Since their beginnings in the early 1980’s, Nintendo has always been known for their action platformers and RPGs. While franchises like Mario and the Legend of Zelda dominated those genres for many years, and still do, they’re still way behind with their multiplayer games.
In recent years, Nintendo has fallen short on the competitive scene. Mainstream esports titles like League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Overwatch have taken over the spotlights as they have their developers creating seasons throughout the year and hosting tournaments for monetary prizes. Even one of Nintendo’s biggest competitors, Microsoft, has gotten into the esports scene with a tournament dedicated to their biggest title, Halo, offering a $1,000,000 prize in their Halo World Championship.
Nintendo’s history of their tournaments is sparse compared to the world of esports competitions we know today. In 1990, Nintendo started a 30 city tour involving a competition with three titles; Super Mario Brothers, Tetris, and Rad Racer. The top competitors in each title, with three age brackets in each title, competed at Universal Studios Hollywood for a cash prize. In 2015, for the 25th anniversary of the original Nintendo World Championship, they announced they would be holding the competition again in eight different cities on one Nintendo Title. In 2017 the competition was brought back again. In addition to the Nintendo World Championship, the company occasionally holds tournaments for their newest titles at their E3 presentations, this year being Splatoon 2 and Super Smash Brothers. Their Splatoon 2 World Championship is the closest thing Nintendo has to any of the mainstream esports titles. With teams of four competing in late April for a chance to win on the E3 stage.
Now, between this summer’s competition, and new updates being released for Splatoon 2 this summer, Nintendo might be hinting at stepping up into the esports scene.
In Nintendo’s latest direct, held on March 8th, they announced a new Splatoon Battle rank. ‘Rank X’. Prior to the upcoming update, players could only go so far showing their abilities, leveling up from ‘Rank C- to Rank S+’ after making it to level 10. ‘Rank X’ will be granted to those who exceed ‘Rank S+.’ Nintendo will also be showcasing the top 500 players in each region. With these new changes, it looks like Nintendo is taking a hint from other mainstream competition games, mainly those that already are considered esports titles. Although this is a minor change, could this be Nintendo’s next step into the esports scene?
Along with the announcement of ‘Rank X,’ they also announced the newest Super Smash Bros. game, a game that already has a huge audience for casual and competitive play. With the implementation and focus of ranks in Splatoon 2, maybe we’ll see the same implementation with Super Smash Bros, especially with Nintendo’s new online service coming this year.
There is no exact date for the release of the update, or for the release of the new Super Smash Bros. game, but Nintendo’s E3 presentation on June 12-14, surely will have more information about these two titles.