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I had an idea on how to enlarge tournament pots, incentivize tournament attendance, and support top players at the same time!

Amiibo Doctor

Smash Ace
Writing Team
May 30, 2014
[Essay incoming]

Twitch. Red Bull. EVO. MVG. Razer. Nintendo. Youtube ad revenue. Subscriptions.

For a professional Smash player, these are all very important words. None of them impact how they play the game: Red Bull is not a counterpick against Fox. Youtube ad revenue doesn't get nerfed with every patch like Greninja. Only Nintendo even shows up in Super Smash Bros itself.
But for full-time Smashers themselves, they have to know the ins and outs of the money metagame just as well as the Smash metagame, because otherwise they don't eat. Tournament winnings are notoriously small compared to the $30,000,000 Fortnite championships, and in the case of unsponsored tournaments, don't even cover the cost of travel. Many players have complained that taking a few days off from streaming to go win a tournament causes them to lose money.

The community has demanded cash infusions from Nintendo to support the tournaments and top players, but that's not a catch-all solution for the community's problem. Besides, we sometimes forget the cost of money: freedom. In order to prevent something like EVO 2013 from happening again, the Smash community has got to get organized. We can't surrender our community's freedom for financial benefit. There is another way.

Let me rewind the clock.
In 1999, a group of EarthBound fans started a small Web 1.0 website called Starmen.net. They maintained this website, and still do today. Many Starmen.net members eventually had an idea: they noticed a need for EarthBound merchandise that hadn't been met by the market, and created Fangamer.net, a professional merchandise store to fulfill that need. It was an immediate success, and the company has spiraled into such a success that it has even hosted its own conventions, and partnered with multiple indie game developers. Fangamer continues to grow because it is a website dedicated to producing merch, and merch that the fans want.

The Smash community also has merch, and we buy it regularly. Most of the top Smash players have some sort of T-shirt line to go alongside their livestreaming channels. Mang0 has a rather healthy T-shirt shop, and Smash.gg usually has some sort of unique merchandise for every tournament it sponsors. While I'm sure this supplements players' tournament winnings (or vice versa), it's difficult to say that this is as efficient as we can get. Fangamer is proof that big money can be made with good merchandise. And bear in mind that there's no guarantee tournaments will turn a profit without some sort of sponsorship. Just the cost of venues is often prohibitive enough that local scenes have to make some sort of deal with a local business just to have a place to go.

So we've got two conflicting issues at play. First, players need more money, and the obvious way to make money is to win tournaments or stream. We can't control how much money they make by streaming, but we can let them raise their status by winning tournaments. Unfortunately, streaming is more profitable at the moment.
Second, tournaments at the smaller scale are often barely scraping by, and the larger ones have to decide between freedom and risk or sponsorship money and sustenance. Most of them choose sponsorship money, which results in "we esports now" attitudes and requires commentators and audience members to withhold some of the more, shall we say, honest commentary, especially at Nintendo-sponsored tournaments.

What's the bridge between the two?
We need a double-sided company. One side of the hypothetical company gathers top players and sells merchandise for them. Off of every piece of merch sold, while most of the money goes to the Smasher, some of it goes to the company's overhead, and some of it goes towards the Tournament Account.

The other side of the company is the tournament side. TOs who have a history of hosting tournaments can request this company's support. If they are approved, they will need to reserve a portion of the entry fees for the tournament winnings, unless the tournament is losing money. In addition, the company will send them a proportional amount of merchandise to sell in-person at the tournament, to help the tournament break even or turn a small profit. At the conclusion of the tournament, they send the merchandise back to the company, along with any profits over a 'keep ceiling'. (The exact amount TBD, because this is just an idea at this point. We want to compensate TOs for their time but also need to keep the company alive.) The profits need to be returned to pay for the company overhead, and to cover the eaten costs of the people who may choose to "keep" the merchandise instead of returning it. Ideally this will result in small tournaments being able to sell merchandise which compensates TOs for their time and effort, keeps the tournament alive, and has at least adequate tournament winnings.

The company will pay for this through the Tournament Account. The Tournament Account's sole purpose is to proliferate the well-being of tournaments by allowing the company to sponsor those tournaments. This of course would cause tournaments to be able to afford larger pots, and still retain our Smash community's freedom.

Smash.gg could do this, or someone could create a new company to tackle this. That's up for debate.

This all relies on two things:
1. We need the players and teams who are selling merchandise to opt-in to the company and allow the company to sell the merch while they focus on getting better at Smash and streaming.
2. We need to continue supporting our community by buying merch for our specific players.

So long as those two conditions are properly met, and the company itself is managed as economically efficient as possible, then we may have a solution to this problem.

What do you think?
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