Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's DLC was decided by Nintendo rather than Sakurai himself — how does this affect the characters we'll see join the game?

Although Sakurai seems to have some say whether a character is added or not, he's limited to choices presented by Nintendo

Posted by Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor • November 27, 2018 at 6:44 p.m. PST

One of the most legendary developers in Nintendo history is without a doubt Masahiro Sakurai, who is not only the creator of the Kirby franchise, but has also been the director on every single Super Smash Bros. game, including the newest entry releasing in December, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

As such, he's also been in charge of perhaps the most hotly debated aspect of every new Super Smash Bros. game, namely the game's roster.

Since it is a battle of Nintendo all-stars from across most of their beloved franchises, and has also extended to include 3rd party gaming icons since Metal Gear Solid's Snake and Sonic the Hedgehog's titular character were added back in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, people obviously have a lot of opinions when it comes to who should be added to gaming's biggest crossover.

Although there's likely nobody who agrees entirely with every single roster decision Sakurai has made, it's hard to argue that the vast majority of characters who should be there aren't already in, but there's always more people want to see, especially with how many new and successful games are released each year.

In the final Super Smash Bros. Ultimate-focused Nintendo Direct earlier this month, the full launch roster for the game was revealed, along with the first DLC character (which will be free for early adopters) Piranha Plant from the Mario series. It was also shown that we would be receiving five DLC characters, with one stage each and music tracks added, for about a year after the game's release.

The basis for this article comes a few days later, though, when Sakurai tweeted that the DLC choices had been made... by Nintendo. Sakurai noted that the selection for DLC characters, contrary to how they've done it in the past, was entirely in Nintendo's hands, with Sakurai only specifying whether he thought the character would work as playable or not.

With Nintendo calling the shots rather than Sakurai himself, what does it mean for the additional roster we'll be seeing after the game's release? Let's have a look at some aspects that will likely be different from what we're used to.

Nintendo will want to market 3rd parties that benefit them

This is a pretty easy one, and while many 3rd parties that have joined Smash have storied histories with Nintendo and fit in the game like a hand in a glove, such as Sonic, Mega Man and Ryu, there are also oddball picks that almost seem counter-intuitive to Nintendo's own interests to include such as Snake and Cloud.

While Sakurai has been open about including characters that are big icons for gaming, and have some connection to Nintendo, it's likely to be far more important for Nintendo as a company to market characters that they know will benefit their sales both in hardware and software outside of just the Super Smash Bros. series.

A good example of this already happening is Bayonetta, who while a pretty popular character is also much newer than any of the other 3rd parties in Smash, and obviously much less proven. However, her games were very well-received, and while Nintendo do not own the character, they have published the second game, and will publish the third, meaning that they have a serious stake in the franchise, and own rights to certain games from it.

Although not to the same extreme as Bayonetta, another 3rd party series which Nintendo have a strong vested interest in is Square-Enix's Dragon Quest franchise. This is not only a franchise with a long history on Nintendo consoles, and which is enormous in Japan, but it's also a franchise which has been gravitating back towards Nintendo consoles, to some extent, and Nintendo have helped out greatly with.

In fact, Dragon Quest IX as well as the remakes for Dragon Quest IV, V, VI, VII and VIII, all on Nintendo hardware (Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS) were published by Nintendo outside of Japan, meaning they paid for the marketing costs and more to bring the games to a wider audience.

In a sense, you can judge this as Square-Enix having essentially given up on making Dragon Quest a juggernaut franchise outside of Japan, so Nintendo has basically taken the reigns in this endavor for them, at least with these titles. It's also worth noting that the series' latest title, Dragon Quest XI, has an upcoming Switch version confirmed since quite some time back...

There are other picks besides Dragon Quest that make a lot of sense, of course. But this is something to look at when thinking about which 3rd parties are likely to join the fray as DLC — which of them will benefit Nintendo the most as a whole?

Overlooked characters may have new hope

While we can't say for sure how much of Smash Bros.'s roester decisions up until now have been the work of Sakurai and how much has been the work of Nintendo, Sakurai's tweet heavily implies that this is the first time Nintendo has really taken charge over it.

What this means is really anyone's guess. Regardless of your feelings on the Super Smash Bros. rosters, it's hard to say how much of the good or bad you see in it comes from Sakurai, and how much comes from Nintendo. It's like opening Pandora's box, you don't know what's going to come out.

