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.
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.
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.