This weekend marks the biggest, most stacked event in Smash 4 history. With a concert, cosplay contest, crew battle, and even an actual tournament bracket, Civil War looks to be a pivotal moment in our game’s growth.
Everything about the event itself is set up to grab a casual or new fan and bring them deeper into the community. From unique character specialists to foreign players to a stacked commentary roster, much of what will happen this weekend will be the best of what our community has to offer. As such, many people are expecting the view numbers to be record breaking for Smash 4.
Let me be very clear: I am beyond excited for Civil War. I am adjusting my schedule, and have told my family to leave me alone during the times when I can focus on watching. However, I am not sure people understand just how much help the event still needs in order to break that critical 50k barrier. Our most intense grand finals of a Smash 4-only event barely crested 35k. This tells me that the core audience of Smash 4 is likely around 28k at peak viewership, and the presence of Lucario and Zero being sent to loser’s by that Lucario brought in the extra numbers.
I think breaking 50k is absolutely doable for Civil War. However, the community being excited will not be enough. We need to evangalize this event. We as a community need to unite behind this goal, and really push the conversation in eSports for the remainder of the week. I don’t have space in this post to get into why this number matters so much, but if you care about the growth of Smash, trust me when I say it is the most important thing we can do.
As such, I want to provide you with the tools to help control the narrative. To draw in a casual observer, nothing about the actual play or mechanisms of the tournament matter. “This tournament is so stacked” or “Best of five starts super early” are not the impactful pieces for someone who doesn’t actively watch smash or fighting games in general. To bring in your mom, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, or your manager you need storylines. They need to be invested in the right players, and told about the emotional weight of this event. With that in mind, here are what I believe to be the storylines that would be interesting to a brand new/very casual fan.
1. The Crew Battle
I don’t care if you’re burnt out on crew battles, or you think Team Zero is way too stacked, the crew battle is incredibly cool to a newbie. Ally and Zero have been rivals for over a year, Ally is the only player who’s been able to really contend with Zero for dominance, and their rivalry has split the smash community in half. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but remember we’re trying to draw in new people.
Talk about how Zero and Ally recruited their friends and colleagues to defend them. Show them the Zinoto and Anti videos. Have them read my Front Line report (shameless plug). Tell them about how the whole event affects the war effort. Show them the posters of everyone as marvel characters. Civil War was an incredible movie, it has ingrained itself in the zeitgeist. Use that, and you will get people to tune in.
2. International Talent
I’ve had this debate on Twitter–people have said that all this international talent coming to Civil War will draw in casual observers. While they are not wrong, their reasoning is flawed. To an ingrained smasher, all this talent from around the world is amazing because it is different from what we’re used to seeing. We finally get to see what Glutonny can do at an S-tier event. We get to see Tsu and Shuton play again. We’re getting the answers to hypothetical questions of “who would win if…” A newcomer doesn’t have that background. If they know eSports at all, international events are the standard, not the exception. They are used to international players dominating, it’s nothing special. In Smash, however, the story is way different, and has far more emotional weight.
There are all these foreign players coming who wanted to support their team, who wanted the chance to compete and show what they could do. They just couldn’t afford it. 2GG swooped in, and with the help of the community brought in players from all over the world. For many of them this is their first time in America. Many players have either quit jobs or used all their vacation time for the chance at this dream.
With our help, they’ve come to America to challenge our greatest players. As a patriot, you need to watch and support our home-grown talent. As a fan of underdog stories, you need to watch and support these kids that have been given the chance to change their lives through the game they love. As someone from another country, you must watch and support your local players in what may be their only chance to defeat America.
The Smash community does not understand what a valuable tool it has in ESAM. He has a very distinct look, a very accessible personality, and freaking plays freaking Pikachu! I don’t think the average smasher understands just how much people love Pikachu. Even your grandma probably knows about that little shockmouse. Next to Mario, he is the most easily recognizable character on the roster. Frankly, he may be more appealing than Mario to a casual observer. Just pulling up the stream during one of ESAM’s matches is virtually guaranteed to draw more interest from a casual observer than anyone else simply by the virtue of Pikachu’s mass appeal.
Now, add in the story of ESAM. He was ignored for both teams. Both teams have players on them that are ranked lower, but neither captain chose him. Now, ESAM and Pikachu have to prove those jerks wrong by defeating all comers in bracket.
To a smash fan, you can talk about ESAM as the Bayo slayer. Everyone who plays this game hates Bayonetta, especially casuals. ESAM and Pikachu are the game’s most notorious Bayonetta slayers! The little yellow rat utterly dismantles this character who makes so many For Glory players rage quit. You may not like ESAM, or think he is the best player ever, but don’t be foolish enough to ignore his mass appeal. The man has more Twitter followers than Anti, clearly he has something that lot’s of people are drawn to. Use it to bring in more viewers.
4. The 2GG Circuit
Since 2GG has done such a bad job of it, allow me to remind you about the 2GGC. The winner of each monthly 2GG saga is automatically qualified for a $50,000 invitational at the end of the year. Players who place well at each event also earn points towards a qualifying spot.
For many of the players at Civil War, this will be the only 2GGC event they can attend. Smash is a game so many play for the love of it, but want that one shot at turning pro. The 2GGC is their shot. This is the definition of an underdog story. Zero won the last two events. He literally stole someone’s shot at qualifying last month. He’s the blonde dude in the Karate Kid.
This is someone’s chance to not only beat up a bully, but to make their dreams come true with one miraculous run to victory. Winning this tournament has the chance to change someone’s life. Tell someone about Tsu and Kirihara, about how these japanese players have made the God King bleed and are hungry for a chance to do it again. This time, if they are successful, they will earn their shot at $50k.
5. The PGR
We will go into it in detail another time, but the PGR is incredible. Even the PGStats crew themselves don’t fully understand it’s full weight and value. I don’t think anyone can. It represents the clearest unifying storyline for the year. Getting a higher rank affects your ability to go pro. It changes your standing in the community. It opens doors that were previously closed. It is a really, really big deal. Plus, it’s really easy for a casual observer to understand.
Everyone has been ranked at some point in their life, and understands the desire to climb to a higher rank. Many people understand DKWill and Nakat’s current situation of feeling left out of the special club. However, the PGR is a cold, unfeeling meritocracy. The only way to change your rank is to play better. Defeating bosses and placing well at big events, these are the only things that matter to the monolithic ranking system.
Civil War is so stacked, it will define the PGR going forward. Getting top 8 at this event will give you so many good wins, you’re virtually guaranteed a good placement. Further, since the PGR influences the tournament tier system, this is also a chance for international players to influence the weight of tournaments in their local region. The final standings at this event will forever shape the future of Smash 4. If someone makes a crazy loser’s run, it carries more weight than at any other tournament in history.
There are so many fascinating, human stories surrounding this event. Remember, most people don’t watch sports for the high level play on the field. They watch for the drama. For the human stories more true than reality TV. People want to see underdogs succeed, titans fall, young kids overcome their circumstances through talent and hard work. This event is so much more than just a weekend of people playing Smash Bros really well. Make people see that, and you can bet they will tune in. Sell these stories, and watch our community explode with growth.