One thing that's worth considering, though, is that long-standing characters whose disinculsion has left fans puzzled time and time again, such as Nintendo icons like Toad from the Mario series and Dixie Kong from the Donkey Kong series, may have found a second wind.

There are plenty of other examples too, of course, but the gist of it is that characters that may have gotten the short end of the stick in the past simply because Sakurai didn't consider them interesting enough to work on may have gotten bumped up the list because Nintendo value them much more as a brand than Sakurai does.

Of course, Sakurai clarified in his tweet that he chooses characters from a Nintendo selection, so if there are characters he truly doesn't believe have any potential at all, they're still not going to be in. But characters he might have simply overlooked while preferring to work on oddball out-of-left-field picks like Wii Fit Trainer or Piranha Plant may have greater chances with Nintendo being the bosses.

Ballot choices may be more relevant because of the nature of DLC

The big thing about DLC that all companies struggle with is to make sure it's something that the consumers actually want to spend money on. Although it's debatable how much of an impact the Super Smash Bros. ballot voting had on the Smash Bros. 4 DLC, it's clear that it's had some sort of effect on the picks for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

While the official results of the ballot voting were never released to the public, the outcry for returning veterans was heard all across the net, and long-time popular picks like Ridley and King K. Rool continued to receive massive support.

Add to this newcomer characters that had skyrocketed in popularity ever since fans laid eyes on them, such as surprise hit Splatoon's colorful protagonists, the Inklings, or Animal Crossing's super secretary extraordinaire, Isabelle, and it's pretty obvious that the ballot votes played a considerable role in shaping the roster we currently have before us.

However, that's also something to consider with DLC. Again, we don't know exactly how the ballot shook out, but it's likely that Nintendo have eyed over these results several times since the DLC talks began, because you can bet that anyone who takes the time to vote for a character to join Smash is going to be more than willing to spend extra money on them if they're added later on.

This one is hard to gauge in advance, since there are tons of characters that could feasibly have done well, but after the DLC is unveiled I think we'll have many a head-slapping "oh, of course!" moments to go around.

The picks may focus on projects we don't know about yet

This is the most difficult point to discern any actual information from of all.

Nintendo are pretty tight-lipped when it comes to upcoming projects since a few years back, opting for much shorter hype cycles leading up to the game's proper unveiling. We didn't even know about Super Mario Odyssey existing until about 10 months before the title's actual release.

While we're aware of some of Nintendo's 2019 lineup, with key titles for the company including titles such as Yoshi's Crafted World, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, Animal Crossing Switch and Luigi's Mansion 3, as well as Metroid Prime 4 still being on the horizon as a TBA title, this doesn't tell the whole story.

A lot of people have begun to theorize that we'll be getting Fire Emblem and Metroid characters because of these proejcts, but what you need to also think about is the wealth of titles we likely have no idea about which will also be released before the DLC releases dry up, since DLC content will reportedly continue to be released as laste as early 2020.

With Nintendo's huge wealth of intellectual properties, it's practically impossible to guess what they may have on the horizon, and you can bet that if they're aiming for a big-time franchise revival like what they did with Kid Icarus a few years ago, whichever character is getting it will be a prime candidate to push as DLC.

Even beyond currently unrepresented franchises, if we'd be getting something like a new F-Zero, a series which have been left wanting for a long time now, it would likely be a prime opportunity to promote it extra via additional Super Smash Bros. content.

In short, while it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to expect even more Fire Emblem content with the upcoming game lining up well with the DLC schedule, there are also going to be surprise titles in the mix we can't anticipate. If they can unveil a mainline Mario game less than a year before release, Nintendo can have absolutely anything up their sleeve that we simply can't know about yet.

These are some of the aspects I think people should think about when looking at the upcoming DLC releases for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and I hope that you felt enlightened in some way after this long read.

There will be another article coming up which focuses more on the upcoming projects Nintendo might have to show, and comparing their current 2019 lineup with what we saw from them in 2017 and 2018, so please look forward to it.

Like I said earlier in this article, seeing Nintendo take the reigns over Sakurai is kind of a scary idea. While I don't always think Sakurai makes the best decisions, the unknown can be absolutely anything, so it's hard to tell if it'll be better or worse. One thing is for absolute certain though — seeing the Smash DLC unveiled will be extremely exciting.

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