Super Smash Bros. Ultimate isn’t coming until December, but it’s getting an esports TV show in November. TBS announced today that it will broadcast top players competing on its Eleague program. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Invitational 2018 presented by Eleague, which is its full name, should provide an in-depth look at how Ultimate will shake out as a competitive fighter.
Eleague confirmed that this is not a new live tournament. Instead, it is editing together footage that it captured from the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Invitational 2018 event that Nintendo hosted at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in June.
Throughout November, Eleague will air three episodes. Each of these will follow the events of the E3 tournament.
Smash Bros. is already a popular competition game. Between GameCube’s Melee and Wii U’s Smash, the games have among the most entrants at the annual Evo fighting game event in Las Vegas.
Nintendo looks like it may try to keep that momentum going with Ultimate, which features some esports-friendly features.
Esports on TV
For Eleague, it makes sense to partner up with Nintendo. Smash Bros. is a massively popular game with a fanatical audience. But this Smash Bros. series runs the risk of feeling like a commercial for the game. And it certainly is marketing. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate comes out a week after November ends. Nintendo surely loves that Eleague and TBS can put its game on cable TV without having to do any additional logistical work.
But the thing about esports is that almost all of it is marketing. Gaming competitions have engaged audiences comprising millions of people in the key 13-to-34-year-old demographics. That doesn’t mean that Nintendo or even Blizzard, which runs the Overwatch League, are now esports companies. They still make their money from games and typically lose money on tournaments.
That doesn’t mean Eleague should embrace esports as marketing. It’s great that it is broadcasting Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but it needs to make content for the viewers and not for its partners at Nintendo.