Changing the Game: Cultivating the Landscape of Super Smash Bros.

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Image by Robert Paul
By David “Shears” Shears

How big is Smash? That depends on which area of Super Smash you look at. Super Smash Bros. the community is very small. Super Smash Bros. the series by Nintendo is massive. Throughout its history, Nintendo has sold over 39 million copies of the Smash Bros. franchise: 5 million copies of 64, 7 million copies of Melee, over 13 million copies of Brawl and nearly 14 million copies of Smash 4 so far. However, the r/smashbros subreddit, likely the biggest collection of Smashers online, doesn’t even have 250,000 subscribers. This is a drop in the bucket, potentially only 0.6% of people who own a Super Smash Bros. game are aware of the competitive Smash Bros. community. There are more people who love and play Smash and have never seen the Smash Brothers documentary than there are people on the planet who know of Mang0 or Isai.

I often meet people at bars, on Tinder or running into an old friend and catching up on life, and nearly everyone I talk to loves and remembers or plays at least one version of Super Smash Bros. When in conversation with these strangers or old acquaintances, I tell them about how much of my free time is spent traveling the world and competitively playing one of the most popular video games ever made. Nearly every single person is convinced they are gods at these games, but none of them know of any advanced techniques, top players or even events that happen in the cities they have lived in for years. In college you could go down the hall and run into any random dorm room and there was likely a Nintendo 64 or GameCube along with a copy of Smash. I often played people in college, destroying them with ease; it was a good way to hustle beer money. But these people who love the game exist everywhere, are part of all demographics and are thirsty to play people they know they are better than. The problem is the community is niche and inaccessible. When we look at attendance, we see numbers even worse than on reddit. The biggest events cannot break 5,000 attendees despite having over 100,000 viewers at home. These events are virtually nonexistent to Nintendo compared to its tens of millions of customers worldwide. This is why Nintendo does not care much about competitive Smash, because it fails to add any significant growth or profit margins. The entire Smash community is an obscure, small and negligible fraction of its customers.

Shears Chart I

Shears Chart II

Does size matter? For sustainability, not too much. At both Genesis 3 and Genesis 4, the convention center was shared with other events the same weekend. For G3 it was FurCon, for G4 it was NeedleArts. One is a known but very niche community, often seen as a strange fetish, and the other is a hobby I never knew existed until I got to G4. What is most interesting about both of these events is that their attendance was about the same as the number of entrants at both G3 and G4. There are two sides to this coin. These hobbies and communities exist all over the world and their biggest yearly conventions take place with comparable numbers and have been growing for years. With Smash in the same ballpark as far as numbers go this is very encouraging for sustainability. NeedleArts does not need tens of thousands of fans and neither does FurCon. They get 0 viewers on Twitch, they do not need YouTube ad revenue and with conventional advertisement, sponsorship and a loyal fan base, both of these communities thrive and stay sustainable.

In a way our Smash community is like this, but the big difference is we should not be. We should not be as small or as niche. This is one of the most popular game series in the world with loads of income sources via Twitch, YouTube, merchandise, sponsors, loyal customers, etc. and yet its competitive community cannot beat out people who like dressing in animal costumes or stitching a Christmas stocking. This is not because daddy Nintendo refuses to tweet us out or give us money, it is because we are doing something wrong and these much smaller communities are doing something right to compete with us in size. Is Smash sustainable? Yes. Is Smash significant? No. Go out to any public event whether it is a bar, carnival, music festival or whatever and ask people if they are a furry. More often than not they will say, “no,” or ask, “what is a furry?” Do the same with NeedleArts and you will be hard pressed to find a single person that has ever heard of that convention. Now compare these results to asking people if they love Super Smash Bros. and you will find just about every person you meet knows of the game and an overwhelming majority love it. So how does this change?

