Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma won Smash Summit 9 today, but instead of talking about his performance in the tournament during his winner’s speech, he spent his time asking organizations to sponsor players and calling out Nintendo directly.
He didn’t do it in a way that was meant to offend anyone from the Super Smash Bros. developer, instead he said what’s on the mind of almost every Smash player that has ever tried to turn the game into a career. He simply asked the company to support the competitive scene.
Nintendo has never been a company interested in the competitive aspects of its titles, going as far as to openly comment that it was not going to be putting more resources into esports when it comes to the games it puts out. The company is more focused on opening its games up to the widest possible audience regardless of experience, which means it’s leaving Super Smash Bros. Melee, Ultimate, and even smaller scenes like Splatoon 2 out to dry.
Hbox knew that he was taking a stab at something the community as a whole had been trying to do for nearly two decades, but he wanted to make another appeal to Nintendo on the back of an incredible event that had just wrapped up.
“I know it is probably a shot in the dark, but I am going to try anyway because there are a lot of people watching,” Hbox said. “I really do wish that if anyone from Nintendo corporate is watching this right now, if anyone is seeing the amount of excitement these sets can get, just give Melee a chance.”
It’s well-documented that Nintendo has never wanted Melee to succeed as a competitive title, going as far as to try and remove it from Evo 2013 after the community supported the game enough to get it back into the lineup. But that doesn’t mean all of the players have given up hope on the company eventually changing its mind and coming back to help the game become a Tier 1 esport like its numbers show it should be.
Hbox, being one of several Melee pros to have competed in Nintendo tournaments and appear at other events for the company, is clearly one of the optimists—even if Melee isn’t in the picture.
“Even if it’s just Ultimate, support the Ultimate scene, support the Smash scene in general,” Hbox said. “You have people day in and day out streaming, making content, competing, going to tournaments and we do it all grassroots. We have Beyond the Summit because they raise money…but Nintendo, I need to say, I love you guys but you are the only one not putting resources into the scene.”
The viewership for both Melee and Ultimate majors rival esports with much bigger money in the prize pool, such as Call of Duty and other fighting games like Street Fighter V. It’s up to players and tournament organizers to find sponsors, put together a prize pool, and make sure the events run smoothly without help from Nintendo.
That grassroots support is the only reason Smash is half as popular as it is right now, because without it all of the best players would move on to other games that can actually support its players.
“Look at Capcom Cup, look at that celebration, look at every other game, look at Fortnite,” Hbox said. “This is the step that you are missing and if you did that, the culture and the appreciation that you guys receive would be bar none, unlike anything you have ever received. So I hope you are listening, I know this is probably a shot in the dark, but please support Smash tournaments.”
For someone that a lot of fans consider to be the villain of Melee, Hbox used his time to try and get Nintendo to listen, even if it is unlikely that the company will change its practice just based on one player. Nintendo has been content moving on from Melee since Smash Brawl was released in 2008.
Nintendo does have some methods that the company uses to support Ultimate, but so far that has been the equivalent of giving the winner of Evo Japan 2020 a special Pro Controller and flying a few people out to actual tournaments if they do well in official online competitions. Which, while it isn’t nothing, is completely dwarfed by every other fighting game developer, even as their games don’t pull in half the competitors or viewership.