The next major Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament, BEAST 6, is coming up in two weeks. Unlike most SSBM tournaments, this one isn’t being taken place in the United States. Rather, it takes place in Gothenburg, Sweden. This brings a couple things with it.
First, two of the top six players in the world are from Sweden. Anyone who is new to the scene might find it strange that the vast majority of all top players are from the US, except No. 1-ranked Adam “Armada” Lindgren and No. 3 William “Leffen” Hjelte (according to Smash.gg’s rankings). The tournament being in Leffen’s home country is important because he’s missed some recent ones, including last month’s Genesis 3.
Second, the tournament will be played on a different version of the game than many North American players are probably used to. Video games have different release dates for each region, and usually the game is released in Japan first, then North America (which is the NTSC region), and finally Europe, Australia, and the rest of the world. That version, referred to as PAL, comes out last within a game’s release schedule.
SSBM was released in a time when games couldn’t be patched online, and developers would sometimes make minor changes in between each release of the game. Most of the time they were small bug fixes, but in SSBM, they actually made some balance tweaks. Nintendo identified two top characters, Fox and Sheik, as being really good, and both the them received some changes. Fox’s Up B recovery length is shortened, and his Up Smash isn’t as powerful. Sheik can’t chain-grab most of the cast, which severely hindered most of the lower-tier’s metagame for years on NTSC.
The weight of the characters is slightly different, making certain combos different, most notably Fox’s waveshine (Down B to Wavedash) ability. Other notable changes are Falco’s and Marth’s Down Air, which both have slightly different sweet spot hit boxes and properties.
Despite the changes, Fox still remains at the top of the tier list, and most other spots aren’t too far off from the NTSC tier list. Playing the PAL version can still affect the tournament results, though. PAL hurts Sheik, which can potentially hurt a top player like Jason “Mew2King” Zimmerman, and help Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma with the weaker Fox. (Hungrybox did, by the way, win the last major PAL tournament, DreamHack Winter 2015.)
BEAST 6’s location also affects the ability of the top players to attend. As mentioned above, the vast majority of the top players in the world are from the United States. That makes it more difficult to attend as far as costs are concerned, even though all of the top 6 and some others, are sponsored by well-known organizations such as Cloud 9, Team SoloMid and Team Liquid.
As always, drama ensues in the Smash Community.
People can donate money through smash.gg to help players attend national tournaments. This mostly affects players outside the top 10, who aren’t necessarily sponsored. For BEAST 6, the list includes Hugo “HugS” Gonzalez, Joey “Lucky” Aldama, and Johnny “S2J” Kim, to name a few.
But the most surprising name on the list of players seeking donations is Joseph “Mango” Marquez, one of the top six and perhaps the most popular player in the world.
The drama all started when a video was made to accompany the smash.gg donations for BEAST 6. The top comment on the subsequent Reddit post was from a user curious about the inclusion of Mango. Armada responded, saying how he has thought about going the same route as Mango in the past due to immense travel time and expenses. It started a discussion on the idea of sponsored pros being included in compendium donations such as smash.gg.
It’s controversial since Mango is sponsored by Cloud 9, which, like other professional organizations, help its players attend events. Mango then asked for donations while streaming, saying if he didn’t receive a certain amount of donations and streaming subscriptions, he wouldn’t attend the tournament.
In the midst of this discussion, the tournament organizer attempted to clarify why Mango was on the smash.gg compendium:
“Sponsors don’t always cover oversea flights, and Mango was unsure on going or not. We added him to the compendium to help him with the last funds needed to make the trip possible.”
Leffen has a valid point. It would be bad for the Smash community if the top players all took this approach. If the landscape reaches a place where the top players are all requiring their fans to donate money for them to attend major tournaments, it will become a popularity contest, and players will be opting out of tournaments if they don’t reach a certain goal. This isn’t just in bad taste. It’s exploitation.
Why won’t C9 cover Mango’s trip? How common is this? Will other sponsored players follow Mango’s lead?
The situation isn’t dire right now, but it would be severely detrimental to the game if other top players adopt this mentality. It’s a bad look for the future of the Smash esports scene, and it could greatly affect player turnouts.