Over the weekend, while Aussies were drinking cheesy beer and Danes were choking on mixed European nuts, there was a Smash Bros Melee tournament going on, and what a tournament it was. Colloquially known as Smash Summit 6, the event was (obviously) the sixth iteration of the invitational held in a Californian mansion, and arguably the greatest event in Melee’s modern history.
With the best ten players in the world invited and a further six voted in, the viewers were guaranteed high level play, and even with the ‘shock’ result of MVG Echo Fox Jason ‘Mew2King’ Zimmerman winning the event over Alliance's Adam 'Armada' Lindgren, that was still the case. For those not in the know, it was slightly less shocking than might have been the case, as M2K is known for having the ability from a technical point of view, but the habit of crumbling under psychological strain.
Over the course of the weekend, there was everything from multi-character matches to crew battles, teams and even Mafia in the evening. For those missing their typical day one experience the organiser also hosted a ‘commentators’ tournament that featured something closer to the standard you’d expect to see on the opening day of an event, or at a local, before the juicy bits rolled around.
To put some of the juice on paper, it includes, but is not limited to: world number one player losing to players he has been beating for some time; invited new player making top three; character innovation across at least three players; revival of the US’s greatest ever player Mang0 and his stylish Falco; top level production and some skits.
Some filler, mainly killer
If it seems like the skits were given short shrift, then in the opinion of this writer, it was not short enough, but there is no real reason to think esports stars are going to be talented actors either. Outside of the filler, it was all killer on the screen, and also contained the most heartwarming, wholesome popoff in esports history, if not the history of the entire earth and universe.
Other events hosted by the same folk in different games don’t do as well, for a variety of reasons, but most of those are scale. To a DotA or CSGO pro, the Summit is a slightly gimmicky event with a decent, but not special prize pool, and for those events it is obviously not premier, but Melee works perfectly. The combination of big money (for Smash), the top players in the world all being in one place, the personalities and the setting seem to make everything perfect, almost.
If there are criticisms, they would be around the way the format seems to affect the commetary, with long moments where the four on the couch seemed more interested in each other than the game. Even when they did focus on the play, there was more ‘ohhhh, ‘ugh’ and ‘oh my god’ than there was analysis, but this is easily fixed down the line, so easily that it does make you wonder if this is how Summit wants them to be.
In terms of eyes, these sort of events can’t get close to what ELeague managed with their CS Major, or Evo can deliver for a Sunday final, but the peak of around 60k for the final was a good watermark for the TO’s to show their sponsors. Smash overall is not suffering as much as other esports from the rise of Fortnite and so on, with Melee one of the most self-sufficient scenes out there, but there may have been a few that hoped to tickle the sole of 100k’s feet in their dreams, and were disappointed not to have done.
For the FGC it was a good event, beating the viewing figures of recent Tekken and Street Fighter events, and speaks to the health, if not growth of Melee. The most important lesson is that for esports, scale is important, and sometimes less is more. If the scene were big enough to sustain it, we would even consider just advising Summit to give up on CS etc and just run FGC events, but we’ve seen in recent months what the wider world of esports can get as a reward for that kindness.