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Super Smash Bros.: Did Not Making it Into EVO 2019 Kill Melee?

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In recent years, Super Smash Bros. Melee has seen decreasing attendance at major events. The game has also had a number of highly ranked players step away from the game. With the loss of Melee in the EVO lineup, are those who call Melee a dead game right?

There are a number of legitimate factors contributing to the decline of Melee. Below will be looking at the severity of these problems.

EVO 2019

The most recent “nail in the coffin” was Melee being left out of the EVO 2019 lineup. Melee has been a staple of EVO since 2013. In 2013, EVO hosted a donation drive where the community that donated the most money earned their game the final spot in the EVO lineup for that year. Raising nearly $100,000, Melee was crowned the victor and made it to Mandalay Bay.

Melee Dead Game
Courtesy of EVO

Melee had three events that stood out among the rest in recent years: The Big House, EVO and Genesis. Starting this year, that will no longer be true.

However, Melee was at EVO for six years. In the six-year span from 2013 to 2018, no game appeared all six times outside of Melee.

Naturally, fans were sad to see the game go, but no title can stay at EVO forever. Melee’s stay at the tournament was truly special. Leaving EVO is more of a sign of the game’s already long life, not its impending death.

Tournament Attendance

A potential reason for Melee’s disappearance from EVO is declining entrants. In 2016, there were 2,372 entrants for Melee at EVO. Just two years later, only 1,353 players showed up.

This phenomenon isn’t unique to EVO either. The Genesis tournament series made a triumphant return in 2016 with 1,828 competitors in attendance. Genesis 6, in 2019, saw a decrease of more than 700. There are many other examples of lowered attendance including The Big House, Melee’s third super-major.

One possible explanation for this could be the increase in smaller tournaments. For players in Boston, the Shine series (which debuted in 2016) offers the atmosphere of a major tournament—and the top-tier talent to back it up—right in their backyard. Traveling to EVO or Genesis is no longer necessary.

This is further backed up by the numbers. In 2016 there were three tournaments with more than 1,500 entrants. 2018 saw no events of that size. Conversely, there were six tournaments with more than 600 attendees in 2016. 2018 hosted seven events of that size.

While super-majors may be dying, slightly smaller events across the U.S. are growing.

Retiring Players

A particularly somber moment for Melee fans was Adam “Armada” Lindgren’s retirement. A god of the game—and the G.O.A.T by many fans’ measures—seeing Armada step away was painful. This is on top of Kevin “PPMD” Nanny’s long hiatus to deal with health issues.

Melee Dead Game
Armada at Genesis 3 Courtesy of ESPN

Watching top-eights without the likes of PPMD and Armada will make any Melee fan feel old.

This is also a natural part of any game’s life-cycle. Armada made his stateside debut in 2009. He had been playing competitively for at least two more years before that. Even for the greatest to ever play, competing at anything for over a decade is an absurdly long time.

Despite how sad it is to see the greatest walk away, it’s only a sign of how long fans have been playing Melee.

The Verdict

Melee is not dying nor already dead. It is in a state of decline, however. And that is okay. In 2013 Melee returned to EVO. That Fall, the iconic “The Smash Brothers” documentary was released. The compilation of all episodes has nearly 4,000,000 views on YouTube. Then, in 2014, Netplay—the only popularized way for players to compete online—was released.

By 2016, Melee had its first, and only, 2,000 entrant tournament. A storm of events that drove Melee viewership, attendance and notoriety to new heights took place from 2013 to 2014. The momentum was palpable but it had an end.

Now, Melee is coming back down from that high. For many players, the documentary or EVO was their first time seeing competitive Smash Bros. That undoubtedly pushed a large new wave of players in but over the years many of them have been filtered out. Melee isn’t for everyone.

But just because Melee is coming down doesn’t mean it has no floor. Bitcoin used to be worth 20,000 dollars. Now it’s leveled out around 4,000 dollars. Melee will level out too and even if that means no more 2,000 entry tournaments, that’s okay.

Melee will always be alive as long as there are CRT’s to play it on and people who want to play it.


Featured image courtesy of Nintendo.

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