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CEO Fighting Game Championships’ Jebailey talks EWC, the FGC

jebailey at dreamhack dallas

The most anticipated event of the summer, the Esports World Cup (EWC), is only weeks away from its opening tournaments in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The esports organizations are ramping up their teams in anticipation of competing for prize pools and bragging rights.  

DreamHack Dallas held the first of two major qualifiers for Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8, with prize pools of $50,000 for each event. The two qualifiers drew over 850 entrants, with the top 8 fighters from each game earning their way into the coveted tournament.

The man behind it all, Alex Jebailey, is no stranger to fighting games. A player in his own right, he’s the founder and director of CEO Gaming, home of CEO Fighting Game Championships and CEOTaku. He’s also the fighting game community product manager for ESL FACEIT Group and the reason DreamHack has become a fighting game destination.

Esports World Cup Arch

So, it only made sense for the EWC to have him at the helm of this major esports event.

gameland.gg had the chance to sit down with Jebailey to find out how the Esports World Cup found its way to fighting games.

Pivot from CEO to Esports World Cup and DreamHack was a big one

“So, working together with EFG and DreamHack, they knew I was already a part of the company doing product management for Dreamhack festivals and they just said, ‘Hey, we want to go really big with this. We would love to have you on board.’ And it was very easy as that, and then a lot of work came at me really fast.”

And with a tournament this size came the new experience of working with a larger team.

“It was a learning process to work with a much, much bigger team. But it’s been great to have a huge team, generally it’s like me and a couple of people just planning everything out. But because of how big the Esports World Cup is, it’s like a huge team, all these different parts of it. But it’s cool that having all my experience be welcomed and accepted, like ‘Alex what do you think of this’ is a really cool feeling and somehow I’ve had all the answers so far.”

Jebailey mentions that while working with larger teams can have benefits to reduce the stress of just a few people, the stress just comes in different forms.

“There’s always challenges of having to discover who you need to talk to, what department and all that. But I’m just stressed because I really care about the product and the community, and I want to make sure every event is perfect for them because there’s so much at stake. So mistakes happen, and you can only prepare for them as much as you can and then bounce back from anything that happens. But so far, [I’ve been] very stressed but excited that this [DreamHack] is our first super qualifier that I worked really hard on the last two months to put it together. My team has just been doing a great job.”

When it came time to host the first super qualifier for Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8, holding it at DreamHack Dallas made the most sense. Jebailey says that the partnership between EWC and ESL FACEIT was a natural one as DreamHack was already used to holding multiple esports events.

“Obviously being similar companies and just going, ‘Hey, do you have space for this?’ And there’s other Esports World Cup products here to qualify. DreamHack was just a perfect fit. It hosts so many different esports events at the DreamHacks and having the DreamHack Fighters brand already be there was kind of where the Esports World Cup came in and helped that brand. So it’s just beneficial to both parties to do this. It was a natural fit.”

Jebailey says that his experience with other community events was a draw for the EWC. “But also the Esports World Cup trusted me to find community events that are already established to go ‘We would like to use you to be a couple of qualifiers for your region.’ BAM Australia just happened. We’ve got ATL Korea next week. So, very excited that they gave me the opportunity to give other organizers an opportunity to be a part of this.”

Why isn’t Smash Bros in the Esports World Cup?

It’s unknown why Super Smash Bros isn’t in the Esports World Cup. Instead, just two games are set to be featured; Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8.

With all of the fighting games available, what made the EWC decide to focus only on Street Fighter 6 and Tekken 8? Jebailey says it’s all about popularity in the current FGC space.

“No bad reasons why [they’re] not working with the other games as they want to establish the big titles and work with that and then build from there. We’re obviously always looking at more titles to be a part of it, but it was just a natural fit with the Capcom Pro Tour, Tekken World Tour.  They’re the biggest competitive fighting games right now. All the other companies have their world tours as well, which is great, but just they’re the biggest titles. Every event they have the biggest numbers, people come out. Smash Bros, you know, we’d love to see something like that part of it, but it just worked out for Tekken and Street Fighter 6.”

