old game to make the main stage is incredible, but it couldn’t have happened without an amazing, dedicated community.
Evo 2019 will take place from August 2nd to August 4th at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This post was originally written by Ian Conrardy.