Super Smash Bros. is a series with many fans of all creeds; some love to see their favorite Nintendo characters duke it out in iconic scenes, others like it as a way to get together with friends and have a roaring good time, and others prefer to enjoy its core fighting engine in a competitive gaming environment… And of course, some of us love all three. However, Sakurai has been very clear in the past that Super Smash Bros. isn’t designed with the competitive gaming scene in mind, and it would appear that the same will always be true.
Sakurai recently spoke with a Japanese gaming magazine about the future for
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and its 3DS counterpart, and Sakurai explained that he believes going after a core competitive audience will make the game more difficult to learn for new users and ultimately shrink its fanbase over time.
Q: There are people who play very seriously, in grand finals for official tournaments, and then there are people who are just happy to see their favorite character in the game. How do you feel about that?
Sakurai: If people want to play seriously 1v1, they should do that, and if people simply want to enjoy the game, they should do so. There might even be people who only like to play with their amiibo. I think it’s good that there are so many different ways to enjoy this game.
Q: So, then, this is good…
“Mmm. Personally, I feel that if you want to play a fighting game seriously, there are other competitive fighting games that are more suited to that, and people like that could have fun playing those. If you play Smash Brothers seriously as a competitive game, the game itself has no future.”
If I wanted to, I’m sure I could make a more hardcore Smash Brothers game. I could make the game speed much faster, increase the number of inputs…but then, beginners would no longer be able to play the game. When the game becomes more like a sport, a tool that more strictly rewards the player with more skill, the game tapers off more, like a mountain. Just like how a mountain tapers off into its peak, that area becomes more and more narrow.
Q: So only those who desire to reach the top remain.
Sakurai: There are lots of games like that out there. If we made* the game to make it more spectator friendly, that would be a bad thing. Smash needs to be a game that new players can play. Some level of technical skill may be necessary, but if just try and can move your character around a bit, that’s the important bit. We do show the results of the battle, but everyone just mashes A, right? To move on, to keep going. Making people feel this way is important.
Editor’s Note: The translator explained that Sakurai chose a strange verb here that the translator has never seen used in this context. He says the verb implies that making the game “spectator friendly” would be a “downgrade,” but isn’t certain.
Q: I’ll admit, regardless of whether I win or lose, I always think “just one more.”
Sakurai: I fought, I lost…these results and suffering from painful feelings is how the user base shrinks, and we want to avoid that with Smash. In that sense, Smash has many elements that are rather ambiguous and nebulous in regards to competition.
What I believe he’s saying is that catering Smash only to the competitive crowd would narrow its entryway and ultimately serve to make the series wither and die.
But that doesn’t mean that competitive Smash should be completely abandoned. As Smash 4 is already showing us, it can strike a fantastic balance between a party game and a competitive experience, so whether you’re a six-year-old who loves Mewtwo, or you’re Mew2King himself, I wouldn’t worry about it straying too far from the game you love.