After years of turning a blind eye, Nintendo is finally onboard with the juggernaut eSports industry. They’ve taken a whole new approach with their new titles, and yet refuse to even acknowledge the legitimacy of the competitive scenes for their older games.
ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Pokken DX were all featured in short tournaments on the show floor at this years E3, including a handful of professional players and hundreds of fans who tried to qualify for the finals. Each tournament had multiple qualifying rounds, giving the hundreds of fans that wanted a piece of the spotlight a chance to play. And once they got to the finals for each game, they streamed the matches online and displayed them on the big screens in their booth for everyone to watch while waiting in line for Mario Odyssey.
And even though there was a faint sense of excitement among the crowd when each tournament started, the whole affair had an incredibly dull atmosphere around it. The fact that the tournaments took place in between Treehouse segments, trailer replays, and ‘we’ll be right back’ snippets made them feel mundane.
It’s clear that Nintendo sees the value, both for the growth of their franchises and monetization, of the eSports industry. But they refuse to understand that you cannot develop a game with the goal of it forming a popular competitive scene. You can host all the tournaments you’d like and pump money into these new franchises, but if hundreds of thousands of players don’t take to playing your game at a high level, then you’re dead in the water.
From most impressions of these three titles, Splatoon 2 is the only one that’s expected to produce any eSports scene as all. Most people who’ve touched ARMS and Pokken DX don’t think it has the potential to grow in popular, especially when Nintendo has the insanely popular Super Smash Bros Melee in it’s arsenal.
But so far, Nintendo has refused to support the grassroots community that has formed around Melee and the other Smash titles.
Nintendo wants both control and profit, and that’s something that they won’t get with the Melee community. The competitive scene already has strict rules and a hardcore following that won’t respond kindly to the Japanese Juggernaut come in to make the tournaments more accessible. But that should not be a problem.
I don’t have a problem with Nintendo shamelessly framing ARMS, Splatoon 2, and Pokken DX as eSports, sometimes before they even release. What I don’ understand is why Nintendo outright refuses to be involved with melee. Other companies would kill to have one of their titles become as popular with a hardcore competitive community, even one half the size of the Melee community.
They have a eSport gift-wrapped and placed on their doorstep, ready for the taking up. Melee is an old game, no doubt, but it could still be a headliner at tournaments, used to push merchandise, and to convince more players that Nintendo means business with their efforts in the competitive industry.
No, Nintendo shouldn’t insert itself in the melee community and tweak any part of the game or introduce new rules. Their are so many nuances and quirks to the community that it would only be ruined by that interference. They simply need to support it, give it a signal boost and some official status to help it grow in popularity.
Who knows, maybe some of their other franchises might be taken more seriously if they work with what they’e already been given. I could see Splatoon become big if make some changes and show players they mean business. Right now, their E3 tournaments feel like phony, pointless, and corporate affairs.