7 February 2017 - 16:27

The race for the final Evo spot is down to two games—for now

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Pokken Tournament are head and shoulders in front of the rest of the field, but anything can happen in the final 24 hours.
Dot Esports
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Photo via Ellen van Deelen (CC BY 2.) (remix by Kevin Morris)

The battle for the final spot in the Evo 2017 lineup appears to be down to a two-horse race.

Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 and Pokken Tournament are head-and-shoulders above the rest of the nine-game field heading into the final 24 hours of the Evo 2017 Community Choice charity drive. The donation drive, which benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation, ends at 3pm ET / 12pm PT on Wednesday.

Marvel had over $28,000 raised in its name by Monday morning, just ahead of Pokken's $25,000. Each game has raised over four times the amount donated behalf of the current third-place game, Killer Instinct.

The game that has the most money raised in its name will become the ninth and (presumably) final game added to the Evo 2017 lineup. The winning game will see its finals played on "Championship Sunday" at the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center, and its tournament will receive a $10,000 pot bonus from Evo itself.

The lead may be large now, but history suggests that no lead is safe. Evo last organized a charity drive to determine which game made the lineup in 2013. In that drive, eventually won by Super Smash Bros. Melee, nearly 60 percent of all donations were made in the final 24 hours of the contest. That's why no game is truly out of the race just yet.

That's also why neither of the leading games' communities are resting on their laurels.

"We're all-hands on deck for the donation drive," said Hayden "Kinderparty" Griswold, host of the bi-weekly talk show 'Marvel Live.' "We've got everything from tournaments taking dollars in jars to t-shirt drives with community artists [...] and a whole lot more."

Part of the Marvel community's efforts included fundraising during Undefeated 2017, a major Marvel tournament that took place in Phoenix this past weekend. Players could take part in money matches on-stream where the losing player had to donate $20 to the cause. One person even wrote a 50,000-word guide which covers much of the game's history.

Not to be outdone, the Pokken Tournament community has organized several of its own efforts. Customized controller sales, t-shirt campaigns, and donation-matching campaigns are just some of the things that have kept Pokken in the thick of the race. One player - Wesley "Bim" Murray - even shaved his head on-stream in exchange for a $1,000 donation on the game's behalf.

"If there's a will, there's a way," said Allister Singh, a top Pokken player who has helped lead several of the game's fundraising efforts. "The Pokken community is heavily dedicated and will try to seize any opportunity they can get. Having Pokken Tournament [become] part of Evo history [in 2016] was such a spectacular milestone in the game’s progress, so it greatly boosted our morale."

Both Griswold and Singh will participate in fundraising streams over the final hours of the campaign. Griswold will host a special edition of 'Marvel Live' on Tuesday night, while Singh will be one of several participants on a 24-hour stream that begins on Tuesday afternoon and runs until the campaign ends at 3pm ET on Wednesday.

Stream plans aren't the only thing the two men have in common. Both are hoping that their respective games follow the path of Super Smash Bros. Melee after its 2013 triumph. Melee's victory enabled the game to return to the event after a six-year absence, and the game has become a cornerstone of the Evo lineup ever since.

"[W]inning the Evo drive shot [Melee] to the moon." said Griswold. "It's a great way to put a game into the spotlight and sell their stories and create a connection with a huge audience."

No matter which game wins, both communities have stepped up to the proverbial plate in a big way these past two weeks. Even for the game that will fall short in this contest, that momentum will still be something to build upon.

"The most important thing is, even if we fall short of the donation drive, we have already won," Singh said. "It was anticipated that we weren’t even supposed to be in the race, so with this opportunity we were able to show our humongous passion for Pokken."

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