What does Cloud9, EnVyUs, and NRG have to do with the recent Nintendo Direct? More than what’s immediately obvious, it seems.
The Nintendo Switch trailer had two particularly interesting and speculation-causing traits: one, the seemingly total absence of anybody under the age of 18. The actors and environments shown were more appropriately that of the everyday young adult, living in their own apartment, taking care of their own dog, and having their own roof parties (though that’s probably the least-believable bit nowadays: being able to afford such a nice place with such a view at that age).
That plays into the second: a massive Splatoon esports tournament at the end in classic League of Legends or DOTA 2 style, complete with cheering crowds, technicolored lights, and sponsor-decked uniforms. Was Nintendo finally moving into the hardcore esports space after entire literal generations of relentlessly protecting their family-friendly image?
Said a source intimate with esports team management: yes.
“I know Splatoon was a test run for a competitive game, so they’re either gonna flesh the current game out or do something for the Switch,” they claimed. Organizations heavily identified with esports have been in contact with Nintendo at least as far back as Dreamhack Austin, around early July, but the discussions didn’t just include American organizations. European and Japanese competitive teams were in contact as well. Smash Bros and Pokken were also named as titles being explored in the esports space.
This claim was corroborated by a source close to Nintendo itself. Teams named included TSM, Team Liquid, and Immortals from North America, among many others. G2, SK, Fnatic, and NaVi were listed as European contacts, also as a non-comprehensive list.
The organizations involved have, as expected, declined to comment or ignored requests for comments entirely.
“From what it sounds like, they aren’t looking to make an LoL, CS, or Overwatch,” claimed a source. “They don’t want to be a frontrunner; they just want to be a part of it.”
Ostensibly, hints of this might have shown up as recently as this week. Nintendo America had advertised a Splatoon tournament that looked, for all intents and purposes, to be a third-party event:
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) October 25, 2016
While a far, far cry from the financially significant pot bonus support provided by Capcom and other publishers to an event like EVO, it is suggestive as an exploratory tendril into the esports gold rush. Along with their ESL program, with the Nintendo Switch itself as a prize, it seems as if the grassroots competitive Nintendo community, players and tournament organizers alike, can expect some love in 2017.