It’s unclear what particulars led to Smash being passed over. Despite being the top-selling fighting game on the market, Nintendo is historically either hostile or lackadaisical regarding tournaments for the series. It’s possible the company was unable or unwilling to work with the EWC.

One of the biggest draws to the Esports World Cup has been its prize pools. The share of $1 million between both games has gaming organizations scrambling to sign players for a piece of the pie. According to Jebailey, the interest has been overwhelming.

“As soon as we announced this [DreamHack] qualifier was for EWC, I’ve never seen so many esports teams sign fighting game players in my life because there’s a bigger club championship where the club team that wins the most medals in Riyadh, kind of like the Olympics, will receive more bonus money. For CEO, my personal event, I don’t get a lot of teams emailing like ‘Hey, my player needs a visa.’ As this opened up, my inbox is just flooded. Like ‘we have our player coming from international. What do we need?’ So it [the money] has really affected it.”

Esports World Cup set to have one of the biggest fighting game prize pools ever

Street Fighter and Tekken both have one of the higher prize pools of the EWC, with other popular games like Overwatch 2 and Counter-Strike 2 offering the same amounts.

Unlike team-based games, fighting games are single-player, meaning more money goes to the winners. Despite these differences, Jebailey says there has been little to no discourse between competitive fighting games and the rest of the esports world.

“Every esports industry, every esports game has its own community, its own world. But I think they all want to see the other game succeed. You’ll never see anybody go, ‘Why does that have more money’ or anything like that. You’ll see some be like, ‘I wish our game had that.’ And that’s kind of the hope for every game that people are passionate about and compete in. But for the most part, all positive, all support from all the other esports.”

dreamhack dallas fighting games winners

Even with the opportunity to earn a spot in the EWC at these bigger events, Jebailey says that local-based events are still pulling in the numbers without any ties to qualification.

“The fact that community events are still getting the numbers they are, even without big pools just tells you the staying power of the fighting game community. Just a lot more is at stake. These players are taking it a lot more seriously. They’re traveling the world just to be a part of EWC and that’s exciting.”

Fighting games being prominently featured at the Esports World Cup would’ve been a unique occurrence not long ago. Though fighting games have been part of major esports events before, their biggest events have largely been independent of larger tournament organizers. Events like CEO and Evo are almost exclusively focused on fighting games, while Capcom and Bandai Namco operate their own major events.

Last year during Gamers8, which was also an international gaming festival, the YouTube stream had almost 90,000 views for Street Fighter 6. At the time, the game had been around for two months. This year’s DreamHack Grand Finals saw viewership numbers over 200 thousand with the game celebrating its first anniversary. Jebailey is excited to see these numbers and anticipates more gamers finding their way to fighting games.

“I just think it’s great. Fighting games deserve this. They’ve already been having their pro tours. Capcom did a $2 million prize for last year that once people saw that, it’s like, okay, this is real now. So I think more opportunities are always great. Being able to communicate and work with these other tours or events to have multiple opportunities out the and not be around the same time I think is also beneficial to both the players and the companies. I just think it’s a great thing for everyone involved that has a chance to make a living off of this. I’d love to see the players win and put it back into their communities. That’s the hope from me personally, and we’ve been kind of seeing that already.”

Players who didn’t make it into the top 8 at DreamHack Dallas have another chance in two weeks when DreamHack Sweden hosts the second top 8 qualifier from June 14-

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Written by Rachel Olsen

Rachel has been playing video games since the original Nintendo Entertainment System. She loves the Kingdom Hearts and Legend of Zelda franchises, and has been immersed in esports since joining a team as a content creator in 2018. She spends lots of time and money on games like Overwatch, Valorant, Mortal Kombat, and Street Fighter, and she's Master-ranked in Pokemon Unite. She recently received her Master's in New Media Journalism and wants to travel the world while writing and creating content around esports and gaming. She can be found on Twitter / X at @crunknwj.

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