We need to talk about what Nintendo’s not doing; again. Yes, sorry to be that kind of article, again, but just sometimes, there’s something even we think is a bit off. The thing that’s “a bit off” is how Nintendo is currently pursuing the eSports community.
Right now, everyone is enjoying the Global Testfire event for Splatoon 2. At the same time, Nintendo is preparing the culmination of an eSports tournament of the first Splatoon, called Go4Splatoon Europe. The Grand Final of that event will take place in Paris on April 1, 2017 and will feature some more Splatoon 2 gameplay. Nintendo is adamant to push at least one aspect of this contest; the part where it’s happening and that they’re involved. On the other end, here’s how the company is selling this thing:
It’s not just pride and glory that will be bestowed upon the winners – they will also each receive a Nintendo Switch!
That sounds pretty cool, right? Not only do players get the honor to play Splatoon in front of an audience, as the final will also be streamed by Nintendo’s official channels on both Youtube and Twitch, but they also get to take home a Nintendo Switch, if they win! That’s pretty good news, since no one seems to stock the damn thing.
Here’s the flipside of Nintendo’s backing, however: Those six months of efforts from everyone involved culminates in the winners receiving a €300 brick that’s, technically, already available to everyone else. The one thing that’s not present, but definitely should be, is money.
Go4Splatoon Europe does not have a visible prize pool in sight, while Nintendo simultaneously does want to capitalize on the growing eSports scene and that’s just not right. In true Nintendo fashion, it shows a garish lack of effort and commitment to the very people it wants to bring in, outside of its own audience.
This half measure is particularly striking since Go4Splatoon Europe is done in association with ESL, abbreviated for Electronic Sports League, the leading company for the organization and promoting of eSports. Nintendo, in turn, showed its wanting of veering towards eSports with the very reveal of the Nintendo Switch, which featured a lengthy section of an eSports arena, where teams face off with Splatoon. Nintendo wants that grandeur, but isn’t willing to dip into its resources to make that happen. And it’s not like this is a rinky-dink operation; it’s a huge company partnering with the prime company for eSports. This should, by any logic, at least have some sort of monetary value for the teams performing.
In contrast, even Halo manages to set up a million in prizes for its tournament, which recently caught some ire for its failures, as reported by our nice peers at Kotaku, who also dedicated an entirely new site to eSports. These electronic sports are sure worth putting effort towards, is the point. That is, however, not nearly the only example. The Evolution Championship Series, better known as EVO, handed out between $20,000 and $100,000 in prizes, for its various fighting games and that in a massive event. Smite, an arena game on the lower end of the totem pole, still manages to “scrape by” $675,000. Rainbow Six Siege handed out a cool $100,000. Paladins; yes, the “Overwatch wannabe” that is Paladins, had a $150,000 prize pool at the beginning of 2017, with the top team taking home $75,000. Why? Developer Hi-Rez, also responsible for Smite, puts up the effort to get that money into their new game. That’s a company who wants to sell a game to its audience.
It’s not enough for Nintendo to promote eSports, to seem like they want to join the rest of the gaming world into the modern era; the company needs to chip away more than just “pride and glory” and a device they’re already manufacturing. Even just $10,000 for starters would do, like underlings such as Killer Instinct get for their tiny scene. Any money is better than no money for eSports teams to make it worth their investment time. People have bills, even people who play video games really well. More than talent being rewarded, however, the onus lies more on Nintendo, which needs to show commitment and not just take the parts that benefit them. If it’s in your damn reveal clip, you obviously care more than enough.
There are plenty of solutions for Nintendo to make something happen, without even trying too much. Special amiibo sales would be amazing, but also fan funding or donation streams; any drive can make a tournament pretty much pay for itself. It’s not like Nintendo doesn’t have a dedicated audience willing to go the extra mile. The selling out of any product it trickles out there will clearly show that.
The ESL Go4Splatoon Europe Grand Final will start on April 1, 2017 on Nintendo UK’s channels at 1PM GMT. Good luck to the teams: Extermination, Crème Fresh, BYE and Rising Moon.