In October, Nintendo will be releasing Super Smash Brothers for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U in the United States. To the average consumer, it might seem like just another update in a long line of Super Smash Bros. games, just like yet another Mario game – same old thing, nothing to see here. But this iteration of Super Smash Bros., known colloquially as Smash 4, has the potential not only to put a bit more money into Nintendo’s coffers, but also to shape the growing electronic sports scene.
To understand why, we have to start with the Smash Bros. series as a whole. The Smash Bros. games brought together a total of over 30 Nintendo characters from major Nintendo series and pitted them against each other in an incredibly unique multiplayer fighting game. Unlike other fighters, the goal wasn’t to whittle down the health bar of the opponent, or to input obscure button combinations for special moves. It was simply to knock your opponent off of a floating stage, using any style or method you felt like using. That flexi- bility and intuitiveness made it attractive to new and veteran gamers alike.
A competitive community quickly spawned around the game, which had a depth and nuance to it that no other fighting game has been able to match since. Nintendo, however, has been reluctant to embrace this beautiful acci-dent. For years, the company attempted to distance itself from the competitive scene, stating that Smash Bros. should be a party game and nothing more. But with disappoin-ting sales for Nintendo’s new flagship console, the Wii U, and a dedicated community that has grown into the hundreds of thousands, Nintendo can no longer continue to ignore competitive Smash.
Super Smash Bros. 4 was released in Japan by Nintendo at the beginning of September, and since then it has sold an average of one million copies every week. More important than these large sales numbers, however, is Smash 4’s refocus on the competitive community. The previous edition of Smash Brothers for the Wii was absolutely horrible in terms of competitive play – it was slow, had randomly gener-ated gameplay elements, and was abhorred even by some casual players for being yawn inducing. But with the release of a much faster and more exciting Smash 4, with game modes that are explicitly designed for competitive play, Nintendo seems to be moving away from pandering to a casual fan base and back to the more passionate players.
Smash 4 is revitalization in more ways than one. It’s driving up sales for consoles like the Wii U and 3DS, bringing back the hardcore fan base which Nintendo drew on for so long, and signaling to the competitive scene that they’re gaining increased legitimacy. But most importantly, it’s an incredible game.