Nintendo facing competitive community: Nintendo has taken the plunge. In early May, the Japanese publisher organized the final stages of the European Smash Ball Team Cup 2019, an international tournament that brought together 11 European countries to represent the continent at E3. France lost in the final against Germany, but it was not the result that marked the spirits.
The Beurs van Berlage room in Amsterdam has unveiled its best colors to host the event. 70 meters long and 40 meters wide were reserved for Super Smash Bros. A sublime production broadcast in 6 different languages. A pinnacle of quality that Europe has never reached in 17 years of existence. The appearance of Nintendo in the horizon is yet unexpected. For years, the publisher has distinguished himself by his opposition to the desire of the community to flourish. Faced with this, the smashers have not lacked work. They have been developing the competitive aspect of their game for almost two decades.
Melee, the unwanted baby
Organization of tournaments, training sessions, creation of content or sponsoring of players ... The actions of the community are not counted anymore. The second part of the saga was the spearhead of this work.
Nintendo facing competitive community
Super Smash Bros. Melee is an ancestor of electronic sport. Compared to his little brothers, the freedom of movement and the dexterity he requires make him an alienation to master. Players exceed 200 shares per minute, and the sound of Gamecube controllers commands respect. Do not even enter into the equation the strategic and psychological aspect of the game, which shines by its depth.
Despite the explosion of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the last installment released on Nintendo Switch, the Genesis 6 tournament welcomed in February 1113 participants for the Gamecube version. An understandable craze: the game is so fast that it is indecipherable for the uninitiated.
Indecipherable, but impressive to watch. Ninja, the famous Twitch stream, watched the Smash & Splash 2 tournament in front of 94,000 spectators. A welcome publicity, especially when the Fortnite player has the praise of the game.
With this nugget cut for the competition and the show, Nintendo has gold in the hands. Gold, which the company prefers to erode. Masahiro Sakurai, the man behind Super Smash Bros. Melee, explained last year to The Washington Post the difference in point of view between the firm and the players.
Faced with this wall, the community had no choice but to develop in the shadows. Nintendo tolerated tournaments, but banned the money from being put into play. Obliged therefore for the organizers to ask permission from the publisher ... or to do it in all discretion.
The second option means to avoid retransmitting the event on the internet, or not to publicly communicate it upstream. A handicap of size, in the era of exponential growth of the esport, in the years 2010. Rather than being supported by their developer, the players like Nassim "Leon" Laib, one of the best French players of Melee, were already happy to be able to compete.
As Riot Games explodes spectator counters with the release of League of Legends, or when Blizzard slowly sets up its International World Championship Series competition on Starcraft II, the time has come for investment. Broadcast rights are selling, publishers are taking advantage of the visibility to sell their game. Super Smash Bros, he will not know this support. It's the opposite.
From July 12 to 14, 2013, the EVO was held at the Bally's Event Center in Las Vegas. A tournament gathering considered as the feast of fighting games in the world. It is a showcase for sponsors and investors. Every place is expensive. For the occasion, the organizers organized a donation contest for breast cancer to nominate the last game that would be added to the list. The game reaching the highest amount would be selected. Of paramount importance to Melee, says Leon.
The global community of Super Smash Bros. met and raised nearly $ 95,000. A support never seen before that marked the entry of the game alongside the greatest fighting games in the world. For the occasion, 700 players have registered. For his first participation, Melee was going to live his biggest tournament in 11 years. Only, Nintendo did not hear it that way.
A few days before the tournament, the publisher imposed itself by prohibiting the event takes place. The firm has never communicated the reasons for this ban, but we imagine that they follow the arguments put forward by Masahiro Sakurai. An unthinkable brake for Leon and Samuel "Samplay" Sadaune, tournament organizer.
Faced with this, it was the entire esport community that rose up in protest. It took only a few hours for Nintendo to retreat in the face of this opposition. A short exchange, but oh so symbolic for the players. The editor who always prevented Super Smash Bros. to flourish in its competitive form yielded for the first time. Smash at the EVO took place, and it was a success, according to Samplay.
The game has been discovered by many neophytes. Speed and complexity mixed with the excitement of the audience. With 134,000 live viewers, Melee is, with Street Fighters, the only game to beat the EVO viewer record. A major turning point, which will lead to impressive growth in popularity and tournaments. The scene began to professionalize and Nintendo had to accept it.
Nintendo facing competitive community: The timid evolution of Nintendo
In response, the publisher lives since the EVO 2013 a profound revolution in its vision of competition. However, he tries to keep his values. Wanting to make an esport "in his own way", he has always thwarted the competitive rules used by the community to continue to promote the accessibility of his game. The formats are interesting to explore the possibilities offered by the game, but with the objects , advocates the show rather than the competition. This does not attract smashers.
Two worlds then evolved in parallel: The community that continues to grow, especially with the arrival of professional structures like TSM, Cloud9 or Team Liquid, and Nintendo who organizes annual championships for the release of their game, or for special events like the E3. A double awkward competition for Samplay.
Despite their desire to offer a competition in their own image, Nintendo does not like. For proof, the release of Super Smash Bros. For Wii U could see his championships in France. An exciting event, which did not please the players, mistakes in the finals in each for himself to 4 judged anti-competitive and the general organization of tournaments. Nintendo lacks experience, which weighs on the quality of their events. Many talented players turned their backs on them by continuing to participate in community tournaments.
Aware of the situation, Nintendo gradually turned to existing tournaments. Since 2018, the Frostbite, major American tournament of Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, knows the support of Nintendo. In Europe, the Albion 3 also had this chance.
Over time, the fragile relationship between Nintendo and the community has gradually softened, leaving aside mistrust for a future hope for Smash. In France, Nintendo has provided 40 Nintendo Switch for the organization of Stunfest, which is now the biggest Smash Ultimate tournament in France at the moment. A revolution in the Nintendo esport, since the tournament offered 6,000 euros reward. The vision of cooperation is dreamed by Samplay.
Nevertheless, the question does not arise for Melee. Nintendo remains silent on the subject. We imagine that since EVO 2013, the vision of the publisher on his game has not changed. The depth of the gameplay always attracts new players, and its audience has even grown over time; On February 5, at the Genesis 6, 174,000 people watched the finals of Super Smash Bros. Melee. That's 60,000 more people than last year.
Let's not lie: the French community of Melee is slowing down. Some cities lack organizers, others of players, and LeFrenchMelee, the main national organization, struggles to bring together the actors of the community. With the help of Nintendo, the French scene could no doubt shine again, like what the international scene is experiencing. It remains to be seen if the Japanese publisher has the desire. For now, he is developing Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, which is already unexpected when you know the past between Nintendo and the competition on Smash. With the success of the 2019 European Smash Ball Team Cup and its finals at E3, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is on the right track to join more developed esports. Melee, meanwhile, will have to wait again.