Smash Brothers is in a unique position relative to other fighting games. No other fighting game allows for four-player doubles matches, as most are centered around the single, one-vs-one playing style. Smash breaks that barrier and allows for teams of two to compete.
Now, doubles in the Smash community still isn’t as popular as it could potentially be. Players opt for singles practice instead of investing time into practicing and theory crafting doubles strategies. Even for a game that’s been around since 2001, the doubles side doesn’t feel fully explored.
That said, some of the top players have invested large amounts of time into the doubles side of Smash. Specifically in Melee, top players like Armada (Adam Lindgren), Mew2King (Jason Zimmerman), and SFAT (Zac Cordoni) have become the front runners of the doubles scene. These players believe doubles should play more of a role in today’s tournament scene.
Genesis 4 was one of the first events to give the doubles tournament the stage on Championship Sunday. It not only provided some of the best high-level Melee matches in doubles or singles, but showed people are interested in this aspect of the game. Over 100k viewers tuned in to watch Alliance eek out a victory over Leffen (William Hjelte) and Ice (Mustafa Akcakaya).
Speaking of Armada, his team of him and his brother, Android (Andreas Lindgren), have made team combos an art form. No team has been able to match the precision, spacing, and excellent follow-ups like the team from Sweden. It has raised the level of other teams around them and has pushed the European doubles scene.
If Smash is going to grow into this new age of esports, doubles could be a great opportunity to separate the game from the rest of the pack. Team tournaments could even the playing field and make more characters and strategies viable. It’s still relatively unexplored, even by the top players.
The attendance numbers for doubles have been steady, but is not currently growing. For now, it’s still mostly just a side-event. New players don’t want to become the best doubles player because everything they learn is focused on singles. Yes, most players move to doubles after they find a capable partner, but even then most local tournaments only run singles. That said, stream views are starting to rise considerably next to singles.
On the other hand, there might not be a place for doubles. Take a look at modern tennis, they run both singles and doubles. Similar to Smash, the doubles side has never quite taken off, as people are drawn more towards singles tennis. This is a great example of what could end up happening to doubles if tournaments don’t invest the resources into helping it grow. It could stay as more of an afterthought.
Looking ahead, it’s tough to say where the doubles side will end up. Large fighting game tournaments can’t run doubles considering there’s usually a singles event that comes first. It’s not a priority for tournament organizers to advertise the doubles side. The only time it’s featured is at Smash only events.
As I see it, Smash doubles is at a breaking point. It’s a relatively unknown game type to spectators and hard to follow with the extra characters on screen. But players love it, so the question is whether the majority of Smash players would want tournaments to pursue larger prize pools, or more focused doubles events to help the game grow outside of just singles.