The FGC has been craving a major offline event for quite some time. Pinnacle and Summer Jam were great primers for reentering the unparalleled in-person atmosphere that fighting games thrive in, but truly massive majors are hard to compare to. Cue CEO. The brainchild of Orlando-based TO Alex Jebailey, CEO is a massive fighting game tournament themed around professional wrestling. The stream and top eight matches play out on giant wrestling arenas in front of a ballroom full of energetic viewers, and the spectacle is perfect for the high-octane fighting game genre. As the first massive offline major in the US since the pandemic began, CEO had two years of anticipation to live up to.
Well, now that the event has concluded, it’s safe to say that Jebailey and the CEO team have gone above and beyond, delivering a fighting game event that no one will ever forget.
Thursday night, it was clear that this type of event was something the FGC was clamoring for. Players began pouring into the Wyndham, the hotel whose ballrooms would become the proving grounds for an ocean of fighting game fans over the weekend. The CEO team got their own version of a button check, some trading competitor and spectator credentials for vaccine cards and negative COVID tests while others completed setting up the many spaces. A warm up before the true opening Friday morning. Spanning three different ballrooms, CEO’s atmosphere had completely conquered the massive hotel. Merch stands were up and ready, prepared to sell fan art, memorabilia, and those neat cat-ified character keychains through the weekend. Shouts could be heard around Marvel vs. Capcom 3 setups in the floral ballroom. ElvenShadow had +R setups going in the hotel bar. Eager first-time competitors could be seen with headphones in perfecting their combos and oki. All was right.
CEO was so alive on Friday that you could physically feel its pulse. Everything you would expect from a huge FGC event was in progress. The shouts of TO’s working to keep their pools moving were omnipresent. Merch stands were alive with customers seeking pieces featuring their favorite characters. Top players were chatting and taking photos with fans, discussing their intentions for the day’s events.
The happenings were constant, even on a micro-level. In the anime game ballroom, DBFZ PC fix co-creator Brifter could be found seeking signatures for a petition during Dragon Ball FighterZ pools. JakoMan, a massive proponent of the Marvel vs. Capcom franchise, spent time spreading the word about his MvC:I side event that night. It was the kind of day one that really puts into perspective how much an in-person setting serves the FGC, clearly demonstrating why the genre is defined by its community.
I’m Brifter, co-creator of the PC fix for DBFZ and I’m at CEO. I’m trying to get some support to help me run the fix at my college esports facility. Coach said if I get enough good players to sign then he’d make it happen. @pumperjam pic.twitter.com/EE5Bwwu1wm
— Brifter (@The_Brifter) December 3, 2021
Saturday saw a brief diversion from the action when a fire alarm was pulled, but the community played into the situation with a colossal Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament erupting outside of the hotel. The action continued into the top eight shows for both Dragon Ball FighterZ and Mortal Kombat 11, with massive upsets and action-packed matches in both games. Of course, despite ending early, both games had more to come with a Khalil-led 10v10 for Dragon Ball and a 2v2 side tournament for MK11.
— Funk @ CEO2021 😷 (@notfunkyyknuf) December 4, 2021
Of course Sunday, all eyes were on Street Fighter V, Tekken, Smash Ultimate, and Guilty Gear Strive. After incredible showings from UMvC3, Skullgirls, and Granblue Fantasy (as well as a Guilty Gear +R side tournament), the main games all concluded in a dramatic fashion. One clear standout was Puerto Rico’s Mono winning Street Fighter V with a grand finals reset against Punk, which sent the audience into nothing shy of a full explosion of excitement.
All in all, the weekend was a clear indicator of one undeniable fact: fighting games are best when the community is together. The CEO team did an incredible job of crafting an environment that was enthusiastic, enjoyable, and as hype as it gets. There were upsets and there were big reveals, such as the next Skullgirls and Strive characters as well as the new rollback implementation for BlazBlue Centralfiction and BBTag. But most of all, there was the common sentiment that the FGC is beyond happy to be back.
With CEO behind us now, the FGC can start looking forward to Frosty Faustings, Combo Breaker, and of course the next CEO in Daytona Beach next summer. From those of us at TopTier who were able to attend, thank you CEO team for a wonderful weekend. See you in June.