Combo Breaker 2024 brings thousands to Illinois for game tournaments


Competition kicks off with over 6,000 competitors playing numerous games

Fighting game enthusiasts from around the world have flocked by the thousands to Schaumburg, IL to both compete and spectate at the Chicagoland-based Combo Breaker 2024.

Major titles on the main stages this year include Tekken, Street Fighter, King of Fighters, Guilty Gear, Killer Instinct, and Skullgirls, but many more are present on the convention floor for both professional and casual competition.

Lines for registration at CB2024

The lines for early registration and check-in on Thursday, a day before the event was slated to start, wrapped around the hallways outside the convention hall.Held annually on Memorial Day weekend, Combo Breaker is one of the largest of the major fighting game tournaments in the US, trading places with Florida’s CEO for 2nd place behind the truly massive Evolution (EVO) Championship Series in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The event brings millions of dollars to local businesses each year. The distinct pass badges dangling around participants’ necks are a common sight in local restaurants and stores.

spectators watching sets during pools, Combo Breaker 2024

Combo Breaker consistently books out the Renaissance Convention Center Hotel in Schaumburg; in 2024, when reservations opened in January, all rooms and suites at the Renaissance were fully booked within three minutes. All rooms at the nearby Wyndham Garden were gone soon thereafter, and at the Hilton Embassy Suites after that.

In addition to the main tournaments, Combo Breaker also hosts various vendors. Hardware manufacturers routinely sell specialized controllers used by competitors. The event also features what is known in the convention space as an Artist Alley, featuring dozens of creators peddling a variety of handmade merchandise — printed paintings, sculptures, stuffed dolls and other forms of artwork tailored to the interests of visitors.

artist alley craftswoman working on commission, Combo Breaker 2024

cosplayers at Combo Breaker 2024

Events like Combo Breaker are also a major opportunity for the developers of the fighting games on display to advertise their own products, hyping upcoming releases and announcing additional content and new games. Developers of major titles are a common sight on the show floor.

Japanese game director-producer Katsuhiro Harada signs a convention badge at Combo Breaker 2024

Distinct from other e-sports games, fighting games as a genre demand a combination of strategy, extensive memorization of controller input choreography, precise reaction timing, and meticulous knowledge of how to counteract an opponent’s own skills. Playing at a high level in fighting requires extensive practice and intense concentration.

Despite, or at least partly because of their intimidating learning curve, fighting games thrive on the passion of their communities, even decades after release: several of the most popular titles at Combo Breaker were released over 20 years ago, requiring modern re-releases, vintage hardware or generous engineering by fans to remain accessible.

crew member dressed in plate armor, Combo Breaker 2024

It is that shared passion which brings people together from every continent, enthusiastically welcoming the challenge of a good, friendly (if outstandingly hard) fight.

And it is a community: familiar faces are remembered year to year, and lasting reputations and friendships are formed through shared struggle and mutual respect.

Colorado representation, CB2024

Combo Breaker 2024 will continue through the weekend, with finals being played all throughout Sunday.

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