The Evolution Championship Series team has made a serious mistake by removing Super Smash Bros. Melee from this year’s Evo lineup—one that undermines the series’ legitimacy and threatens to alienate many prospective viewers and attendees.
If we’re talking prestigious fighting games, nothing can top Melee. It’s by far the oldest fighting game still widely contested at tournaments today and is supported by scores of diehard fans who aren’t even interested in any other game. Since 2013, Melee has brought thousands of unique entrants to Evo, bringing more revenue to the series than cross-registering entrants would due to the event’s high registration cost. Furthermore, Evo won’t be able to count on Melee players to register for Smash Ultimate en masse; last year, a small fraction of Evo’s Melee entrants entered Smash 4, and many of those who were inclined to cross-register will likely skip the Las Vegas event this year in favor of a grassroots Smash major such as Shine or Super Smash Con.
Beyond the entrant boost that it brings to Evo year after year, Melee traditionally commands some of the highest viewership of any Evo event. The game has broken Evo viewership records on multiple occasions, and its continued popularity with at-home audiences was made evident by its whopping 174,000-viewer peak at Genesis 6 in January. Millions of people grew up playing Melee, and its fast-paced gameplay is palatable even to the most inexperienced viewer.
There might be some truth to the argument that CRT televisions are prohibitively bulky, but the days in which CRTs are the only option for large Melee events are long past. Nowadays, many events use lagless monitors with minimal complaints from the player base, and GameCube HDMI adapters such as the EON adapter have hit the market in recent years. Purchasing this specialized equipment would be a significant expenditure for the Evo team, but they are an investment that could easily be stored for future years.
Most importantly, Melee is just a damn good game. The number of legendary moments that Melee has brought to the Evo stage is too large to list: Wobbles’ infamous run to second in 2013, Mang0’s two consecutive Evo titles, Hungrybox’s unlikely comeback victory in 2016, and Leffen’s dominant victory last year are only a few of the storylines that have been birthed from Melee’s annual inclusion in Evo’s lineup.
It’s obvious that Melee is a premier fighting game, one that deserves to be included at any tournament that markets itself as the most prestigious fighting game in the world. There are still plenty of Melee majors for fans of the series to spectate and attend, so the reports of Melee’s death following Evo’s announcement are widely overblown—but Evo was still an important part of the annual Summer of Smash, and its presence this year will be sorely missed by many.