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Nintendo, Pokémon & Its eSports Future

It’s clear to pretty much every gamer that eSports is becoming a much bigger focus for the industry, but where Nintendo once drove the industry forward it seems these days it’s still playing catch-up. It’s good, then, that the company has woken up to the impact that eSports can have, and rather than having the likes of Super Smash Bros and Pokémon communities build up their own competitive scene - leaving Nintendo out of it almost entirely. But Nintendo recently made a couple of announcements that perhaps proves the company is now beginning to take eSports a little more seriously. First is its move to embolden the Pokémon scene, altering the way the competitive tournaments work around Pokémon. This means a larger prize pool but, most important of all, it also means a longer tail to proceedings, giving fans something to tune in more regularly for - and that’s more important than any big-number prize pool. Then Nintendo revealed that Splatoon - its colourful but rather overlooked team-based shooter - would be getting six months’ worth of eSports competition in a partnership with ESL. In doing so it will give a little more prominence to the game, and reward Nintendo’s most loyal players for sticking with the game as long as they have. But there’s more that Nintendo can do if it’s to really compete with the big boys of the eSports world. Here’s what we think Nintendo should do to bolster its grasp on the competitive side of its games... pokemons

Bolster the Pokémon eSports scene even more

There aren’t many turn-based games that make for exciting eSports - Hearthstone being perhaps the only notable title - but Pokémon definitely has what it takes to make as a far more prominent competitive game than it currently is. It has the brand recognition, the depth of gameplay and the varied strategies and builds that allow for some compelling competition - the latter being a particularly a difficult achievement for a turn-based game. Despite making some changes to competitive Pokémon, more can still be done. Make it easier to follow, draw attention to the big players and have a more clear schedule of when events are taking place. Pokémon’s competitions now work much like Street Fighter’s, with official and sanctioned third-party events, so Nintendo should follow Capcom’s lead in making the game’s presence known. pokkentournament

Make Pokkén Tournament more viable

While we’re talking Pokémon, let’s talk about the fighting game spin-off. Did you know there was an eSports scene surrounding Pokkén, for example? It may be small, but it’s there - and it’s infuriating that Nintendo and The Pokémon Company isn’t doing anything to make that a viable eSport. It wasn’t released to a great deal of fanfare - part of the problem with the game being restricted to the maligned Wii U - but it received decent praise from critics and fans alike. But as a fighting game it is well positioned to slot in alongside Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and even Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros. All it needs is tidying up a little - in terms of presenting it at a comprehendible sport - some finetuning of the gameplay and a greater deal of attention in terms of its competitive scene and there’s a solid eSport here worth fitting into the FGC world. splatoon

Be persistent with Splatoon

It’s great that Nintendo is bringing more to Splatoon in terms of eSports, but it’s still fairly limited in terms of both the wider interest in the game and in the number of players capable of playing it professionally. Teaming up with ESL helps, but a more rigid tournament structure is needed if it’s to truly take off as an eSport. Advertising these matches and the players will be integral to making Splatoon stick in the memory - because right now it’s really quite forgotten about. But there’s more, too. With Nintendo’s next console on the horizon, it would be a shame to ditch Splatoon and its initial eSports following alongside. A rerelease on the console (perhaps reworked as a free-to-play title) or a sequel would help to keep it relevant. smashbros

Throw money at Super Smash Bros

As far as Nintendo games go, Super Smash Bros is its number one competitive game by far - and it all happened naturally. It’s a regular appearance at many FGC events and that should say something of the game’s depth to become such a staple without any input from Nintendo. Nintendo needs to grasp that with all its might - and I say that meaning that it does so without disturbing the community that has built up around it already - to formalise the scene. It’s the closest opportunity it has to a big-name eSport, but right now it’s on life support thanks to the dedication of its fans alone. I’m not saying there needs to be standardisation to the tournaments happening right now - doing so go upset those that have worked hard to maintain it - but by creating an official league or a number of tournaments over the year, Nintendo could help bolster that community and make it a little more viable for those that want to play it professionally. esports

Make a new eSport

It might sound a little farfetched since everyone these days is always trying to come up with the next big thing, especially in the world of eSports. But it’s not impossible. And whatever you think of Nintendo and its games, there’s no doubting its consistent focus on gameplay when so many other developers are focusing on ‘stories’ and ‘experiences’. Just look at Splatoon as an example of a new, novel way of playing a game. What Nintendo should do is focus its energies on creating a multiplayer game that is at once original and compelling to an eSports crowd. It’ll need to be confident enough to back it fully and advertise its eSports-bent from the get-go, but it would stand out in an increasingly crowded industry and would help to draw in new, intrigued viewers. Just look at how quickly Overwatch was accepted as an eSport, even without the community or tournament backing to base that on. Nintendo certainly has the skills to replicate that. zelda

Build the NX around eSports integration

While Sony and Microsoft are both retroactively getting involved with eSports, their most recent consoles weren’t built with this in mind. With Nintendo’s newest console on the horizon, it has a unique opportunity. The new NX console - which we don’t yet know too much about - could have eSports built in as a function, allowing tournaments to be hosted and watched directly on the console, with a hub for such events to be livestreamed through the console itself. It doesn’t have to be the sole focus of the console, but if Nintendo is serious about eSports it needs to be drawing all the attention to its competitive games that it can. Currently Nintendo games are low on the list of potential eSport titles to watch, so any exposure will help - and having it on the dashboard of a console home screen will go a large way to doing that. nintendoworldchampionship

Nintendo World Championships

Okay so last year’s 2015 Nintendo World Championships was more of a novelty, a rose-tinted adoration of all things Nintendo that - while successful - didn’t truly utilise the strength that the company has in its IPs and devoted fanbase. What Nintendo ought to do is make the Nintendo World Championships an annual event, in a way that Blizzard does with BlizzCon, id Software does with Quakecon or Activision does with CoD XP. Not only would it act as a beacon for the company to create plenty of positive marketing and PR, but it would be a great place to host tournaments for its competitive games - Pokémon, Super Smash Bros and Splatoon especially - that would help to foster a more familiar eSports community around Nintendo games.