The not so Final Round

Mar 23 2020 6 min read
Final Round

The not so Final Round ⚡⚡⚡ Esports news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!

Annual fighting game tournament Final Round was supposed to take place last weekend from March 20-22 but was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Putting the health of fans, players, and staff above their bottom line is a good decision that many tournament organizers are taking, yet it's made even more impressive when TO's do this at the risk of losing everything. 

Final Round's TO, Larry "Shin Blanka" Dixon announced the news on March 13, just two days after tournament registration closed, and the event schedule was released. That day, April Annihilation was also canceled, but unlike Final Round, that event still had three weeks to go. The short notice from the event's proposed date hurt Shin Blanka and Final Round even more because that meant lots of financial obligations that they could no longer back out of. 

The official cutoff date for issuing refunds had passed two weeks ago on February 29. However, Shin Blanka still decided to refund players and fans because the cancelation was no fault of theirs. Watching as the number of those infected with the coronavirus in Georgia rose from zero to two and then forty-one in just a matter of days, he chose to pull the plug with the fear of even higher numbers appearing by the weekend. It had become too much of a risk for all parties involved.

COVID-19 and the FGC

Final Round 2020 is just one of the many tournaments the FGC has had to say goodbye to this year. Some have been postponed until the outbreak is under control. Others will still go on as planned due to a confidence in their health precautions or an event date later on in the year. There are no assurances, but health specialists believe the situation could improve by May. That's why events like EVO 2020 (July 31 - August 2) still have plans to go ahead with their tournaments for now. 

Before Final Round was canceled, some sponsors pulled out, putting further strain on finances before the TO's decision was made. Final Round could only guaranty a 100% refund for game fees, but the entry fees covered many of the administrative costs like venue, amenities, badges, and DLC. A host of non-refundable expenses. Thus, it was announced that only 43% of the entry badge would be refunded. The news wasn't what the FGC wanted to hear, but it also wasn't what the TO wanted to do.

Close Call

Final Round began in 1997 to bring fighting game fans to Atlanta, Georgia, for a fun time competing against one another. In the past two decades, the event has gone on to attract players from around the world, create memorable FGC moments, and ushered in the new year of tournament circuits like Tekken World Tour and Capcom Pro Tour. However, Final Round's long history hasn't been all fight sticks and bragging rights.

Upon Street Fighter V's release in 2016, the tournament's numbers saw rapid growth, but the team was seemingly ill-equipped to handle them. Following a series of overcrowding and poor-scheduling complaints, which Shin Blanka described in a statement as a "Social media witch hunt," the TO decided to retire from his position of twenty years. He just had to have one last event first, preferably his biggest yet. 

So Final Round 21 was born and was fortunate enough to be the first Capcom Pro Tour premier event of 2018. Other games like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Tekken 7 would also have a significant presence at the event, so it was clear that this would be the best opportunity to go out with a bang. 

The event wasn't without issue, though, but by the end, it was one to remember. One of the highlights was when fans got to see the true birth of Dominique "SonicFox" McLean's rivalry with Goichi "Go1" Kishida in Dragon Ball FighterZ. There was also a 24-hour bring-your-own-console room, and the venue was much larger than usual. Fans even got to play new games like Street Fighter 30th Anniversary and Soul Calibur 6 for the first time at the event.

To end Final Round meant the legacy Shin Blanka had built with his team through good times and bad would come to an end. He had lost his mother days before the tournament but still went ahead with it because it was meant to be his last event. The biggest and best he'd ever held. The venue was undoubtedly much larger than what attendees were used to, but with 870 participants, it was about two-thirds the regular turnout. This was the lowest attendance in eight years with the most significant budget. He'd clearly lost money, but by the end of the event, he had achieved what he had desired, one last big event. Or so he thought.

Shin Blanka's plans to retire later that year did a complete one-eighty in September when he announced that the Final Round team would be back with another event in 2019. His decision to retire hadn't been set in stone, and even members of his staff weren't too sure he would follow through with it. The real issue was that Shin Blanka felt the FGC had given up on him, turned against him, and nothing he could do would change that. Yet, he received a lot of encouragement from fans, players, and staff, which played a big part in making him change his mind about retirement.

Community

Like other FGC TOs know, especially those that run big events, entry tickets alone won't pay the bills. Final Round seems to be no stranger to losing money to tournaments, but the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had on the world has hit not just Shin Blanka and his team hard, but all events scheduled between March and April.

As a result, we've seen some TOs like CEO's Alex Jebailey ask for the community's support. Some fans have even been kind enough to forfeit their refund for events that were canceled due to the coronavirus epidemic. Although Shin Blanka has made it quite clear that Final Round isn't in a good financial position right now, the only support he's asked for so far is that those owed refunds for their entry badges understand the reason why they can't get 100% of their funds. However, this hasn't stopped others from soliciting on his behalf.

The day before Final Round's cancelation, Kumite in Tennessee owner, Ian "Vandy" Davis took advantage of the community's support of other TO's to solicit aid for Shin Blanka. In it, he stated, "If it comes down to it, you guys better bailout Shin Blanka the way you are bailing out Jebailey. Whatever you want to say about Final Round no one deserves this. And I know Larry is too proud to beg for help. So let me start it right now."

Ronin Rumble, the free weekly online tournament series, also has a remarkable initiative. On May 29, they will run an online charity tournament for events that have been canceled due to the coronavirus. For now, that list consists of NorCal Regionals, Final Round, and April Annihilation, but it could grow.

Yesterday the official Final Round Twitter account revealed that it had finished processing all refunds for this year's event. It probably also means that the Final Round coffers are in the red, bringing to mind a horrifying thought. Could this canceled event be the last Final Round? All Shin Blanka and the team need right now is a dramatic upset to turn things around and prevent the thought from even being entertained.

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