The ZeRo Saga announcement, upon the denouement of MK Leo’s ascension into the ranks of Smash 4 greats, will likely go down in history as a turning point for the franchise. It was on this stage, at that moment, that 2GGC announced the fulfillment of the scene’s dreams since the game’s launch: a full-fledged year-long circuit, a massive (by Smash standards) prize pool, and the sort of support that the community’s wished upon for years.
2017 is shaping up to be a legendary time for the scene. And there are consequences to look forward to thanks to 2GGaming and Esports Arena’s collaboration.
…and a few things they should work to avoid.
20 qualifiers, 12 Sagas, and one $100,000 championship. That is not including community donations, compendium drives, sponsorship deals, or anything of the sort. Including those, and we’re talking about the birth of an esports economic ecosystem specifically to the Smash 4 scene – a massive pile of potential fortunes to be accrued.
That means we can probably anticipate more team sponsorships speculating to take advantage of that. It also means we can probably expect a massive overhaul in the power rankings.
Currently: it takes a lot of practice and a lot of lucky and a little bit of craziness to be a top-ten Smash 4 pro. While a handful of players are just so inherently talented that they can drop by any major and expect to come out with cash, the majority of anybody even remotely considered the best have invested significant time and resources into the game. ZeRo’s prep work is no joke – neither is Nairo’s, or anybody else that has even the most remote chance to take a major. This is often a full time investment – practices take up whole days, and start weeks or a month or so ahead of major tournaments.
And given that major tournaments happen pretty much every other month, that’s not a whole lot of downtime. That is inherently expensive in terms of employment, opportunity costs, and other tangentials. And that’s why a circuit is important. Expanding both prizepool and placement opportunities lowers the barrier to entry to hidden talent – makes it so that taking Smash 4 competitively seriously becomes more and more of an option to other worthies.
To temper expectations: the current slate of talent won’t be displaced. They’re already way ahead of everybody else and anybody just now joining in won’t find immediate success – even Leo’s story was that of untold months of training to reach that final breakthrough at ZeRo Saga. But there will be more Leos, over time. There will be unknowns and local champions finally finding the time and reason to get to that next level.
That is the beautiful thing about all of this. If you thought Smash 4’s competitive scene was amazing – and ZeRo Saga was AMAZING – it will only get better because of those we don’t know yet.
But before we totally lose our minds to this incredible development, there are one or two things I DON’T want to see happen. And it’s going to be a strange one, because I enjoy them enough when they’re done for something like League of Legends.
But I don’t want to see the 2GGCS turn into a Smashified LCS.
I don’t want to see a distant crowd and two competitors alone on an isolated stage.
I don’t want to see the crowd treated as an anonymized backdrop whilst casters and analysts drone on upon a separate and isolated desk.
We get that enough in “traditional” esports. They’re great for team games especially, or RTSes. They’re great for games of high strategy where the nuances of macro-scale play can get lost amid the chaos of the decisive confrontation.
They’re absolutely wrong for Smash.
The best part about the 2GGC announcement is that 2GGaming is doing it. It’s that a grassroots organizer has stepped up and taken a firm grasp of the scene’s destiny – one that has done it right for an entire year now, and just needs to tap in a bigger pool of resources to do even better. Champ understands, I think. The most brilliant moment isn’t just when two ace players go into a last-round last-stock situation and one is propelled to Olympian heights by footstooling another to the darkest depths of hell. It’s in that shockwave immediately afterward – when that emotional explosion travels to the first row right behind them, and their explosion lights off the second row, and their explosion immediately sets fire to the third, and…
…the iconic Smash Bros moment is when we all share that rush, right there. Live. Right behind them. When the screaming starts and the backpats rain down, and you share in the glory of being among those beaten by they who had forged a path to greatness.
“Yeah, I lost to the winner. I put up a fight, but he’s too damn good.”
“That’ll be me next time.”
A bigger and better Smash scene is everything we want. But let’s make sure it stays Smash Bros along the way.