In a lengthy announcement, Final Round tournament organizer Larry “Shin Blanka” Dixon revealed that the flagship event series will come to an end. After two decades, the fighting game community has lost one of its most prominent competitive arenas.
When Dixon took to Facebook after wrapping up the twentieth installment of Final Round this past weekend, the usual thanks were packaged with the unfortunate news. The stresses of keeping up with demands from the community and a continued decrease in attendance, he said, have made keeping the event series alive more trouble than it’s worth.
“The joy of organizing events has been sucked out of my body these past two years,” Dixon explained. “I’ve always known it was a thankless job, but now it was worse because of the constant double standard I see throughout the fighting game community. I can’t and won’t continue to waste my money or (most important) my time on a group that doesn’t [want] me apart of it anymore.”
Like most fighting game events, Final Round’s numbers spiked with the release of Street Fighter V in 2016, and the event infrastructure wasn’t quite ready to deal with the increased attendance. Dixon called consistent complaints of overcrowding and poor scheduling a “social media witch hunt” in yesterday’s announcement. The years since have seen a steady decrease of support despite Final Round’s expansion to larger venues, the addition of a 24-hour ‘bring your own console’ space, and the institution of a clear bag policy to curb theft.
Due to its prime slot early in the calendar year, Final Round typically signifies the beginning of the competitive season. And developers like Capcom and Bandai Namco have recently used the Atlanta-based tournament as the jumping off point for their Street Fighter V and Tekken 7 circuits, giving it increased attention from players looking to qualify for end-of-year finales. Over the last few years, Dixon suddenly found himself at the head of one of the fighting game community’s most important events, apparently at the expense of his personal life.
“What makes me upset is I never quit on the fighting game community, even though I should have when my mom passed away two days before the event,” Dixon added, referring to Final Round XV, which he opened with an emotional speech. “I thought since I sacrificed my mourning right after she died that the fighting game community would never turn on me. Obviously, I was wrong, and that was stupid of me to think in that manner. I understand now that Final Round was dead after Final Round 19 and I was holding on for two years trying to breathe life into a dead body.”
In its 20 years, Final Round has been home to some of the most exciting fighting game matches ever. Those include the stunning Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 victory by Japanese competitor Kusoru in 2012, the 2017 confrontation between Street Fighter V rivals K-Brad and Wolfkrone, and last weekend’s monumental GO1 vs. SonicFox exhibition in Dragon Ball FighterZ. But it’s painfully obvious that this has been a long time coming for Dixon—who feels left behind by a community shifting from the grassroots to big-time esports—and his venerated tournament series. He plans to finish out his obligations as co-founder of The Fall Classic later this year before retiring completely.
“This year was the best Final Round I’ve ever been a part of and I thank everyone that was there this weekend,” Dixon closed. “I truly appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I never wanted to be a problem in the growth of the fighting game community. If that means for me to stop so true progress can happen, then I’ll gladly do so. Never say never but I’m chucking the deuces at The Fall Classic. Later guys and girls! It’s been real, shawty!”
Compete is Deadspin and Kotaku’s joint site dedicated to competitive gaming.
Ian Walker loves fighting games and writing about them. You can find him on Twitter at @iantothemax.