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Credit: Ronan Lynam.com

I have a million and one ideas on what is needed for growth in Smash and much of it has to do with local traditional advertising, viral marketing, social media ads, new event structures, better fan and competitive experiences, traditional sponsorships and more. All these ideas focus on tapping into the already indoctrinated fans of Smash, the ones who played it as children when it first came out or are still playing it but unaware of the competitive community. The random scrubs who can beat all their friends and so they must be gods. There are millions of these people out there and Smash has been struggling to bring them in. The 100k viewers on Twitch watching G4 or the 250k on reddit that saw the event page and announcements knew of G4, they knew who was going, they knew how much the trip would cost them, they knew how much fun people have at these events and they KNEW that they did not want to attend.

The current strategy in Smash is to try and convince people who know of an event and do not want to go to change their mind and attend anyway. It is shouting into the echo chamber of reddit, Twitter and Smash Facebook groups. It is like asking a girl out, her saying no and then asking again as if her mind has changed. You are not going to draw someone away from their high school sweetheart. They picked Melee as their first love, or League of Legends, or Marvel vs. Capcom. Players rarely switch to entirely new Smash games and top players from other games rarely have any interest in even competing in Smash. Instead of asking the same girl out we need to ask out the fans of Smash who have no other hobby, the ones who are not married to other games or know of the competitive scene and deliberately choose not to attend. Remember, 39 million copies sold yet Smash routinely panders and markets to the 0.6%. While these are growth opportunities, they cannot be long term efforts and reliable systems to continue bringing new players in. Influx of Smash fans depends on Nintendo’s release of the next game. There is no system in place to morph casual people into new community members and this kind of player source is what I believe to be a very important step in the sustainability and growth of the Smash community as a whole.

This past weekend I organized and played in an event that was unlike any event I have seen or been to. Many members of my region, MVP (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania), drove out to face off against our neighboring rival region, MOMS (Masters Of Midwest Smash), meeting at a halfway point for the two scenes. Instead of a standard tournament with winners taking home cash, mid-level players attending with the hopes of just doing a little bit better than last time and low-level players having basically no hope at anything but a sad 0-2, we ran the event similar to a track and field meet. This regional dual meet was exclusive, we wanted to hit home the rivalry and really give attention to the players from each region. Instead of first place going home with 50 percent of the prize pool, they instead earned points for the team along with a handful of side events, bonus scoring categories and points via money matches and social media. The team with the most points at the end of the weekend took home a majority share of the prize pool to be divided amongst everyone.

Instead of one player taking all the money, everyone who attended and competed truly helped support the event and their region and went home a winner. It wasn’t about a top player, it was about the region and the team and everyone who helped contribute to that. Every single person who attended helped their team in some way, whether it was winning a MM versus another low skilled player from the rivalry region or outperforming their seed. The little guys were important contributors to the team just like the PR players that normally dominate regional events. Individual winners still got awards as we had ribbons for Top 8 of each event and in the end it built strong regional pride and camaraderie. We also used a portion of the budget to get pizza and soda for all attendees to socialize and get to know each other for true sportsmanship and a respectable rivalry. This new event helps build a team and a team brings people together to keep coming out and fall in love with their community and the game.

The reception of this event and how it felt for me has inspired me to start running this style event more often and push it to the rest of the community, but I started thinking about how much further this can go. The entirety of it stemmed from my own personal experiences running track in high school, being on a team, contributing to that team’s performance and traveling to face off against other nearby teams to decide who was the best. I was not in it for money, I did want victory, I did want the plaques, awards and trophies, but I did want my hometown to be respected, my school to be feared and my teammates to do well. It was about school spirit and building inward support for your team. But it was not only about my performances, it was about the team as a whole. When we won our meets and victory came down to one of the little guys outperforming their time and upsetting another runner to steal a point here or there, it became a special moment. Everyone went home a winner and people that were not the best still mattered and became a part of something. This is what I wanted to capture with MVP vs. MOMS and I believe we succeeded.

The venue for MVP vs. MOMS was offered to us for free with the agreement that our attendees would like and subscribe to their social media as well as watch and like a couple of their YouTube videos. Coincidentally, one of the videos they specified for us to watch was about getting esports into high schools. With our event being modeled after high school competitions and meets, this video really matched up with what had been on my mind. It delivers the idea that if you can have teams of players in sports going to other high schools to compete, then the same can be done for esports. It is no different when you think about it. A singles and doubles tournament combining for a total team score and a team victory is like a track meet where individuals run to score points for their team and have a relay race with a few of their teammates to maximize their team’s points. Our event model translates perfectly to esports clubs for high school and is a tried and true system that has proven to work.

