4 Reasons Why Super Smash Bros. Melee Won’t Be at EVO 2019
Published on March 10, 2019
The history of competitive Super Smash Bros. is long and littered with names, faces, and events. The original, Brawl, and now Ultimate all have rich competitive scenes that are still active to this day.
There are hundreds of recognizable players and dozens of insane events that pushed the boundaries of the franchise.
Still, one tournament has stood above the rest. Evolution, or EVO, is often analogized to “the Super Bowl of fighting games,” and that title is pretty accurate.
The yearly event hosts every major fighting game with a handful elevated to take place on the main stage. If only one fighting game tournament could make it to the sportsbooks, it would be EVO. EVO played host to Melee starting in 2013 and Smash 4 in 2015 through 2018.
Smash 4 was expected to fall off the roster this year to make room for the newly-released Smash Ultimate, so it was no surprise that it was absent from the lineup announcement.
Ultimate was announced as expected, but as the list went on and on, there was no mention of Melee.
The game had been present for the past five years.
As the ninth and final game was revealed to be Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st], the entire Melee scene spat out their drinks. Melee, the fourth-watched game of last year’s lineup, would not be returning to EVO.
This change sparked both debate and panic in the Melee scene that has yet to resolve itself.
If you were planning to wager on EVO Melee singles, there’s a good chance the game won’t show up on the esports betting sites. The major question is just “Why?”
There are a lot of reasons for Melee being delegated to a side event, but let’s look at the major ones.
I’m personally a huge Melee fan, so this hurts me to say, but Melee is an old game. It’s difficult to even play it, as it often requires fans to hack their Wiis or use original 17-year-old hardware.
Even if they do get the game working, getting good is a decades-long journey that few undertake. There’s a reason the same few names keep showing up on betting sites.
This difficulty translates to hosting an event, too. Melee must be played on older CRT televisions to reduce the game’s response time. Coincidentally, CRTs are heavy, prone to breaking, and take up a ton of table space.
The obvious counter-argument to these is that, while Melee has a much smaller player base than most other fighting games, its fans are much more dedicated. The difficulty and complexity of the game require people to fall headfirst into the game. Still, that’s just one reason why Melee won’t be there.
It’s no surprise that having a game on the main stage of the world’s biggest fighting tournament is a great advertisement, and companies have gone to huge lengths to get their games into tournaments.
Betting sites tend to only feature larger events, further spurring companies on to get their games into EVO.
However, Nintendo doesn’t really care if its older game is presented. Unlike Arc System Works or Capcom, who rely on tournaments to popularize their games, Nintendo doesn’t actually sell Melee. They don’t make money off of the game’s scene.
If the players even buy Melee (instead of hacking their old Wii console), they’re buying their games, consoles, and controllers second-hand. That means Nintendo isn’t trying to get their game into Evolution, unlike other developers.
People are still buying Nintendo Switches specifically to play Smash Ultimate, and Nintendo knows that tournaments are free advertising. Having Ultimate available for online wagering has the same effect.
Ultimate, of course, will still be on display, though that might just be because of its overwhelming popularity.
Smash 4 and Melee both ran alongside each other during their EVO runs, but that didn’t mean the communities always got along.
Especially during the later years, Smash 4 players often disliked Melee for its elitism or lack of accessibility, while Melee fans would often criticize Smash 4 for its slower and less mechanically-intensive gameplay. They both got their slot at EVO because they were essentially two different communities.
Ultimate is shaping up very differently. Both Melee and Smash 4 pros have taken to the game with much enthusiasm, and it’s stayed strong post-release.
EVO’s organizers might see Ultimate’s community as close enough to Melee’s. Ultimate still has room to grow, while Melee is unlikely to grow much bigger in the long-term.
That’s not to say that there hasn’t been any beef at all. Community-savvy bettors likely looked for Leffen and Salem’s money match on betting sites after their Twitter spat. The battle between Melee’s icon and Smash 4’s former EVO winner wouldn’t pan out, but there’s definitely a rift in the community.
EVO is a huge part of the fighting game community’s culture. A game being shown on the main stage is a milestone for its community and a huge boon to popularizing it. The tournament directors of EVO know this, so they’re under a lot of pressure to be on the good side of certain companies and communities.
Still, there is lots of personal bias in the EVO main stage selection process. Samurai Shodown and Mortal Kombat 11 were both announced as main-stage games, but neither of those games has been released yet. The aforementioned Under Night In-Birth Exe:Late[st] is a fairly obscure anime fighter.
EVO’s council decides what games ultimately end up on the main stage, not the community. It doesn’t help that Mr. Wizard, EVO’s head honcho, isn’t particularly keen on Smash.
Also of note is that there’s no charity drive game for this year’s EVO. In past years, EVO has allowed the community with the largest charitable donation to show their game on the main stage. In fact, that’s how Melee first appeared at EVO in 2013. With no donation slot this year, Melee fans won’t be able to make lightning strike twice.
While there are already rumors of Melee returning to EVO within the next few years, you won’t see it at the sportsbooks in 2019.
Even if it never returns to the main stage, Melee had one hell of a run in Las Vegas — eight total years, five different winners, and each one had iconic moments in Smash history.
If you’re a diehard Smash fan worrying that this is the end of Melee, don’t worry too much. Events will still show up to wager on year-round. It just won’t be at the biggest event of them all.