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Wyndham IDrive Orlando has closed: Florida loses a hotel, fight players lose a home

Earlier this month, fighting gamers in the United States learned that the Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive hotel would suddenly close, effectively pulling the plug on the upcoming CEOtaku tournament. This obviously sucks for a variety of reasons. Basically, many hotel employees are laid off. For CEOTaku attendees, this means a sudden change to their travel plans, and organizers must now undergo the costly process of finding and securing a new venue at short notice. But more than that, it means that one of the last remaining in-person gaming subcultures is losing a home of sorts.

Wyndham Orlando Resort IDrive has been home to CEO and attendee events since 2011. That's more than a decade of in-person gaming events, slowly growing and changing in parallel with the broader gaming industry around them. CEO stands for Community Effort Orlando, a fitting name for a tournament rescued from the rubble of a last-minute cancellation that forced founder Alex Jebailey and Florida locals to get together and play video games despite the circumstances. Since those young beginnings, CEO and Wyndham Orlando IDrive have been close, but in recent years it has remained home to CEO's Anime Fighter sister event CEOtaku.

“I personally am devastated,” says founder and CEO Alex Jebailey. “It's very hard to find venues that you build a real relationship with, as they were the first hotel to give the CEO a chance in 2011. My first thought was to the employees and employees who have taken care of the CEO over the years, which I hope.” They recover with other options. It started with Lisa helping me understand how hotel contracts work in 2011. AV Media offered me more than fair prices for AV and Divya, who I will always be grateful to for handling my contracts since around 2014, helped me where I needed it.

It turned out to be an ideal place to hold events. Choosing the right hotel is harder than you might think. Cost is of course an important factor. But you also need to consider how much space is available for the event you're hosting, how much electricity and internet will cost, how far it is from dining establishments, and so on. Jebailey tells me that the Wyndham was ideal for a number of reasons. Not only has there been a long-standing partnership, but the proximity to the airport and dining options makes it perfect for a fighting game event. When the CEO eventually outgrew the Wyndham, CEOtaku took over the role of his younger, anime-obsessed brother, and for good reason.

You may be wondering why this all matters. It's just a hotel, who cares, etc. In this era of online dominance, the actual physical locations where modern competitive gaming has spread are as valuable as gold – and why this article is a feature rather than a short and on the Pointed description is news article published two weeks ago. Crucial cornerstones of the bridge that connects today with the past. There are countless memories carved into the walls of the Wyndham. Memories of the wrestling ring set up in the middle of his convention hall, of K-Brad doing the Stone Cold Steve Austin act in front of a live audience, of Mike Ross breaking out of the cage, of the wrestling Superstar Kenny Omega, who showed up and Skisonic dropped the live stream. CEO took place just two weeks after the Orlando nightclub shooting, and Jebailey and his team doubled down on security to ensure the community members at the center of the event remained safe.

These places, like the China Town Fair arcade in Manhattan, the Green Arcade in South Korea, the basement of the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas for Quake 2 players, the countless early Counter Strike and Starcraft LANs. These very physical places are milestones in a digital industry. If it closes its doors, it will be a sad day for anyone who has been interested in competitive gaming or has tried to become a professional.

I mean, look, this is just awesome. Look at all these people having a good time. | Photo credit: CEO Gaming

As for what happens now, Jebailey shared the next steps and hurdles with the team. “It's easy to find venues and start a conversation about a purchase agreement, but it's difficult to find ones in a reasonable timeframe and at fair prices. Post-COVID, everything has increased exponentially, such as the internet needed to stream multiple channels, or hotel room prices.” Attendees and overall logistics to pull off an event of CEO’s scale and quality. This comes at a time when I'm focused on the upcoming DreamHacks, CEO Daytona last year, before announcing the CEO's big return to Orlando and a new venue for 2025.

“I've already been in touch with a few contacts about possible hotel options, but in December I found out something that I think will take CEOtaku's attendance to the next level since it's no longer so close to the CEO and just before the holidays. If and when I find something suitable to replace the Wyndham for CEOtaku, I will definitely share with the community so they can plan as soon as possible, and this is just another milestone on the legacy journey continued by CEOtaku I've been through a lot of bumps in the road and left things out of my control, but I'll find a way.

Fortunately, the CEO will live on. The tournament itself will continue at a different venue, so we will be spared the sad news that comes with the permanent closure of a national major (RIP Celtic Throwdown). But just as one era ended when the main CEO tournament left the Wyndham, another era has now come to an end as players say goodbye to the Wyndham forever. I and others can still go to the CEO. This is at the top of my wish list, but I'll always be a little sad that I can't see with my own eyes the same yellow, wallpapered walls I saw through the laptop as a teenager.

Rest in peace, Wyndham.

Anna Harden

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