For me, I never had video games as a kid, never played them as my mom did not believe in them. I did not own any Smash Bros. games or consoles until the very end of 2014 when I bought an N64 and SSB64 off craigslist. My life as an adolescent was spent mostly playing sports, being in different rec leagues and subsequently on middle school and high school sports teams. These systems are simple, especially since they are mostly designed as after school programs. Every parent wants to get their kid into these so they stay away from less savory activities. I see no reason Smash cannot become a part of this. Many schools already have video game clubs or Lego robotics clubs, but instead they run them as hobbies instead of competitive programs. With minimal effort, these can be turned into after school programs where students play and practice, and on weekends a bus is rented to meet at other schools and the kids spend their days playing each other and earning victories for their teams.

Leagues and divisions are created locally and competitions held much like our events already, the same way our major tournaments are held. MVP, rookie of the year, best sportsmanship and many other awards can be easily created and distributed to these high school esports athletes. Most schools get public funding, especially for their athletic departments, and so these events and programs do not even need the overhead and dependant entrant support that our current majors do. On top of creating organizations for Smash we create an avenue for growth. Younger fans of the games have an easy way into the game, stepping in at their youth through these programs and then pursuing either careers in Smash or becoming lifetime fans like we see for football, basketball, and other traditional sports. These kids begin playing at young ages, practicing and becoming the best. The floor of competition rises across the community as well as the ceiling and the pros of today are the scrubs of tomorrow.

Smash is already one of the most popular games of all time, kids are already playing it, and a model and system already exist to take Smash to an entirely new level; we just need to take the next step and begin pushing it into these new domains. People are Hungrybox fans, they are not Liquid fans. If Hungrybox leaves Liquid for another team most fans will follow the next team; these “teams” are just a label and fail to truly capture what a high school or professional sports team are. When Peyton Manning left the Colts, people in Indianapolis were still Colts fans. Sure they still love Manning and follow him but they did not divorce the team they followed because it is a part of their home. A high school team is a part of a person’s home, it is where they grew up, where their family and friends are and something they root for for the rest of their lives.

With this system in place it becomes easy to institute the same system for club and rec levels locally, much like we have done for MVP and MOMS regions. There is a hometown regional pride that is synonymous with local sports team pride; whatever brand or sponsor is thrown onto that, whichever players come and go, it does not change the pride a person has for the place they call home. It stimulates more love for Smash, more commitment to it and it creates a stream of new players in every generation to become part of our competitive community. Our youth is the future and if we fail to create an accessible community and system for them Smash retires when we do.

Featured Image by Robert Paul
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Genesis 4 Preview: A New #Yearof64

By Josh “BarkSanchez” Brody

With the sequel to perhaps the greatest tournament in the modern era of 64 around the corner, the Super Smash Bros. 64 community is holding their collective breath for another weekend of potential upsets. While this tournament may be missing last year’s Japanese stars, Wario and Wangera, it will bring new levels of hype and excitement from the East, as K Y S K , Yu-kun, and Taimai all made the trip. This tremendous trio hopes to remind the West just how dominant Japan really is, following a disappointing performance at Super Smash Con from the three dragons of the East: bonobono, Prince, and Kurabba. One of Japan’s top Kirby players, K Y S K consistently contends with Wangera at Japanese tournaments, while Taimai’s Fox and Yu-kun’s Captain Falcon were both one mistake away from taking sets off of two of the best players in the world, Wario and Fukurou respectively. While K Y S K is the favorite of the three to contend for the top spot, Taimai and Yu-kun have earned praise as fan favorites, contending in what are considered very unforgiving matchups.

