Nintendo of America senior product marketing manager Bill Trinen explained Nintendo’s approach to competitive Super Smash Bros. in an interview that briefly appeared on Kotaku this morning. Trinen’s comments revealed an approach to esports that is vastly different than the strategies of other major developers such as Activision Blizzard or Valve Corporation.
According to Trinen, Nintendo recognizes that competitive Smash is largely supported by a grassroots community driven by top players and prominent personalities. Instead of focusing on the experiences of these professionals, many of whom already receive salaries and benefits from established esports organizations, Nintendo has structured its competitive events towards casual players.
Official Nintendo tournaments such as the the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate North America Open have incorporated items and unorthodox stages into their rulesets in order to differentiate themselves from traditional Smash majors such as Genesis or The Big House. Some of the earliest Smash majors, such as Tournament Go 4, used items, but they have since been banned from competitive play in order to reduce randomness and prevent the abuse of broken mechanics.
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In the end, said Trinen, Nintendo doesn’t even consider its competitive Smash events to be part of the same sphere as Smash esports.
It’s true that many casual Smash players never touch the competitive scene. Per Trinen, over 60 percent of the 10,000 players who entered qualifiers from the most recent official Nintendo event had never before played in a tournament. By throwing a little competitive spice into the casual experience—and hiring esportsy commentators like Victoria “VikkiKitty” Perez and Phil “EE” Visu—Nintendo might bridge the gap between the casual and competitive worlds of Smash, infusing the pro scene with a class of newbies primed and ready for high-stakes play.
Update 10:25 PM PST: Kotaku has since posted their interview.