Four things to know about CEO 2019

Dominique "SonicFox" McLean celebrates his win in the grand final of Dragonball FighterZ at Evolution 2018, the biggest fighting game tournament in the world at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Gail Fisher for ESPN

CEO <3 Smash Bros.

CEO's reputation as a welcoming haven for Super Smash Bros. was common knowledge. That sentiment was reaffirmed after the registration numbers became clear.

Not only did Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lead the pack in entries with 1164 players, it lapped the rest of the field with nearly 600 more registrants than the second-highest game (Mortal Kombat 11). Perhaps the most glaring observation with the overall turnout is the stark difference between Ultimate and Super Smash Bros. Melee -- Ultimate pulled ahead by 835 players. The transitional shift and the community's response appears to becoming louder; the main game is looking more and more like Ultimate.

The game's parity and changing-of-hands for who earns the label of the "best" player is healthy and welcome. What was once a community that placed players at an untouchable 'god' status, the turbulent top eight stages of Ultimate tournaments finally provided built-in audience suspense and player motivation.

One thing that cannot be disputed is the importance of the Smash community as an integral pillar for the popularity of fighting game tournaments. Without its nearly 1500 registered players, CEO would only be another massive tournament and not the spectacle that is on a yearly basis. It's high time to celebrate its status.

A fair street fight

Street Fighter V is at its healthiest state in terms of competition and in-game balance -- a realistic preview of top competitors can list as many as 25 players. Outside of Victor "Punk" Woodley's out-of-reach 2655 Capcom Pro Tour points, everyone is within striking distance of the other. There are no longer dominant regions that can dictate the flow of a tournament and every pool, regardless of the status of the tournament, will have a monster hiding to take you out. It was reminiscent of the sheer unpredictability toward the last years of Street Fighter IV when Capcom fighting games were peak viewing experiences and must-attend events. Despite just 449 players in arguably the second-toughest tournament of the schedule outside of Evolution Fighting Game Championships, this will still be an incredibly tough premier event to win.

Unlike last year's "flavor of the month" top player status, every consistent placer is a threat this weekend. Last year, players gained points in heaps when the cards fell in their favor. It was a system that revolved around luck and momentum in terms of matchups and constant tournament attendance that made every top player a paper champion. This year, the competition boils down to whether or not you can consistently play ahead of your opponents and emphasizes your training habits more than your traveling bill. It is truly anyone's game to take down the CEO ring.

MK is here to stay

Behind a neutral-heavy engine and plenty of defensive options, it may not be the flashiest Mortal Kombat or even the best game to lab with, but it is one with definite staying power. With good netcode, a plethora of online tournaments, and high attendance in each tournament since its launch, these are the right steps for sustainability. In addition, with the introduction of a seasonal ranked mode via the Kombat League, the hype continues without a competition to watch.

The favorites to make it to the final day are arguably the most recognizable: Dominique "SonicFox" McLean, Brad "Scar" Vaughn, Tommy "Tweedy" Tweedy, Ryan "Dragon" Walker, and Andrew "Semiij" Fontanez stand on top of the pile. But, none of the favorites are locks to make it like NetherRealm Studios games of old.

There are emerging threats like Zoulfikar "Kombat" Dayekh, Tasman "Waz" Stoker, Julien "Deoxys" Gorena, and George "Grr" Foulkes. That's not even mentioning the veteran NRS players that are a tournament threat like Denom "A F0xy Grampa" Jones, and the brother threats of Denzell "DJT" Terry and Malik "MIT" Terry and Tim "HoneyBee" Commandeur and Matthew "Biohazard" Commandeur. And then you remember players that are making the rounds online like Sedria "Infinitii" Lewis and Jarrad "Ninjakilla_212" Gooden.

It's a good time to be an NRS fan.

Tales of Tekken

Will CEO spell the end of the South Korean tyrannical grip on Tekken 7? The monsters are all out in force with Hyunjin "JDCR" Kim, Jae "Knee" Min Bae, Sun-woong "Lowhigh" Yoon, Hyeon-ho "Rangchu" Jeong, and Mu-Jong "Kkokkoma" Kim leading the way. Right behind them are some of the best placers of last year's Tekken World Tour: Seong-ho "CHANEL" Kang, Sang-hyun "Jeondding" Jeon, and Jinwoo "Saint" Choi.

The South Korean contingent is incredibly strong and it would be unrealistic to not have more than three or four players penciled into the top eight of another major event. With the current roll of JDCR and Knee and the ever-present danger of Lowhigh and Rangchu, they are your favorites for taking the entire tournament. Some of these players are living legends in the game's history, like Knee, or just absolutely dominant during stretches of Tekken's history, like Saint, Jeondding, and Kkokkoma. It is arguably the best representation from the strongest region and if there is any expectation of changing the guard, these are the players to outpace.

It will be up players like Jimmy "jimmyjtran" Tran, Hoa "Anakin" Luu, Nopparut "Book" Hempamorn, Shoji "Double" Takakubo, Stephen "Speedkicks" Stafford, and Terrelle "Lil_Majin" Jackson to take on the bulk of the upsetting. Without a huge showing from arguably the second-strongest region in Japan, it will be the USA flag that may provide the best boost for cracking the glass ceiling.