SuPeRbOoMfAn, Isai, and Mariguas are the top 3 north american players tasked with fending off the beasts of the east, however they may have their hands full with the Superboomed champ, Alvin. The Peruvian titan will be looking to build upon his monumental victory over Boom and Mariguas in October, perhaps demonstrating his improvement in the Yoshi matchup that haunted him at Super Smash Con 2016. His volatility has many questioning whether he can reach the top at a supermajor featuring a wider variety of characters and matchups, while understanding he can be a threat to the world’s top players.

SuPeRbOoMfAn has had an incredible run in the modern era of Smash 64, winning all but two of the tournaments he’s attended since the end of 2014. Last year’s Genesis saw him take a 3-0 victory over Wario, the man who would subsequently 3-0 him in the following set, and Superboomed saw him play two incredible close sets against Alvin, one of which featured an incredibly controversial decision to play Yoshi, despite winning the previous game as Kirby. What was perhaps an attempt to abuse what was seen as a weak matchup for Alvin, proved to be a nail in the coffin for North America’s top player. In his first tournament of 2017, Boom finds himself once again the unanimous favorite amongst the event’s seeders, however many fans expect to see another player come out victorious.

That man is Isai. Even after a two year hiatus, Isai could not shake off his legendary status. Despite not claiming top prize at a tournament in 2016, Isai is still considered by many to be the most dynamic player in Smash 64 history. His Pikachu saw its first ever tournament loss to Wangera at Genesis 3, with the man previously thought of as untouchable appearing to be a mere mortal. However the main storyline behind Isai has always been which characters he would play, and if he would ever put in what outside spectators would consider his fullest effort. Snosa II saw Isai fall to tacos in a shocking defeat, while the set saw all of his characters of Apexs past, Link, Mario and Jigglypuff, his final loss as Donkey Kong became the talking point that encapsulated the tournament. Isai’s last tournament of the year, Super Smash Con 2016, epitomized his first year back in Smash. His Pikachu proved itself capable of taking down SuPeRbOoMfAn’s Falcon, and his Luigi initially decimated Wizzrobe’s Yoshi, yet he saw himself on the losing end of both sets, settling for 3rd place. Isai showed flashes of the player that has been placed on a pedestal by fans across every Smash title, yet ultimately found himself unwilling or incapable of matching his legacy with results. Nobody knows which side of Isai will be seen at Genesis 4, or if his best side even is the same man who was once considered untouchable.

Mariguas was the center of many of Genesis 3’s finest moments, although there are a few he’d rather forget. After killing the brothers, again, he found himself completely outclassed in his set against Wario. He then met up against Isai in Loser’s Quarterfinals, and did the unthinkable: he lost to a Fox as Pikachu. Despite an incredible placing at the most stacked event ever seen at the time, the passionate Pikachu was left hungry for more, motivated more than ever. Throughout the year, Mariguas reached new heights, yet falling just short of glory on several occasions. He cemented himself as one of the true masters of the Pika ditto at Super Smash Con, taking a game off of SuPeRbOoMfAn in the matchup, yet the set would be remembered for the air tight timeout in game 1, which proved to be costly for Mariguas as he was sent to loser’s following a tight five game set. Mariguas also exacted his revenge on Isai’s Fox, but ultimately fell short in the Pika ditto. Mariguas  enters G4 as one of the few Pikachu’s capable of defeating Wizzrobe, and the only person in North America who’s taken a set off of Alvin. Mariguas inches closer and closer to his first ever wins against Boom and Isai, and G4 would be the perfect place for him to steal a set, and perhaps the tournament.

The cream of the crop is ever wary of the fastest rising stars, with players such as SSBMTL|TR3GTheZ and Wizzrobe rising faster than ever, taking sets off of players that previously seemed untouchable, such as Kerokeroppi. TR3GTheZ also defeated the mighty Wangera at SSC 16, while Wizzrobe subsequently took down TR3GTheZ. It would not be unthinkable for these players to quickly progress into the next tier of players and find themselves on the main stage for Top 6 on Sunday.

