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The future of competitive Smash: A hopeful outlook

As the year comes to a close, now is as good a time as any to discuss the future of Smash. Last week, we discussed the concerns and troubles that competitive Smash has experienced throughout the past year. This week, however, it’s time to have the second part of that conversation. While there certainly continues to be concerns regarding the financials and growth of Smash as an esport, there’s more positive and hopeful aspects of competitive Smash to talk about.

One of the most powerful things about the competitive Smash community is that, no matter how little money and coverage surrounds Smash Bros. in comparison to other esports, the community remains as loyal and dedicated to the games they love. This past year is proof that the Smash community is as alive as ever. What helps prove this was the abundance of incredible tournaments throughout the year, in addition to the growing diversity of represented players and characters in tournaments. Can we hope that these trends will continue into 2018 and beyond? What should the Smash community strive for as we look to the future of Smash as an esport? Let’s talk about it.

2017 as an example of the future of tournaments

The health of any esports community can be measured by both the quality and quantity of major tournaments. Smash is no different. Thankfully, this year has seen the prevalence of high-quality Smash tournaments throughout the year, and a large contributor was 2GGaming. Throughout the year, 2GGaming provided viewers with more Smash tournaments than they had provided in any year before. Tournaments such as Civil War and the 2GG Championship provided highly competitive, exciting tournaments for viewers.

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Leonardo “MK Leo” Perez won the 2GG Championship, the tournament that capped off the 2017 2GG Tournament Series. Image: Twitter

Additionally, they were organized, structured and presented in an incredibly professional way. This professional presentation goes a long way to allowing Smash to provide positive impressions to non-fans. In the coming year, if more events have the high-quality production values that 2GGaming exemplified this year, then we could see Smash begin to garner many new viewers, and gain more attention as an esport.

The 2GG Championship Series kept major tournaments at a consistent pace throughout the year. This series also allowed viewers to more easily stay up to date with high-level players. Over the past few years, Smash has struggled to have a consistent stream of content for viewers to keep themselves busy with. This year’s 2GG Championship Series serves a good blueprint for what other tournament organizers can accomplish in the years to come. Nevertheless, continuing to organize tournaments consistently and professionally will help Smash grow its viewer audience, something that certainly needs to be done.

The variety of Players and Characters

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Eric “ESAM” Lew’s win against Elliot “Ally” Carroza-Oyarce at 2GG Civil War was considered by many to be one of the highlights of the entire year. Image: YouTube

2017 was the first year in Smash 4’s life to not see the arrival of any downloadable content or patches that affected the balancing of characters. As such, this year saw some stabilization in the competitive Smash community. Now that the dust of new characters and rebalancing of old characters has settled, players have used this year as a chance to finally grow used to how characters perform in tournament, without having to worry about the possibility of patches affecting balance.

This caused some experimentation within the community. This year, we saw many well-known players pick up new characters. A good example of this was when Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios began using Lucina in tournament to accompany his trademark Diddy Kong. In addition, we also saw the continued main and secondary use of characters that aren’t considered top tier, such as with Matt “Elegant” Fitzpatrick’s Luigi and Eric “ESAM” Lew’s Samus, among many other examples. Tournaments throughout the year brought viewers a more diverse pool of played characters, which kept tournaments exciting and diverse to viewers.

I hope that the variety of characters and playstyles that we saw throughout 2017 continues in future tournaments in 2018 and beyond.

Looking to the future of Smash

Smash has always been at a disadvantage as an esport. Unlike many other esports, Smash doesn’t receive much financial backing at all from its creators. This makes it difficult for competitive Smash players to make a full-time career out of their love for the game. And yet, this year, we saw so much passion and camaraderie among Smash players. This year served as a reminder of how much competitive Smash players love the game that they play.

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Competitive Smash continues to be played at large events such as EVO. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Smash. Image: Twitter

I feel that the future of Smash, though certainly having some legitimate issues and concerns, is a bright one. A large reason for this is the competitive community for the game. The players that we see in major tournaments – their personalities, their playstyles, and their presence – they keep us coming back. While the competitive Smash community itself certainly has flaws just as any community does, it’s clear that all competitive Smash players are determined to keep providing viewers with great sets at great tournaments for years to come.

With the rumors of a Nintendo Switch port of Smash 4 still up in the air, along with so many great major tournaments in recent memory, it’s hard to see competitive Smash going anywhere. This year was a year of growth for competitive Smash. If we continue to see this level of growth, professionalism and diverse playstyles and characters, then we could see Smash become even bigger.

Nevertheless, it’s an exciting time to be part of the competitive Smash community. With that said, what do you think? Do you think this year was a good year for Smash? What do you think the future holds for the competitive community? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 


 

Featured image courtesy of DBL Tap.

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Is competitive Smash dying?

For myself and many others, this year has provided some great moments for Super Smash Bros.. 2GGC Civil War, EVO 2017, Big House 7 and the year-end 2GG Championship are just a few of the many exciting competitive Smash tournaments that we’ve seen this year. However, with the year coming to a close, now is the best time to reflect on the future of Smash. As we wait for the new year to provide us with more exciting, competitive Smash tournaments, let’s discuss the current state and future of Smash as an esport.

