Nintendo Should Back Off and Leave Super Smash Bros. Alone
Interestingly enough, I had the column idea to write about my disdain for the concept of Nintendo getting involved in Super Smash Bros. competitive scene since Mainstage. But then, Panda Global announced the unimaginable: A partnership with Nintendo that includes a competitive circuit for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate AND Melee. My mind was blown — but my stance didn’t change.
As Melee God Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma said on Twitter, this is the first time that Nintendo has ever acknowledged the competitive side of Melee, a game that’s been out for over 20 years. So of course, the Smash community reacted to the news with surprise and a sense of accomplishment.
For a lot of pros and fans within the Super Smash Bros. community, it felt like vindication. It felt like Nintendo was forced to notice us. After years of defying Nintendo’s rules and regulations (like holding Project+ tournaments within the same building of major events where the company demanded its removal) and an abundance of Smash clones entering the scene, it did seem like Nintendo felt they had no choice.
Said Nintendo of America’s Senior Director of Product Marketing Bill Trinin: “This partnership with Panda Global is the next step in Nintendo’s efforts to create a more consistent, fun, and welcoming competitive environment for our players and fans.”
But while I can understand the satisfaction of making Nintendo bend to us in a sense, I still am not excited by the announcement. I personally do not want this circuit. And I do not want Nintendo getting so cozy with an organization that has sponsored Smash players.
The Super Smash Bros. Esports Scene Is Ours
The feeling you get attending a major Super Smash Bros. event is unlike any other competitive environment. Each one is organized by a different company (or TO), meaning there are not really strict guidelines that each event must follow. This makes each event feel like its very own atmosphere — its own world.
And within this world is an ecosystem you won’t see anywhere else. The best players in the world are competing in pools against just some random person that lives in the area. They are walking around signing autographs, taking photos with fans, and doing silly stuff on stage between matches.
At a CSGO major or League of Legends championship, you’d never get to talk video games with the pros while standing around the venue. You’d never see the players leaping up from their chairs after a win to fling controllers over their head like a lasso or throw Among Us plushies at the crowd or stomp around on stage after a win.
Super Smash Bros. events, no matter how large, have that grassroots feeling that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Pros have money matches going on. Griffin “Fatality” Miller spent the majority of Mainstage running up and down the isles taking bets on matches. I overheard him say that he made over $700 one day alone. I’m pretty sure that’s something that would get you banned from competitive CSGO for life.
Some could argue that money matches, betting, and disorganized chaotic streams are not the best for a competitive game. But I say — prove it. Did anything bad happen from this? Because all I saw was fans collecting autographs, taking selfies with players, people doing friendlies during Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl (because who cares), and insane talent on-stage.
Nintendo Has a Bad History With Smash Tournaments
This is actually not the first time that Nintendo has gotten involved in the competitive scene. Many Smash fans were skeptical when they heard the initial announcement from Panda Esports because Nintendo has promised involvement in the past only to completely ditch the idea or have impossible standards and unfortunate rulesets (like items) that took away from the competitive side of the game.
So will this partnership with Panda Esports be different?
We don’t know yet.
The only thing that Smash players want — and deserve — is more money. It’s notoriously challenging to make a living playing Smash. Very few pros can pull that off. The prizing is super low compared to almost all other esports titles. Pros often pay for their own plane tickets, hotels, and other accommodations to make it to each tournament, making it quite difficult for many to prove themselves in various regions and countries.
Nintendo becoming involved immediately had pros thinking of financial support, similar to what other esports have. Even Street Fighter and Brawlhalla. They thought sponsorships, team signings, bigger prize pools. Think of the salaries that League of Legends players get due to the amount of money involved in the scene, with companies investing in Riot’s highly organized tournament series each year.
Smash deserves that, too.
But do we truly believe that Nintendo is going to shell out major cash like that? Millions upon millions of dollars? And if Nintendo were to do the unthinkable, what is the price the scene would pay? What would the ruleset be? What would the tournaments be like? Would it be worth it?
I can’t answer that. I am nowhere near a pro player.
But as a fan of Super Smash Bros. — as someone who attends events both as a fan and as a journalist — I don’t want them to change. And this is probably selfish in some aspects. Still, it’s my opinion. I truly don’t want Nintendo to get involved. If they want to donate money to the scene but don’t start messing with the tournaments, I would be fine with that — but is that truly a possibility?
I think this partnership with Panda Esports and the 2022 circuit will be our first taste of Nintendo’s involvement in esports (if they do it). So my opinion may change when I see it play out in action. But for now, I remain skeptical of Nintendo. They abandoned the scene for so long. The pros asked for help. The TOs were screwed with. But Nintendo remained silent, ignoring the cries.
Why should I be excited?
I’m not until I see it.