The Koroshiyo Brothers, Kerokeroppi and Stranded would love nothing more than to leave their mark on the last leg of their farewell tour, as they plan to step back from competitive Smash 64. While they would relish the opportunity to defeat the man who killed the brothers last year at Genesis 3, they may face several strong contenders among the likes of tacos and Dext3r along the way. Perhaps the brothers take their leave from 64 with a solid conquering of Mexico? They will have their sights set even higher, hoping to make their last competitive appearance one to remember, until they inevitably come back six months later.

Streams of Genesis 4 can be found on the Offical Super Smash Bros 64 Leage twitch channel and LA_Smash. Follow along with the bracket on Smash.gg. Check out the schedule below for times and more details.

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The 64 Revival: By the Numbers

By David “Shears” Shears

Before 2015, Super Smash Bros. for the Nintendo 64 featured two “major” tournaments a year: Apex and Zenith. I like to use the term “major” loosely here because our attendance numbers were minor and consisted of a few dedicated legacy players with a majority of random entrants signing up for nostalgia and fun. Compared to its more popular sequels, 64 seemed more like the wacky, fun, party version people played casually rather than the competitive hallmark its devoted players hoped it would become. The start of 2014 was the beginning of a revival for 64 that took a significant turn upwards in mid-2015. Apex 2014 saw 64 break 100 entrants for the first time. This number has since become the standard Smash 64 majors strive for. Recent tournaments have offered much larger numbers with one event even breaking 200 players. Along with growth at major tournaments, more frequent events, and a strengthening presence of weekly local scenes has made 64 a rising stock in a growing market. Before 2015, 64 was openly treated as a side tournament that was stymied by infrequent events and poor attendance numbers. 2015 should be considered year 0 for this game and community, and everything before that is the Dark Ages. Before 2015, no serious efforts were made to grow the game and community or get it involved with the other major tournament series being played. The purpose of this article is to analyze recent major tournaments to find the source of recent growth, look at where the future of 64 is taking us, and analyze what steps need to be taken to make it one of the largest competitive games in North America.

Growth

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Attendance numbers from super majors and the trend of growth 64 is experiencing.

The graph above shows the obvious growth of Smash 64 in the past four years. The sharp upwards turn can be seen as well, beginning in 2015. A linear regression of the above graph shows that each year, each major grows by 30 entrants. Excluding SSC 2015 as an outlier, we see each major grows by 44 entrants. The steady rise of attendance can be attributed to simply the presence of Smash 64. Exposure and inclusion have been the two driving forces behind the growth of the game. For people to attend tournaments they first have to be knowledgeable of the tournament’s existence and the players attending. As the de facto major, Apex shows that continued support for Smash 64 leads to improved numbers in subsequent years as evidenced by the near linear growth of the game. The ambition of the Smash 64 community coupled with the opportunity granted by major events has given the game enough exposure and persistent attendance to help grow year in and year out. In its twilight years Smash 64 is going through humble beginnings, starting with small numbers and being granted few luxuries, it has steadily built upon each event to quadruple attendance numbers from Apex 2012 to Genesis 3 in 2016. From side streams to main streams, from one tournament a year to dozens, the population of the Smash 64 community and its fans has grown to respectable levels with no signs of slowing down.

For many  tournaments, registration data is lost or missing due to age or poor record keeping by event organizers. My research was able to gather registration numbers for a handful of events for which I was on staff for. There will be four major events dissected to give us a better look at 64, its growth, and what can be done to keep these graphs trending upwards and retaining the numbers we are seeing today.

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Super Smash Con 2015: The beginning of a new era, SSC launched the future of 64. It marked the beginning of the Dreamland (DL) only ruleset. It also set a new standard for SSB events. In addition to Smash Bros. tournaments, the Convention included an arcade, shows, concert, panels, and more. It was the first in its series and had no brand or name recognition, which other major tournament series benfited from. It was announced late and featured primarily just East Coast players unsure of what to expect. Despite a lot of question marks going in, SSC was a huge success and set a new bar that all future tournaments would be expected to meet.

