The Case for a Committee: Growing Smash

While I’ve worked in esports for years, recently I took some time to really learn about competitive Smash Brothers. This uniquely grassroots scene is really commendable for all it’s accomplished without any support (and sometimes direct opposition) from the developers of the game. No other esport on this level has had to fight the way Smash has to get where it is today.

That said, those in the Smash community are still hungry to see it go further. We want more players supported by sponsors, higher caliber events, but we want to do so without losing the sense of community that got us here. To that end, I believe it’s time the community took the next logical step and formed a governing body–a Smash Committee if you will. This’ll be long, so buckle in but I’ll make my case and lay out the steps.

Why Me?

I’m not a known name in the Smash community. However, I have worked in esports for several years. I worked for Riot Games as an analyst for the LCS. I managed VexX Gaming’s Infinite Crisis team before that game died. I’ve covered several major esports and watched titans in the industry like League of Legends grow from the same grassroots foundation as Smash. While those scenes ultimately exploded because of the support of their developers, I firmly believe that there are opportunities available for Smash to do the same. I have a communications degree, a background in sales and leadership, and even served as a Youth Pastor for 3 years.

In short, I understand esports, am passionate about its growth, and know how to build a team to accomplish a major project.

The Smash “Problem”

It is the belief of many in the community (most?) that what is holding Smash back from being a huge esport is the lack of support from Nintendo. While this would be extremely helpful, it is in no way mandatory. We had a very successful Melee circuit when MLG was big, and our game had one of the best stories to come out of EVO this year. Smash 4 is an incredibly accessible game to casual observers. Further, the community has proven time and again that we can support crowd-funded efforts, and fight back strong when Nintendo tries to shut us down.

Things like the compendiums have been a wonderful start. However, all the compendiums do is allow individual tournaments to bring in bigger names. That is helpful for the tournament, but not necessarily for Smash as a whole. To my mind, these are the things holding Smash back right now:

  • There is no easy way for a casual fan/new sponsor to understand how to weigh tournaments. Even the community cannot decide what is and is not a “major”. A few events like Evo and Genesis have started to rise above the noise, but Evo is a shared event with Street Fighter taking center stage.
  • There is no premier Smash event. Again, Evo has become that but we cannot crown our World Champion at such a broad event.
  • There is no clear circuit–it is difficult to build a year-long storyline for players, and there are no real stakes that carry from event to event.

The Smash Committee

Firstly, lets walk through what the committee would be. This would be a group who was essentially the governing body of Smash. Just like the NFL owners/commissioner, these would be the people who decided formats and rulesets. They would define what constitutes a major. They would work with the community and players to manage issues like floating pools, VIP rooms, etc. However, their most important function would be to manage the official Smash Circuit and World Championship.

The community would create this committee. Pros, TOs, and community members would be nominated or volunteer for a seat on the community, and then we would use a platform like Smashboards to vote on who gets a seat at the table. There would be representatives from all three games, ideally most of the major tournaments, and several content creators. Also on the board would be a commissioner (someone with a background in project management from a professional standpoint) and one or two marketing/event management professionals to be liasons for tournaments and sponsors.

How It Works

The goal of the committee would be to solve the three problems listed above while not losing the grassroots nature of Smash that created such a great community. Ideally, if the committee does its job right, everyone who is already working to build Smash would only benefit from their efforts. Here’s how:

The committee would design a World Championship tournament for Smash. At this event the official World Champion would be crowned. The World Championship will be an invitational tournament, only available to players who qualify. However, the event will not exclude the community. In it’s ideal form, the World Championship would be a week-long convention-style event. There would be open tournaments running throughout the week, and other events similar to Super Smash Con. Fans would still have an opportunity to interact with the pros, but there would be set times and days during the event where the pros could focus on their matches.

The entire year would be spent qualifying for the World Championship. Rather than create its own events like MLG did, the smash committee would work with existing and growing tournaments, working together to build a smash circuit. The committee would decide on a set number of tournaments that qualify as yearly “majors”.

The winner of each of these tournaments would automatically qualify for the World Championship. If ZeRo wins all of them, there would be an alternate plan to still award a qualifying spot. Perhaps the runner up would earn the spot, or there would be a points system based on your overall ranking at each major to fill out the remaining automatic bids.

What About the Little Guy?

This would give each major huge stakes beyond just the prestige of the event or the prize pool, and would create a storyline for each event that carries throughout the year.
However, the World Championship would not just help these majors. Players could also qualify by earning enough “tournament points” throughout the year by playing at local events. Think of it like Magic: The Gathering. There are big events on the Pro Tour that qualify you for the huge events, but players can also earn points by just playing in approved events at their local game store. This would also help grow smaller weeklies and help out smaller smash scenes. If Hawaii has a dominant player who just can’t afford to travel to all the majors, by being consistent throughout the year, he could still earn enough points to show what he can do on an international stage.

Further, imagine the stories that these small weeklies could build. What if in the last week of the season both Pink Fresh and Wadi were a few points short of qualifying. Their last chance is to win this week’s Xanadu. Imagine the view numbers for that grand finals–suddenly that weekly event has major stakes for every smash fan across the world. The rest of the year, these weeklies can remain fun, casual events with a little more weight to them, but they would get that little boost from occasionally having stories that the entire smash world cares about.

Let’s Do the Work

By creating a World Championship, we immediately elevate Smash to the next level. We help build up local scenes and smaller tournaments by giving them international ramifications. We provide an opportunity for scenes across the world to create storylines that are universally understood.

Obviously, this will take a ton of work, and likely a few years to be fully realized. However, I believe it is the right path, and I am willing to do my part. Discuss, pick apart the plan. Tell me why it won’t work so that we can refine it.

But ultimately, if you share this vision of the future, let’s work together to make it happen. If you’re a TO or a pro player (or a former of either) let’s talk. Let’s build something that will give all our pros and tournament organizers the chance to earn a great living from the game they love. Let’s build an international sport that will last beyond any of us. Let’s evolve Smash to the next level.

 

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

–Trent

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