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What Can The Nintendo Switch Do For Competitive Gaming?

The Switch has brought Nintendo back from a hole of distain into the warmth of its fans hearts. Isn't the time right for the company to embrace the competitive gaming scene as so many others have?

Nintendo’s track record with competitive gaming and esports in general has been shaky at best. Nintendo of America’s vice president Reggie Fils-Aime said as recently as this past June that Nintendo isn’t particularly interested in cultivating a future in esports the traditional way, preferring some sort of an “open challenge” as was seen with the release of ARMS for the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo was also confirmed to have threatened the developers behind Project M - a Super Smash Bros. Melee mod designed to update the game into the next century - with legal action. 

All that being said, there has still been some growth for Nintendo properties in the esports realm, primarily when it comes to Super Smash Bros. and Pokken. Both fighting games are often featured in major fighting game tournaments, including the Evolution Championship Series: the largest fighting game tournament of the year. Nintendo’s newest IP, ARMS, shocked fighting game players when it knocked Super Smash Bros. Melee and Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite out of the Evolution Japan 2018 lineup.

Some Nintendo games are already heavy in the esports scene. Smash Bros has been a regular fixtures of tournaments like EVO for years.
Some Nintendo games are already heavy in the esports scene with or without Nintendo's influence. Smash Bros has been a regular fixtures of tournaments like EVO for years.

Nintendo has also partnered with ESL in the past to showcase Splatoon, Nintendo’s third-person action shooter, on an esports stage. Even further, the company also features Pokemon on a grand stage at the Pokemon World Championships, which has now added Pokken Tournament to its yearly lineup. Lastly, Nintendo recently revived its World Championship tournament series this October 2017, which was an overall success with great players in attendance 

However, all of the work Nintendo has done pales in comparison to what other companies, some much smaller and less-revered than the classic gaming juggernaut, have done to increase their esports presence. While Nintendo has often said and done things that have proven contrary to simply accepting e-sports, we think there are a few strides they can make to create a competitive gaming environment fans of their games will enjoy.

Embrace It

Games like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong are definitely kid friendly, but that doesn't mean pro-level players haven't been finding new and unique ways to beat them since they've existed, such as at Awesome Games Done Quick
Games like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong are definitely kid friendly, but that doesn't mean pro-level players haven't been finding new and unique ways to beat them since they've existed, such as at Awesome Games Done Quick.

There’s more Nintendo can do to simply accept esports, but we have to start somewhere, don’t we? Nintendo generally avoids all mentions of “esports” and “competitive gaming” when discussing their classic titles, since they maintain the position of making fun and family-friendly games. To play devil’s advocate, soccer is technically a children’s game, and the entire world shuts down for a month and a half while we find out who’s the best team in the world, right? Soccer is enjoyed at low levels, medium levels, and high levels of play, and people at those subordinate levels enjoy watching games played at the highest level. 

Why should Nintendo deny fans of their games the right to see these games played at the highest level? Heck, it’s essentially the purpose of the Nintendo World Championships already. It’s not like esports is going anywhere, and in fact it’s only growing exponentially. Nintendo needs to not worry about pushing out the bottom 2/3s of players for fear of excluding them from the competition and cater to their highest-level players for these events. I don’t think UEFA is worried about a high school team in Belgium when crafting the Champions League, so why should Nintendo do the same in their world?

Hold Events Without Gimmicks

The Nintendo World Championships are great, but what if they were expanded into seperate events rather than one gauntlet?

The Nintendo World Championships were a cool throwback to the past, where participants competed in a gaming decathalon to crown one grand champion. However, much like the actual Olympic decathalon, viewers and participants might not enjoy a multitude of games, and would prefer to compete in just one. Nintendo should, like the Olympics, hold separate events for the decathletes as well as the specialized participants to see who is superior. 

There’s no reason why a skilled Mario Kart 8 player or Donkey Kong Country Returns: Tropical Freeze speedrunner should be eliminated from competing in their game just because they couldn’t win a round of Super Smash Bros. against a high-level Smash player. Let the best players play their best game. We let it happen in literally every other type of tournament - video game, chess, basketball, or otherwise.

Use The Strength of the Switch’s First And Third-Party Titles

Back in early 2017, Nintendo promoted the Switch at their events with a Super Bomberman R tournament. Even at the start of 2018, Bomberman is joined by so many other games that would make for awesome Switch tournament and competitive line-ups.
Back in early 2017, Nintendo promoted the Switch at their events with a Super Bomberman R tournament. Even at the start of 2018, Bomberman is joined by so many other games that would make for awesome Switch tournament and competitive line-ups.

There’s no doubt, especially since the days of the Wii, that the main reason gamers purchase Nintendo systems is to play Nintendo first-party titles. It’s a blessing and a curse for gamers - especially those who bought the Wii U. While the system had plenty of great first-party support, its third-party support post-launch was lacking to say the least. Nintendo sought to correct this problem with the Switch, grabbing plenty of third-party games at launch and down the road. 

Should Nintendo do another World Championships, they should think about including some third-party games along with their first-party titles to bring some additional eyes to their product. Games like FIFA 18, NBA 2K18, Rocket League, Ultra Street Fighter II and even DOOM would compliment any Nintendo-sponsored tournament lineup greatly. (Yeah, they probably wouldn’t include DOOM, but at least it’s more interesting than watching someone speedrun 1-1 in Super Mario Bros. in 20 seconds for the 150,000th time.)

Do Pop-Up Events

Remember the original Switch ad where Nintendo promoted the idea of people just getting together and competing with their console? What if they were not only actually into that, but actively supporting it?
Remember the original Switch ad where Nintendo promoted the idea of people just getting together and competing on the Switch? What if they were not only actually into that, but actively supporting it?

This one’s a little out there, but we’re playing to the one strength the Switch has over its competitors - its portability. The Switch can be easily brought and played anywhere - People can play a modern Zelda game on the train for crying out loud. Now, imagine walking down a busy city street and seeing a random Mario Kart 8 tournament on the side of a skyscraper? The Switch can easily make it happen, just plug the dock into a projector, and boom - big Mario Kart. Also, imagine how much fun it would be to try to find the next big Nintendo event? The World Championships are neat, but Nintendo-sponsored player competitions are few and far between. They should be better than seldom-seen sideshows. They should be regular practice.


What do you think? Should Nintendo be a presence in the competitive gaming scene? How? Or do you think they should maintain their “innocence” and stay out? Let us know!

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