Surprise, Nintendo actually does realize people are still playing Super Smash Bros. Melee. The company is hosting an official tournament series for the game, two decades after its release, in conjunction with Panda Global, a global esports brand. The tournament series will pit players against one another in both Melee and its Switch counterpart, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is all the rage right now, but the Switch bestseller would be nowhere without its predecessors. Melee, the series’ 2001 GameCube entry, really launched the fighting game into infamy. The game ended up being so popular as competition fodder that it launched global-scale tournaments.
Other than the games involved and the fact that it will start in 2022, details of the tournament are still TBA. The announcement itself is exciting enough, though some long-time Melee fans are wary of Nintendo’s problematic tournament history.
Nintendo’s sketchy esports history — Melee’s many fans are split in their feelings about the tournament. Some of the world’s top Melee competitors, like @hungrybox, expressed hope for the tournament’s success. “Today is the first day of a beautiful future,” he tweeted. “Thank you for acknowledging competitive Melee and for providing support to both scenes.”
Others are less certain the tournament series will be what fans have been waiting for. Popular streamer @ConnorEatsPants expressed more caution, for example. “After years have (sic) negligible support and active suppression of the scene its hard to believe in a sudden change of heart.”
This reticence is not unfounded. Nintendo hasn’t just ignored the competitive Melee community in the past; it’s gone out of its way to shun it completely. Nintendo has gone as far as refusing Melee streaming access to the world’s largest tournaments. In the rare circumstances when Nintendo has organized Melee tournaments itself, it likes to create rules entirely different than what the competitive community is used to.
A competitive legacy — Twenty years after its release, Melee’s competitive contingent is still going strong. And we’re not talking about one or two scattered tournaments here or there — tournaments are held frequently in locations all around the world. That’s unheard of, by Nintendo standards, and it’s made all the more impressive by the fact that Melee isn’t even available for modern consoles. You’ve gotta pull out your dusty GameCube to even consider playing.
Whether or not Nintendo’s official Melee (and Ultimate) tournament turns out to be a success story will depend on how willing it is to listen to the community that’s kept the game relevant. Panda seems to be handling the bulk of the logistics, based on its tweet announcement, but Nintendo has a history of getting its way, even when doing so angers fans.