Naoto “ProtoBanham” Tsuji made history when he won Ultimate Summit 5, making him the first non-North American player to come out victorious of this iconic major. Unfortunately, his win was partially overshadowed by the abysmal prize pool of the tournament.
The prize pool for Summit 5 was just over $17,500. This incredibly low prize pool pales in comparison to even previous Ultimate Summit tournaments. Ultimate Summit IV, for example, had a prize pool of over $157,000. The stark difference between the two tournaments had some people calling this year’s prize pool a “poverty pot.”
Proto won the hardest Summit for it to have a poverty pot pic.twitter.com/YVx0zh9jgC
— DRiP | Gidy (@GidyTheGreat) September 19, 2022
The lower prize pool was due to many different factors. Unlike other major esports, Smash doesn’t have developer support; the prize pool is often crowdfunded or put up by individual tournament organizers. This already makes the cash prize smaller than games like League of Legends and Dota 2.
But on top of that, Beyond The Summit had made some controversial changes to their voting system. Previously, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players would put on over-the-top campaigns to encourage the community to vote them into the tournament. While some top players already earned a spot, others had to rack up enough votes to get into the coveted competition. People would then need to donate money to cast their vote, putting in more money if they wanted to submit additional votes.
This year, however, BTS decided to switch up the vote-in system leading into Ultimate Summit 5. This time, not only were there less slots for vote-in competitors, but donations were capped at $5. At the time, officials explained these changes were to discourage “over-the-top campaigning,” which they felt stressed players out, as well as to deter “whales” from using their wealth to turn the tides of the vote.
Ultimate Summit 4 Prize Pool was $157,790 USD
Ultimate Summit 5 Prize Pool was $17,586
Now, I don’t know if bringing back the old voting system is the solution or not, but this is for sure an insane drop in prize pool from the current summit, to the previous one..
— Maister ➡️ Free Agent (@Maister_SSB) September 19, 2022
While the reasoning seemed sound, the Smash community did not react positively to the new system. Since BTS had capped the amount of money people could donate, several Smash players couldn’t even meet the threshold to enter. That decision also significantly decreased the Ultimate Summit 5 prize pool, as seen above. The short voting window also made it harder for international players to gain enough votes, since it revolved around NA’s schedule. Hiding vote counts until the final day also upset people; many said this took the competition out of campaigning, since players didn’t know what goals to set.
Smash players are hoping that the voting system will change going forward. Some have noted that Proto usually makes no money from winning Smash events, since Japan doesn’t offer prize pools at all. However, the significant drop in crowdfunded money in an already financially struggling esport didn’t sit well with many in the Smash community.