Genesis 3: A revival of an older tournament series, this tournament easily set the record for the most entrants. It was announced early and its initial announcement was branded with the attendance of Smash 64 legend Isai. This tournament featured the first International Player Fund which helped bring nine different top international players from several countries out to San Jose, CA to compete for international SSB64 gold. The smash.gg compendium also set new precedent by including a Smash 64 goal to fund Japan’s Wario’s trip to G3. Held in January when most 64 players were used to traveling to and attending Apex, this immediately became the default major 64 tournament to kick off each new year.

Pound 6: Like Genesis, the Pound series was a revival that set out to include 64 and was generally seen as an East Coast regional. A few top players were in attendance, but the tourney didn’t draw many cross country travelers. It was announced early and used a registration price model similar to the one employed by Genesis. Despite hitting respectable numbers, it didn’t have the allure of the year’s previous smash hit.

Shuffle VIII: A recurring Midwest tournament in Columbus, OH, Smash 64 was added and hit comparatively respectable numbers. It was in a region unknown for any 64 talent, but attracted some out of region East Coast players and despite its size, its numbers kept up with expected registration trends.

Statistics

Smash 64 tourney reg stats

Genesis 3 used a fairly common multi-level registration price model, where the registration would increase a number of times throughout the duration it was open. Observing the statistics on these numbers shows that level increase helps keep fairly consistent registration number across each level as the average registrations per level so far hover between 40-50 entrants. Shuffle used only two registration levels and was open for the least amount of time. It is important for events to give players enough time to register and make room in their calendar or to save up money and plan, and to use incentive structures like price increases to lock in players at each level. Unlike every other major tournament Genesis had overwhelming numbers in its first level and first month open, and without coincidence Genesis announced itself and opened its registration unlike

Pound 2016 Bracket Pool
Pound 2016 bracket pool. Photo by Jason “Nardwell” Mani

every other major tournament by debuting with confirmed attendance of a legendary top player, Isai. Every major tournament for 64 has announced its registration opening and then as players register, announced the top players attending. The trend of increasing names being added to the registration list seems to coincide with the trend of increasing registration percents as the deadline counts down. Genesis helped kick start its registration by giving all players the biggest reason to attend: the presence of top talent. By waiting for top players to register, casual and mid-level players hold off their registration until they can confirm the event will be of a high caliber. This is why we see events like Pound and Shuffle with some of the worst early registration numbers compared to other major events. Top players do not want to register unless the numbers are good and they know it will be a big event, but the catch-22 here is that the numbers are waiting for the top players to register before they bother going to a low caliber event. The solution to this problem is to mimic Genesis. By announcing a top player along with registration it confirms the event to be high caliber and immediately captures the casual fans. This helps populate the numbers as well as attracting top players looking for a good challenge which compounds itself making the event much bigger than any other tournament by a factor of more than double.

Ultimately, total number of entrants is going to be largely set by the number of entrants a tournament can secure early on. If we compare SSC to Pound, they both had similar registration percents in their final month of registration, but SSC was 50 percent larger in total numbers because it managed to get 3 times as many registrants in its opening month. Compare that to Genesis and it more than doubles Pound in total entrants by securing nearly 50 percent of its registration in the first month. The answer to getting large early registration numbers and setting high total numbers: confirm top players early and use a multi-level registration price model while giving registrants enough time to register. Offering t-shirts and other bonus incentives to early registrations is another perk which may have helped Genesis in securing early registration.

Expansion

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Number of major tournaments each year with 64 and the explosion of featuring events.

Along with the increase in attendance numbers, 64 has seen an increase in featured tournaments. For years 64 was being added to only a couple events, but 2015 quickly saw a rise to where it is being featured in more events in the year than there are months on the calendar. With 2016 still underway the 15 major 64 events announced so far is expected to grow. You can find some of the already scheduled 64 majors at http://onlinessb.com/calendar. Even though 64 was included in some of the biggest Smash major tournaments for years, many may wonder what took so long for it to start being included at every major that could get their hands on 64.

