The North America Open 2019 competition for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is interesting but could be so much more for Nintendo and the competitive scene

Posted by Justin 'AdaptiveTrigger' Gordon • February 9, 2019 at 7:32 p.m. PST

It's no secret that Nintendo has seen a great deal of success with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Reports indicate that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is currently the highest selling launch of an exclusive console title ever in the U.S. and sales have already exceeded 12 million since its release.

As it stands, Super Smash Bros. Brawl has had the highest number of sales at 13.29 million. Unless you total Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U together for 14.69 million units sold. Needless to say, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is already catching up to these numbers despite only being two months old.

One can imagine that a lot of attention is being given to this new game. Even top level Super Smash Bros. Melee competitors have been putting time into it and having fun with it despite many of them not liking Brawl or the fourth entry in the series.

Nintendo has not had the greatest history when it comes to supporting competition. Back in 2013, Nintendo actually attempted to shut down Super Smash Bros. Melee from being streamed at that year's EVO before reversing course.

Since then, Nintendo has steadily been getting better about supporting the competitive crowd. Given, they don't have a full blown pro tour to the same extent as Capcom, NetherRealm Studios, and Bandai Namco for their fighting games.

The North America Open appears to be a step in this direction for Nintendo. Here's a moment that occurred earlier today during the online event that was highlighted by Nintendo:


Click image for animated version

Indeed, Isnacks wisely completed the Dragoon in order to take out Seth's undamaged stock while over 200%. There was nothing wrong with this play.

Isnacks understood their win condition based on the rules and made an impressive comeback. It built up hype in a unique way.

Still, it's very strange that Nintendo is hosting a tournament that ignores the competitive crowd's preferred rules. That is to say, tournaments are played with items turned off. Isnacks appears to think of items as being "dumb" too.

It's difficult to say if combining casual aspects of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate with competition is a format that will fully appeal to either crowd. More than likely, this isn't doing anything for professional players.

Perhaps it would've been better if Nintendo had both a four player free-for-all format and a tournament 1v1 standard.

Later, Nintendo shifted away from spectating a match while it was apparent that lag was present. One of the hosts (likely through direction) then stated that the players were not actually being affected.

Isnacks, one of the competitors involved in the match, confirmed that there actually was "a lot of lag" during match three.

Isnack's comment about game 3 lag image #1
Click images for larger versions

Many fans have complained about the "bare bones" feeling nature of Nintendo's paid online service. Instead of having dedicated servers for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, connections are peer-to-peer.

For me personally, online matches have rarely felt delayed or sluggish. Having said that, I understand that this has not been everyone's experience. Still, some features like a messaging system seems poorly implemented or non-existent.

Showing off item matches while hiding laggy interactions seems like it could be a good strategy to attract casual players who haven't purchased the title yet.

Getting knowledgeable players like PG|ESAM, VikkiKitty, and Toph to commentate during the matches shows that Nintendo is aware of the scene. They also demonstrated this based on improvements made from the Nintendo 2014 Invitational to the Nintendo 2018 Invitational.

The winners of the online qualifiers will be given a trip to compete at the final event held at PAX East. Players will be arranged in teams to compete for collectible items worth $500.

All this is a good start, but Nintendo could do so much better. Remember, the game has been reported to sell over 12 million units thus far.

There's a huge opportunity sitting here with Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in terms of pushing the eSports scene, but Nintendo has yet to seize it. They could also improve the online service to make these online competitions even better.

We've definitely come a long way since mechanics like tripping were introduced in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This was clearly intended to reduce the competitive feel of the title.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate most closely resembles Melee which has had competition for over 17 years. Players are able to choose between playing the game casually and competitively as tripping was removed.

Now if only Nintendo would support both crowds outside of the game too. They've already listened to fans in many ways already.

I'd like to think that a Nintendo Smash Bros. pro tour could actually happen someday with enough demand. Here's hoping that it's simply a matter of time.

Second clip source: Rod Breslau.

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