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Nintendo Holding Smash Ultimate Online Tourney Feb. 2 – March 16

Smash Bros Ultimate Logo

Nintendo announced on Jan. 22, 2019 that they will be hosting their very own Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament. Nintendo has some history with hosting tournaments for their previous releases such as Pokken, Smash Bros., and Splatoon. On Feb. 2, 2019 Nintendo's North America Open started running qualifiers, but don't worry because there are still opportunities to play until the online portion of the competition closes on March 16.

Nintendo's North America Open Runs Online Feb. 2 Through March 16

Nintendo North America Open Structure

Qualifying Tournaments

The competition consists of two phases: an online qualifiers event taking place throughout February until roughly mid-March. Once the qualifying events conclude, the finals will be held at PAX East in Boston at the end of March.

The first qualifiers for all regions began Feb. 2, 2019. In this stage of the tournament, participating players are put in brackets. The format is one vs. one, best-of-one game, and single elimination, meaning you lose once and you're out of the tournament. The top four players of the bracket move on to the online finals event, to be held a week or two later.

The four players that advanced from the qualifier will play in a similar format. This time around, though, instead of a best-of-one, players will play a best-of-three. This means you have to emerge victorious twice in order to move on to the next opponent.

Unfortunately, it is still a single elimination bracket, so if you end up not succeeding, you will be out of the tournament. Luckily though, until you win a finals event, you are able to participate in as many qualifier rounds in your region as you wish.

The first qualifier events ran on Feb. 2, and there are others scheduled for Feb. 16 and March 9. The final for the Feb. 2 qualifiers took place Feb. 9 while the dates for the latter two online finals are March 2 and March 16 respectively.

Regions in the North America OpenEntrants for the North America Open Are Divided Into Four Regions

Rules

Clipboard With Checklist

Now, on to the rules of each game. It's a score-based match in which each KO earns one point and falling off the stage is minus one point. Items will be set to a low occurrence, and only the Smash Ball will be set for items. The Smash Ball allows a player to perform their finishing move to nearly guarantee KO-ing the opponent if the circumstances are right. Most stages will be legal other than those that encourage players to constantly run away from each other to stall out the match.

By contrast, other major Smash tourneys generally use the following rules: items off, a number of stocks or lives with the timer on, and a select amount of stages.

Even though these Nintendo rules differ from the competitive Smash scene we're all familiar with, many top players have participated in events that had this non-standard rule set.

PAX East Finals

PAX East

The North America Open's online phase will generate 12 winners: three from each of the four regions. They will get prize packages to compete at PAX East in Boston for the Final Event at the end of March. Each online victor will receive round-trip airfare from their home to Boston, three nights' accommodations, entry to PAX for four days, and a $75 per diem stipend. The value of this prize is estimated at $2,311 although it will vary from person to person depending on the cost of airline travel from where they reside.

There, they'll compete in three-person teams in a round robin followed by a double elimination phase until only two teams remain. These two teams will duke it out in the Grand Finals until a winner is determined.

Each member of the winning team will obtain “a collectible item.” The average retail value of this mysterious “item” is given as $500.

The Ugly

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While other live tournaments have occurred going back to Smash 4, this will be Nintendo's first time hosting an online Smash tourney. From the time of its release, Smash Ultimate fans have had to concede that the online gameplay setup was less than decent. During one event recently held by pro player “Nairo,” there was an attempt, by one individual, to lie about the outcome of a match.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat such underhanded actions. It is encouraged – in the official rules no less – that competitors record each online match to ensure validity. This can be done by saving a replay of the match through the results screen once it concludes. One can also record the match live through a screen capture device, such as Elgato's video capture cards.

With recent patches intended to fix the online experience, it seems that Nintendo has been conscious of the criticisms.

Brief History of Nintendo's involvement in eSports

Logo of Nintendo

Nintendo's first major debut in competitive video games back in 1990 was called the Nintendo World Championships. For their first tournament ever, Super Mario Bros., Rad Racer, and Tetris were combined into one cartridge. All games were modified to complement the rule set for each game.

Contests were held across the United States and Canada with each finalist receiving the rare modified cartridge itself. The Nintendo World Championships series wouldn't make a return until the year 2015 with it's most recent event held in 2017.

Aside from the N.W.C. there has been a series of invitationals involving other popular franchises, including ones that catered to a more competitive fan base. Super Smash Bros. stole the show with tournaments at E3 2014 and 2018 featuring the new release of that year.

Smash Bros. Competitive Scene

Smash Bros Ball Logo

Worldwide, there are Smash tournaments hosted by enthusiasts almost daily. Some major events that are usually known for hosting PC games and traditional fighters – like Evo, PAX, and DreamHack – have incorporated Smash into their lineups.

Photo From a Smash Bros. Melee Competitive EventA Competitive Smash Bros. Melee Event at Evo 2016

Believe it or not, despite Smash Bros. showing prominence in the competitive scene, Nintendo has only sponsored a handful of events. There have also been two Nintendo invitationals, but these events were made solely to hype up the release of a new Smash game. The Smash series has always been made for casual players first with a sprinkling of the competitive scene in mind. One could argue though that series boss Masahiro Sakurai has developed Smash Ultimate with both competitive and casual players in mind.

As of now, three of the five Smash games are competitively viable: Smash 64, the first of the series, Smash Melee, the second, and finally the recent release, Smash Bros. Ultimate.

How to Participate

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If you're interested in this online event and want to sign up, the process of joining is straightforward. Sign-ups will occur on Battlefy[dot]com. For each event there is a participation cap of 2,048.

You will have to submit a registration form that includes your first and last name, home address, phone number, DOB, your in game name or “tag,” your 12-digit friend code, Nintendo account user ID, and lastly your Nintendo Support ID number. You can start this process on https://battlefy.com/supersmashbros2019.

Of course to participate, you have to own a copy of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and a Nintendo Switch with the latest patch for Smash. This can be verified as you register your 12-digit friend code and your Nintendo account user ID.

It is recommended that you stay within your region to ensure a stable connection during your matches. Although not required, a USB LAN adapter to connect via Ethernet cable/LAN is a great way to make sure that disruption and lag spikes are minimized from your end of the connection. When it comes to how strong your internet connection should be, we believe that at least a 2.4 GHz WiFi connection would be functional but far from optimal in comparison to being connected through LAN.

Conclusion

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Although competitive Smash players may take a pass on the NA Open due to its unusual rules structure and the issues that have plagued such tournaments before, this isn't really the audience Nintendo is focused on. It seems Nintendo is targeting a more casual crowd and also making a great PR move. We wish all competitors and Nintendo the best of luck during the tournament.