Not only were there only a couple major 64 tournaments in a year before 2015, there were only a couple local and regional tournaments for 64. Before 2014 there was no known weekly 64 scene, there was no 64 mecca or city that anyone could point to as the beating heart of competitive 64. There were regions like SoCal, MDVA, Tristate, Florida, and Chicago, but none had any active scenes and their participation in 64 existed either at majors, online, or secretly at home. 64 was rarely ever streamed and unlike the other games, there was no known 64 streamer. If you wanted to watch 64 matches you had to dig through YouTube, if you wanted to watch live 64 you had to turn off the Super Bowl and

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SNOSA 2016, 64 exclusive major

watch Apex. 64 existed in the shadows, in a small niche known by few and enjoyed by even fewer until Fall of 2014. In the Fall of 2014 Smash 64 got added to the Xanadu line up and would get frequent streaming on one of the most well known and popular smash streams in the world: VGBootCamp. At the time there were scenes with events in Canada and occasionally Los Angeles, CA but nothing that was being broadcast to the masses week in and week out until 64 started at Xanadu. The story of how 64 came to be at Xanadu is a long one and was described in more detail in an article I wrote for smashboards. This was the beginning of the console era for 64. Shortly after the weeklies had begun, Apex 2015 drew in the largest crowd 64 had ever seen by quite a margin. Shortly after Apex 2015, Super Smash Con was announced and weekly scenes began popping up everywhere. 2015 saw 64 exclusive majors like SNOSA, ODS, and Hitstun 3 join the list of large 64 tournaments with top talent from North America. A year before, 64 was a novelty for nostalgia, but with the growth it created itself in 2015 it caught some attention to become a hallmark of all of Smash. After SSC 2015, Team LAS quickly got to work getting 64 added to the prestigious and historic Genesis series for Genesis 3. With its success, TOs and community leaders for 64 were quickly being contacted to get 64 included in every major tournament possible which is evident by the overwhelming number of tournaments featuring 64 in 2016. With all these tournaments being added it felt like 64’s popularity was growing faster than its population and a big question for the community became: how can 64 keep up with its growth and future?

Sustainability

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Fireblaster’s epic Google Doc

Sustainability is important for any community. Before you can have a million events, you need people that want to go to a million events and before tournaments were ready to put 64 on the event list they needed some numbers. How many entrants would be expected, what equipment would be needed, and what kind of retention rate is there between initial 64 tournaments and future 64 tournaments. A hard working member of the 64 community, Fireblaster, has been putting this data together for years to help compare numbers that can be used to present 64 to other event organizers.

The chart by Fireblaster details every entrant at each year’s biggest 64 tournament. It shows new entrants, recurring entrants, non consecutive recurring entrants, and one hit wonders who never came back for seconds. The chart is very encouraging for the growth of 64 as it shows the numbers are always increasing and the rate of retention has been growing as well, which may explain the exponential growth in attendance over the past couple years. It wasn’t until Genesis 3 that we saw a dip in retention rate, yet still a massive increase in total numbers. The dip in retention can largely be blamed on the geographical change for 64’s yearly super major tournament. Each Apex was located on the East Coast in a very accessible location in the footprint of competitive 64 while Genesis was the first West Coast super major and in a region that had no known competitive 64 scene at the time. These retention rates and total number increases are what make 64 sustainable for inclusion at major tournaments. The players and fans come back for more beatings and the top players never turn an opportunity down.

Marketability

Concurrent and Unique viewer data provided by ShowdownSmash. 64 top 8 on 1/17/16

64 has seem an overwhelming growth in the past couple years and it seems there is certainly enough players and fans to keep it going. Its numbers and growth clearly demonstrate that 64 is sustainable and the investment on including 64 or announcing a top player can have great returns for a tournament series initially and long term. With all these great numbers and all these passionate, die hard fans, the big question is always going to be about marketability. People love to play 64, but do people love to watch it too?

