I didn’t want this post to sound alarmist and paranoid, but I think that no matter the words I use it will. With that in mind, I’m just going to go ahead and say it:
Smash players, don’t quit your day jobs yet.
That seems a pretty obvious piece of advice, and yet really cynical if one thinks about it. Smash is currently riding a tide of mainstream popularity that it has not seen before in competitive gaming. To start, Melee was one of the best and biggest games at Evolution 2013: the quality of play, along with an amazing crowd presence made it fun for even non-players to enjoy; it’s of course returning to the big stage again this year (with blessings from Nintendo). Next, MLG has added Smash to its roster of games, putting a bigger spotlight on the title. Third, Nintendo is not only supporting Smash by offering competitive modes in the upcoming sequel for WiiU and 3DS, it is throwing a special exhibition tournament at E3 this year. And lastly, many Smash players are being picked up by big-name sponsors. These facts all added to the strength of Smash at both local and regional tournaments make it a great time to be a part of the Smash community. That’s without putting a spotlight on the Smash documentary and the great work by community members to make the game more accessible.
However, support can change like the winds and I hope the Smash community is prepared for that possible eventuality. Other parts of the fighting game community have seen it first-hand, from the short-lived compLexity sponsorships of Tekken players during the game’s run at MLG in 2010 to the dwindling number of supported players now. Companies such as Monster have come and gone from FGC streams. The vast majority of players still can’t live off fighting games, even as the competition gets stronger and wider. In short, stability in fighters is not a reality now and the future is still shaky.
And that’s all I really want to get across. For those whose hard work is finally paying off, congratulations, you all deserve it. And for those who are trying to break into that upper echelon of talent in Smash, maybe now there are some concrete rewards. But, as many of us have said in the past, one should not try to hang their hopes on an uncertain future without a backup plan.
That said, I have been wrong many times before, so maybe this is only going onward and upward from here. The FGC in general is only more “official” than it was last year, and while individual player support may be down, company support—or at least support from the companies who make the games—is up in a big way. Maybe 2014 is the year that fighters break into the mainstream for good. Now THAT would be a story I’d love to write.
But I prefer not to assume that all the good news is here to stay, because no boom comes without an eventual bust.