Evo Japan kicked off on January 24 with some unfortunate news for those hoping for a massive Smash Ultimate tournament to watch: almost half of its competitors didn't bother to show up.
No shows at fighting game community events are a common occurrence, but it's not usually at such a high rate. 2,988 entered, and only 1,819 showed up. This means that 39.12% of entrants were unable to make their pools.
This could have been from any number of circumstances, including travel difficulties, difficulties finding the venue, or people just deciding it was not worth attending the event at all. Also, it could be that many Japanese competitors had difficulty taking off from work, as it's widely noted that many employers in Japan have issues with offering requested time off.
The other games at Evo Japan have not had the same issue, meaning this is likely isolated to Smash Ultimate, but why?
The game's run at Evo Japan has been heavily criticized by fans due to its lack of a prize pool. The only prize for winning the entire event is a special Nintendo Gamecube controller provided by Nintendo that has a unique golden Smash ball logo.
With no prize pool for the event, many competitors could have canceled their plans to attend, despite it offering a significant amount of Panda Global Ranking points, the one accepted metric by which pros are ranked in the Smash scene.
juddy's as close to accurate EVO Japan 2020 Smash Ultimate numbers as possible:
1819 players showed up
— Justin (juddy96) (@juddy_96) January 24, 2020
Most of the notable players going to Evo Japan did make it to their pool, so overall the top echelon of competition should be unaffected by these happenings.
It's worth pointing out that all of the other events at Evo Japan are affiliated with the Japan Esports Union and are accredited games. This allows them, under Japanese law, to offer prize pools at events. Nintendo has not participated in this organization or its discussions, which prevents Evo from offering a prize at all. This event was also a free entry tournament, which meant there was little to no risk to signing up, even if you couldn't end up making it.
With Genesis 7 also running this weekend, also playing host to over 1,600 entrants, it will be a hype weekend of Smash esports action regardless.
Evo Japan will run from January 24-26 in Tokyo, Japan. Smash Ultimate's Top 8 is scheduled for 10:30 PM Eastern Standard Time on January 25, assuming Tekken 7 does not run long.