For most tournaments, local or major, 64 is relegated to a side stream either officially or unofficially. For top 8 it has recently been included on the main stage with the main streamer. Numbers show that it is tremendous in comparison to the side streams. For a lot of these major streams, it is still a bit of hit in comparison to streaming Melee pools, but the numbers show many fans will tune in to 64 when it is available on a large broadcast. These numbers will help further the growth of 64 and help its marketability for smaller streams and hopefully turn it into a staple for main stage at super major tournaments in the future. The recent majors have hit respectable numbers for a small game with a short history. The 64 only side stream at Genesis, http://twitch.tv/la_smash, hit roughly 1,000 peak viewership and was promoted alongside all the other major and side streams, tweeted out by the Genesis twitter account and added to the official schedule. Meanwhile,

Genesis 3 viewers
Genesis 3 peak viewers. Photo by Kenny “Zuko” March

at Pound, the 64 only side stream, http://twitch.tv/thatsadarkhorse, only hit roughly 80 peak viewership and received no promotion or tweets by Pound. By this alone, official and unofficial promotion of a 64 stream greatly affects its viewership numbers. Granted, while the talent at each event was dramatically different, the numbers were even greater in difference than the talent and entrant totals present. Comparing the Top 8 viewership numbers on the main stage and main stream draws some big questions in the differences, but also shows that these main stages with proper promotion do far greater than their side stream counterparts. At Pound, 64 Top 8 had a peak viewership around 8,000 and began airing at 10 a.m. EST. At Genesis, 64 Top 8 had a peak viewership around 38,000 and began airing at 2 p.m. EST, not including the thousands watching in person at the San Jose National Civic Center. Certainly the presence and absence of Isai had something to do with the viewership numbers but the time slots for each are something that cannot be ignored. It will always be hard to get 64 better time slots until it becomes more marketable, but as we can see, proper talent and time slots makes streaming 64 far more attractive. Even a simple listing on the official streams tab or a casual tweet can change a stream from double digit viewers to quadruple digits. This game is growing at an alarming rate and with a little help along the way it can grow much faster.

Prospective

genesis 3.png
Genesis 3 Top 8 SuPeRbOoMfAn vs Wangera. Photo by Preston “PrestonK” Kwan.

In conclusion, 64 is an amazing game with an amazing community that is working hard to bring it to the levels of its sequels. It has hard working members and is getting great reception from events and fans. Super Smash Con 2016 is over 125 entrants with 4 months left in registration, projecting its final numbers to be around 400, and Shine 2016 in Boston, MA is expecting totals of 150+ with a few top players already confirmed to be in attendance. SSC is featuring another Internationl Player Fund looking to bring Peru to America for the first time and finally pit the two most talented 64 countries, Peru and Japan, against each other. You can help grow 64 and bring international talent to SSC by donating at http://funding.onlinessb.com. 2017 will be even bigger than 2016. With proper promotion, announcements, and planning, 64 can become the next big competitive fighting game. Suggestions to continue growth and marketability: announce 64 registration early with a top player already in attendance, bring out international talent, use registration levels to lock in early numbers, promote 64 side streams through social media, give 64 main stage stream time even if it is early morning, and make sure to give its players and fans good treatment and all the basic resources other main events get.

In the end, the game and its growth is in the hands of its players and fans. It is the duty of the current community to come out in full force to every major tournament they can attend, to register early and show their support, and to be respectful guests of the events they attend and prove to event organizers 64 is a game that deserves to be at every major tournament. The future of 64 is now.

To stay up to date on the amazing growth of Smash 64 be sure to follow @OnlineSSB and @Smash_Writer on Twitter and like The Smash Writers Facebook page.

Reference

If you would like to get involved with 64 or learn more about its players, community, or the game and its differences between other smash games check out these references or feel free to follow me on twitter at https://twitter.com/ssbshears

Resource for everything 64: http://onlinessb.com

NA SSB64 Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/USAssb64/

64 Mega post by pidgezero_one: http://tinyurl.com/ssb64guides

Smashboards 64 section (there is still a ton of information here): http://smashboards.com/forums/super-smash-bros-64.11/

Top 64 streams: http://twitch.tv/thatsadarkhorse http://twitch.tv/la_smash http://ssb64.com/streams

North American 64 Elo Rankings: http://elorankings.com/rankings.aspx?id=2190&all=1

SSC 2016: http://supersmashcon.com

Shine 2016: http://smash.gg/shine