Nintendo has never really been friends with the esports community. It’s nothing against them, they’re just different people and the chemistry isn’t there. Plus Nintendo has been seeing this other guy and it’s kinda semi-serious and I think I’m mixing my metaphors. But serious, Super Smash Bros. has always been one of the biggest fighting games in the FGC since Smash tournaments started getting organised in 2002. At 2019’s Evo - the biggest fighting game tournament in the world - a staggering 3,500 people entered to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, nearly double that of Street Fighter V and Tekken 7. Yet Nintendo have never officially endorsed any Smash events, leaving players with minimal prize pools, and basically rendering it impossible to be a full-time professional player. But why?
The first Super Smash Bros. game was released on the N64 in 1999, with the idea of bringing together Nintendo characters into a fighting game. However unlike most other fighting games, characters aren't defeated or killed, but instead knocked off a platform - something that was more aligned to the family-friend image Nintendo wished to portray. Although the game was a success, it wasn’t until the release of its sequel Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Gamecube in 2001 did the FGC begin to embrace the franchise as a proper esport. This was as a result of the huge sales figures the game received - over 7 million, the biggest-selling game on the console - meaning the number of people asking for organised competition was too large to ignore. It was also considered the most competitively viable game within the community - a belief still held to this day - with the best balance of characters and playstyles. From 2004 the MLG started sponsoring Smash events as the game became popular, every year with more and more interest developing. By 2007 Evo was hosting the title for the first time in its lineup, and by 2014 the immense popularity made it a mainstay of the event. FGC Smash had become big business. Yet Nintendo were nowhere to be seen throughout these developments. According to the games creator Masahiro Sakurai, Super Smash Bros. was developed specifically not to be a competitive game, but an experience anyone could play, compete and potentially win in despite a lack of skill or experience. Before Evo 2013 - where Smash was brought in as a guest game on the request of its fans - Nintendo sent a cease and desist letter to the organisers banning the streaming of Smash on their livestream. It was clear Nintendo were not happy with their game being used in this way. But the fans fought back.
After mass protest lead Nintendo to back down in their request, they began to flock to Evo events in support of their favourite players, and quickly it became the most popular game at the tournament. And this lead Nintendo to start considering competitive play in developing new Smash games. 2014’s Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS had more focus on competitive gaming, with characters and stages designed for professionals as well as casual play, and this was only further developed with the latest Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Switch, released in 2018. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Unlike Capcom or Bandai-Namco, who have developed their latest fighting games almost exclusively for the competitive scene, and thrown a load of money into organising tournaments, generating prize pools and marketing the games, Nintendo have left Smash players to their own devices, and the prizes for winning even the biggest tournaments pale in comparison. It seems a huge missed opportunity on their part - it’s the most popular fighting game in the world, and yet they have little desire to utilise this market and make the experience better for its players, and maybe make a few extra quid themselves. Not that they need it to be fair...
So come on Nintendo, for years your fans have supported Super Smash Bros., organising their own tournaments and generating their own revenue, usually at great expense. Give something back to those people who’ve shown you this love, and give the game a chance to become THE title in the FGC. Also the fact there’s no Mario Kart esports is a travesty.