This is the first of two parts of this discussion. For the first half of the discussion, let’s talk about the unfortunate reality of the Smash community’s size and profitability. Many believe that competitive Smash is on borrowed time in regards to being an esport. Moreover, many fear that the series has stagnated in growth, and that both the community and viewership of Smash are beginning to shrink. Are these concerns true and/or warranted? Let’s talk about it.

The slim pickings of Competitive Smash

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The 2GG Championship featured a prize pool of $50,000, one of the largest prize pools in Smash history. And yet it pales in comparison to prize pools seen in other esports. Image: Smash.gg

While discussing the financial aspects of esports may be uninteresting to some, it’s ultimately a necessary part of the picture for any esport. Ever since the emergence of its competitive community, Smash has struggled to feature events offering large payouts to its dedicated competitive community. This becomes even clearer when comparing payouts from Smash Bros. events to the payouts of events for games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Call of Duty, Street Fighter and many other esports. While it’d be lovely to say that payouts don’t matter that much, the sad truth is that it’s a big factor of a game’s longevity as an esport.

Most Smash events have relatively low prize pools. The recent 2GG Championship was one of the highest prize pools in competitive Smash’s history, yet the event’s prize pool was only a total of $50,000. For comparison, the prize pool for the recent Capcom Cup for Street Fighter V was a total of $380,000.

There are many reasons as to why Smash events don’t receive good payouts, including Nintendo’s resistance to sponsoring large events. Regardless of the reasons behind it, however, are the players. The top players of any Smash game devote just as much time as dedicated players of any other esport, but the money that Smash players receive from tournaments is much smaller. So much so that many competitive Smash players find themselves resorting to making content via YouTube and/or Twitch in order to make more revenue to financially support themselves. In the midst of his win streak where he placed first in every event he attended, Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios stated that the money he made from tournaments wasn’t enough to keep him financially comfortable.

While over two years have passed since then, the fact still remains that the highest level Smash players don’t make very much money from tournaments. This issue goes on to affect how much certain players can travel to go to events. The lacking payouts at big Smash tournaments ultimately harms how many competitive players can keep attending tournaments. This has possibly gone on to affect another component of Smash’s uncertain future.

Less player attendance at events and the issue of stagnation

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Compared to the likes of Street Fighter V, Smash events have offered less money, and Smash players make far less. Image: Esports Earnings

Perhaps the most obvious cause for concern for Smash’s future lies in the amount of players attending events. While Smash tournaments provided many entertaining and exciting spectacles throughout the year, there was a notable decrease in the attendance at most events. Every game that has a spot at EVO has some of their highest attendance during the event, and yet both Smash 4 and Melee saw a decrease in amount of players in the tournament from last year’s EVO.

Moreover, many of the top-level players for Smash have maintained their rankings and placement throughout the last few years. New players entering the higher echelons of competitive Smash have become very few and far between, especially in Melee’s case. This leads to a dire question: Is competitive Smash dying? Are we to expect a continued decrease in attendance at Smash events?

A large factor to a possible answer for this decrease is that of hardware. Unlike games like League of Legends or Street Fighter that can be played on the widely available platform of PCs, Melee and Smash 4 were released on the GameCube and Wii U, respectively. These consoles also happen to be Nintendo’s two lowest-selling consoles to date (excluding the Nintendo Switch, which is on track to outsell both consoles by this time next year).

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2GG Civil War had a large turnout earlier this year, but can we expect future tournaments to be of a similar size? Image: 2GG Gaming

A simple fact of the matter is that Melee and Smash 4, the two Smash games that have the richest competitive communities, are difficult games to pick up now. It’s difficult for younger viewers to get their hands on trying to play these games. For a new player to pick up competitive Melee, they would have to track down a GameCube, a copy of Melee, a GameCube controller, a GameCube memory card and a CRT television, along with hours upon hours of practice to even stand a chance of competing against the select group of top-level Melee players.

This difficult bar of entry makes competitive Smash seem impossible to get into for newcomers. This could potentially be causing the Smash community to stagnate. It’s difficult to accurately judge if the Smash community is growing or shrinking. On one hand, higher prize pools have been more common throughout the last year, making dedicating so much time to the game more viable to dedicated players. But on the other hand, new players have to jump through so many hoops to even get started at practicing competitive play.

Looking to the future

Granted, I don’t mean to be grim about the current state of Smash. But these are just a few legitimate concerns that the Smash community needs to take into consideration. The last year and a half have seen vague rumors of a Smash 4 port coming to Nintendo Switch, or a new iteration of Super Smash Bros. being in the works altogether. With the Switch being so successful so quickly, a new version of Smash could help bring in many new players. But until then, we have to think about what the Smash community can do to prevent itself from stagnating and possibly shrinking.

But what do you think? Do you feel that competitive Smash may be stagnating, or do you think that the future for Smash is as bright as ever? As always, join the conversation and let us know!

 

Stay tuned for the second part of this discussion next Saturday, December 30!


 

Featured image courtesy of Smash.gg

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