eSports refers to electronic sports and is becoming somewhat of a global phenomenon, with a massive industry emerging. eSports doesn’t just take place in the comfort of the gamer’s own living room now, as there are now huge eSports tournaments taking place all over the world, some of them in big arenas, attracting large crowds. Many big game developers have decided to invest large sums of money in professional eSports leagues, however legendary developer Nintendo decided that their approach would be different to that of their competitors.
Nintendo has expanded their efforts around competitive gaming over the last few years and have generally appeared hands off in this market place, but this looks set to be changing somewhat and recent releases from Nintendo in Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon have catered to the eSports market. Smash Bros. tournaments are now taking place all over the world and Splatoon tournaments are appearing more and more regularly. So much so that, finally, Nintendo has decided to ramp up their support of such tournaments.
Most eSports players have accepted that Nintendo probably won’t establish a major eSports circuit like the popular Overwatch league or the Rocket League Championship Series. Plus, the company may never really have the massive sponsored events that eSports is becoming well known for, that attracts teams like Luminosity Gaming.
However, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in LA in June Nintendo took the opportunity to unveil Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and as a celebration of the release they decided to host an invitational tournament and invite some of the world’s best Melee and Smash Wii U players to compete at the Expo.
Nintendo says that they are now continuing to work with eSports tournament organizers and community groups, as well as streaming partners like Twitch to try to ensure a healthy competitive scene for their games, outside of these expos.
The latest Nintendo console, the Switch has turned around the fortunes of the developer in recent years. In fact, Switch is seen by many as Nintendo’s key to the eSports market, as when it was released, it was suggested via marketing campaigns that it was intended for use within eSports. Furthermore, the new release Super Smash Bros. is viewed as one of the triggers for Nintendo to start penetrating the eSports market. The game seems to want to bring all Smash Bros. fans together, with the coming together of hardcore competitive eSports fans and casual couch console players.
It is unlikely that we are going to see a Nintendo-backed league for Super Mario or Splatoon anytime soon. But, the kind of changes we are seeing from Nintendo definitely suggest that they are looking to focus more efforts on the eSports world and will be looking to develop games that will work in an eSports arena. Nintendo always go against the grain and their approach to eSports was never going to be conventional. They have a lot of catching up to do to compete with such eSports titles as Overwatch and League of Legends, but titles such as Smash Bros., Splatoon, and Arms will really help with this.