The COVID-19 pandemic could have easily been one of the darkest periods in Super Smash Bros. Melee history due to the absence of in-person competition. But thanks to the development of Slippi, an online matchmaking system implementing rollback netcode for the nearly 20-year-old game, has given it new life in online competition.
The Slippi Champions League was the culmination of this as a weekly tournament featuring the top Melee players in North America with full commentary hosted by Beyond the Summit.
Four weeks of competition, with 16 players each week playing in two divisions and working to move up and avoid relegation while battling for $1,600 every week, led to some incredible Melee action. Week four ended with Zain Naghmi winning for the third straight week after a 3-0 over Zaid “Spark” Ali.
Joseph “Mango” Marquez was the only other player to win the event, taking week one 3-1 over Zain.
Zain’s dominance aside, this was also a great showing for players like Spark, Griffin “Captain Faceroll” Williams, and Dawud “Aklo” Rahman, players who some viewers might not know as well as more well-known pros like Mango or Justin “Plup” McGrath.
On top of making for a fun tournament to showcase some great Melee, the event also raked in similar views compared to nearly every other Smash-related event ran during the pandemic.
Each week, the SCL averaged around 14,000 viewers, with its highest peak being 21,463 viewers in week three, according to Esports Charts. Week four’s numbers aren’t readily available yet, but Twitch Metrics shows a decrease in viewership overall, likely because it was streamed on Halloween.
The only comparable events to pull in viewership for Melee is the CLG Mixup in September with 16,516 peak viewers and Get On My Line 2020 in July with just under 14,000 peak viewers. A few Smash Ultimate events surpassed it, including most of The Quarantine Series events, The Box, and several others. Pound Online 2020 also surpassed the SCL’s numbers, peaking at 24,120 viewers, though it also included Melee in the lineup.
With the continued development of Slippi, more events like the SCL will start running and will allow players from around the world to compete without relying on LAN tournaments, even when they do return.
What could have been a dark period for Melee has turned into a period of growth where more players are able to compete, grind, and train with other players in their region and beyond without leaving their home. Now we get to look forward to Smash Summit 10 Online, which begins on Nov. 19.