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Why Splatoon 2 deserves to be an esport

On November 5, SetToDestroyX became the champions of Squidstorm 2017. This event featured Splatoon 2, a game that has become just as, if not more popular than its predecessor. This is largely thanks to the game being on the Nintendo Switch, a system currently doing far better than the Wii U ever did. The original Splatoon was a huge surprise hit, in many peoples’ eyes. It was unlike any other shooter on the market, yet still featured modes that could be played competitively. The original game sold quite well, but it was ultimately held back in terms of reaching a wide audience because of the game being released on Wii U.

With Splatoon 2, that’s quite far from the case. As of September 30, Splatoon 2 has sold 3.61 million units, and continues to sell well. The game is getting into the hands of more and more players. Thus more people are becoming aware of Splatoon’s unique identity. Squidstorm 2017 is an example of what Splatoon’s future could possibly be. Is the game on its way to becoming an esport? Some would argue that it already is. Then does Splatoon 2 deserve to be considered a viable esport? In my eyes, yes. Let’s talk about why.

Splatoon is different, which is only a good thing

One of the greatest aspects of esports is the amount of variety of games on display. So many esports are significantly different from one another. One of the biggest components of Splatoon’s identity as a brand and game is its uniqueness. There’s literally no other game on the market like Splatoon, which draws people into playing and even watching the game. However, does this really make an impact on the game’s viability as an esport?

In my eyes, yes. Super Smash Bros. is a great example of why being different can only be a good thing. Many fighting games that we see at big tournaments such as EVO focus on having players deplete the other player’s health.

The Nintendo Switch’s reveal trailer showed Splatoon 2 being played as an esport. Is this getting closer to becoming a reality? Image: Nintendo

Smash Bros. is refreshing to many viewers of events such as EVO because of how different the game’s mechanics and overall objective is from other fighting games. It makes the game and its community stand out among all the other games and competitive communities being showcased.

Perhaps to a lesser extent, ARMS does this as well. As I’ve talked about before, ARMS stands out among every other fighting game out there because of how its mechanics and gimmicks are unique. No other game is played quite like ARMS, which many players and viewers admire about the game. That said, ARMS still has yet to prove itself as an esport, but I feel like that game finds itself in a similar position to Splatoon right now.

Both games haven’t gained a large amount of traction in regards to becoming esports, despite garnering respectfully-sized competitive communities of their own. While ARMS is different from other fighting games because of the extendable arm mechanic, Splatoon is different from other competitive shooters because of the ink mechanic. Additionally, Splatoon is also different due to its objective of not focusing on killing other players, but rather working with one’s team to achieve a certain goal.

Is Being Different enough?

Many people would naturally respond to this argument with something along the lines of, “Just because a game is different doesn’t automatically make it worthy of being an esport.” While there’s some truth to that statement, Splatoon does far more than just being different from other competitive shooters. As stated above, Splatoon’s ink mechanic makes the game different, and it’s also a naturally exciting mechanic.

Playing or watching many matches of Splatoon will show anyone that players can use their team’s ink in a variety of ways. Some players stay in their team’s ink to play stealthily, while others use ink to flank members of the other team. Simply put, it’s exciting to see the different ways in which the game can be played. The more obvious layer of variety within the competitive community of Splatoon is the kinds of weapons players use. The game is frequently being updated and re-balanced.

Splatoon 2 sees many updates and balances, along with new weapons being added, such as the Nouveau Inkbrush. Image: Siliconera

This encourages Splatoon players to use different types of weapons to suit their play style. And just about any weapon is viable, which makes each match feature different weapons. This adds to the variety and “freshness” that we see in competitive Splatoon. This variety that we can see in competitive play is a characteristic of any esport.

Lastly, we also see variety in regards to the game’s modes. Like many other esports, Splatoon offers multiple competitive modes. The three competitive modes – Splat Zones, Tower Control and Rainmaker – all feel significantly different from each other. And yet they offer the kind of frantic, strategic action that only Splatoon can provide. Any game that offers a variety of competitive modes, all of which are entertaining to play and watch, deserves to at least be considered as a viable esport.

The game’s competitive community is tried and true

Although I love Splatoon, I’ve found myself on the fence on whether or not the game should be considered as an esport. This instantly changed when I watched the 2017 Nintendo World Championships (NWC) in October. This event showed to me how fun it is to watch competitive Splatoon matches. The event opened my eyes about Splatoon’s viability as an esport. The game’s representation at the NWC convinced me of something. It convinced me that the game is just as, if not more entertaining to watch than many other shooters that are esports.

I feel that events such as the NWC and Squidstorm are important. They give the competitive aspects of the game more publicity. They also convince people about Splatoon’s viability as an esport, just as I was when I watched. With the impressive sales of the Nintendo Switch and Splatoon 2, I would love to see a greater amount of competitive events for Splatoon.

Splatoon 2 was played at NWC and convinced me that the game had a future as an esport. Image: Nintendo

The game simply belongs alongside many other competitive shooters. Splatoon’s unique gameplay mixed with the variety of modes and play styles makes it stand out among many esports that people watch. I’m convinced that Splatoon is worthy of being watched by many people in the context of the game being an esport. The game already has a sizable competitive community. What needs to be expanded is the game’s recognition for those who don’t play it. Splatoon is capable of being an esport if more people see the game represented at tournaments. This will make the scene become more and more familiar with Splatoon and its fresh identity. And I feel that events such as the NWC and Squidstorm are great first steps towards that.

Do you agree or disagree with Splatoon deserving to be an esport? Join the conversation and let us know!


Featured Image courtesy of Nintendo.

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