This year’s highly anticipated Combo Breaker fighting game tournament, originally scheduled for May 22-24, has been canceled according to an announcement released this morning by organizers. The annual competition is the latest such event to skip 2020 due to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic caused by a novel strain of coronavirus.
“Combo Breaker made its cancellation decision after reviewing current government recommendations and consulting with our venue representatives,” organizer Rick Thiher told Kotaku via email. “It became apparent that a convention of our expected size, with its historically strong international attendance, could not meet attendee expectations safely in the coming months.”
Combo Breaker is arguably the most popular and well-respected tournament in the fighting game community, second only to the Evolution Championship Series in terms of size and prestige. Organizing duo Rick and Caitlyn Thiher have been hosting the Chicago-based event since filling the void left behind by its Midwestern predecessor, Ultimate Fighting Game Tournament, in 2015.
The organizers are offering full refunds for all Combo Breaker registration fees and hotel deposits while still shipping out badges and lanyards, a 50-page zine, and any pre-purchased merchandise thanks to continued support from the event’s original presenting sponsor ASTRO Gaming, which is covering associated costs. Attendees who’ve already booked their rooms also have the option of extending those reservations to next year’s event. Combo Breaker has also opened a webstore to sell off a small selection of its 2020 merchandise, the aforementioned zine, and a name-your-price commemorative token for community members who want to support the tournament’s efforts and receive a little something in return.
In lieu of a tournament, Combo Breaker is partnering with videographer Esteban Martinez of Hold Back to Block, streaming outfit Team Spooky, and commentator Stephen “Sajam” Lyon to create a broadcast, scheduled for May, which includes a special retrospective on the event’s history as well as curated match highlights from its past five years. Community members will also be able to send in personal memories of Combo Breakers past to be shared on stream.
Its presence will certainly be missed, but Combo Breaker isn’t going gentle into that good night. Despite these setbacks, the event’s organizers have every intention to resume operations at their typical scale in 2021.
“While some of our planning decisions could be impacted by how well our team recovers from this year’s cancellation, we are currently committed to realizing the event next year in full,” Thiher said. “Our team is hopeful that the limited apparel run dropped today assists us with the 2020 development recoup necessary to feed that ambition.”