Paging the doctor!? - Community health, a misconception, and you!
Jun 28, 2018
Disclaimer: This is MY personal opinion and my OPINION only based on several notable events and moments that have happened recently or are slated to take place later this year. You are free to disagree with me, but my goal is to try and counter the people saying "the community is dying" with several items that flat out say otherwise.
Recently, and even over the past month plus, I've heard a lot of people say that the community is dying or the community is stagnating or something similar to that. I won't pull specific examples, but you've likely heard someone say this over this time span. The goal of this article is to point to certain events and things that have happened (that can easily be proven) that show how this perception is misguided and clearly wrong.
Furthermore, we will discuss what YOU, the reader, can do to help grow the community. You're here, which means you clearly have a passion for Splatoon, so why not consider helping out in your own way?
A Quick Rundown
Here, we'll very quickly point out several things that have happened the past few months, and then discuss them in greater detail afterwards. So what has happened lately that people should take notice of?
- The U.S./Canada Inkling Open finishing with roughly 570 teams competing for a trip to E3.
- Sure, this was with a more relaxed age requirement, but it still topped the U.S. Inkling Open from 2017 with about four times the total teams.
- Smash'N'Splash (SnS) 4 having the BIGGEST LAN attendance seen to date for Splatoon or Splatoon 2.
- E3 2018 hosted the Splatoon 2 World Championship with four of the best teams in the world, watched by over 90,000 viewers!
- Bleck n Spoon (BnS), a weekly Thursday night tournament, will have had three editions during the month of June, ALL with $100 prize pools or more.
- Leagues Under The Ink (LUTI) season 6 consisting of OVER 200 teams, easily the biggest LUTI season to date.
- InkStorm Cup, run by EndGameTV (EGtv), offering a FREE trip to Japan for the top two finishers.
- Ghost Gaming sponsoring Team Olive, one of the most notable and longest lasting teams in Europe.
- Nintendo of UK recently announced the Splatoon 2 Championship 2018 Series.
- One thing that hasn't happened yet, but will before the year is out, is Super Smash Bros coming out for the Nintendo Switch. And yes, a lot of people would see this as a bad thing, but if you'll humor me, I can explain why this is a GOOD thing for our community once we get to it!
Those nine items can easily be confirmed as something that either has already happened or (as of this article's creation) will happen in the near future. Not convinced yet? That's fine, I'm just getting started!
The devil is in the details
Let's take a closer look at each of these things in detail and figure out what they mean, and maybe you can come up with other recent events that I have missed, which just further proves there's quite a bit going on of late!
U.S./Canada Inkling Open
An event co-produced by Nintendo of America and Battlefy and sequel to the U.S. Inkling Open in 2017, this event had the same basic premise as the original one: participate and win a chance to play at E3 2018 (with other, smaller prizes involved as well). The two main differences between the events:
- Canadian players were allowed to enter.
- The age requirement was relaxed from 17 in the first event to 13 in the second event (and teams were allowed to bring a guardian should they win).
While one can argue those were the two main reasons why the spike in attendance happened (and I agree, both helped), but I am convinced those are not the only reasons. The first, and perhaps most important, reason is how the Nintendo Switch outsold the Wii U in TOTAL sales in 10 months. Based on this alone, there are more people that could have access to the game Splatoon 2, and because of that, there are more that can get into the game and play it at a higher level than the original Splatoon game ever saw. Secondly, because many people did not own a Wii U (including some people in our community), Splatoon 2 is their first chance of actually playing a game in the franchise, so for many people Splatoon 2 provides a new experience with new possibilities. Oh, and Nintendo offering a trip to E3 two years in a row is going to bring the hype and helps show that they are interested in supporting this game, especially when a lot of people I have talked to didn't think that we would get a second Inkling Open this year.
Curious about highlights from SnS 4 specifically? Check out the recap we did on it!
You know, that LAN event that JUST happened recently? The one that had the HIGHEST attendance for a Splatoon LAN to date? The one that, for the most part, had several teams that could easily go toe to toe with each other? Yeah, that is also an event that more recently happened, and it was at a water park and it was at an event with many other games, giving it the opportunity to be showcased to people who have never played Splatoon or may have played it but not given it much in the way of time or effort. In fact, let's chart the growth in Splatoon 2 LAN events to show how much they've grown:
- SquidStorm 2016 = 14 teams
- Don't Park on the Grass 2016 = 12 teams
- Smash'N'Splash 3 = 18 teams
- SquidStorm 2017 = 35 teams
- Genesis 5 (G5) = 30 teams
- Beakon = 29 teams
- Smash'N'Splash 4 = 52 teams
You see that jump from the mid-teens to (almost) 30+ teams at every Splatoon 2 event so far? I would say that's pretty good growth and definitely charts as a game on the rise, not a game that's falling. If the game itself was really "dead", then we would expect those numbers to be tracking downward, not upward. And might I remind you, ALL FOUR Splatoon 2 LAN events have happened in the last calendar year, with three of them happening this year.
E3 2018 - Splatoon 2 World Championship
I feel like this event mostly speaks for itself, but I'll break it down anyway. The championship was a culmination of several regional events (including the U.S./Canada Inkling Open mentioned earlier in this article) where the best team from Japan, North America, Europe, and Oceania came together in a slightly modified round robin to single elimination bracket. What we saw in this event, more than anything, was the insanely tight match-up between StDx and BackSquids (aka Gucci Gang aka Pandora) where they went to game 5 of a best of 5 set, and the BackSquids won Inkblot Tower Control by two points and were able to stave off a late game push by StDx to try and overtake the lead.
With the confirmation of the Splatoon 2 European Championships taking place again next year, that leaves open the possibility that other regions will also gain some type of championship or even a qualifier type event (similar to the U.S./Canada Inkling Open) that could lead to a Splatoon 2 World Championship event at E3 2019. Should that happen, that would prove that Nintendo will continue to support the game of Splatoon 2, and with Nintendo backing for such a new game and new franchise (remember, Splatoon as a whole is just over three years old, and Splatoon 2 is just shy of a year old, as of this article's creation), anything is possible!
Bleck n Spoon
We'd all love to have consistent prize pool tournaments where the prizes are money, physical prizes, or other things. During the month of June, BnS ran three events on Thursday nights, and ALL THREE TIMES, they were able to raise at least $100 for the prize pool for that week's event. Adding on the BnS Clam Blitz edition towards the end of May (which got the most of all of the events at $350), that's four events in a row within the same series that have produced a prize pool. I'm pretty sure that's never actually been done before in the Splatoon community where NONE of the events were pay to play.
And guess what? This is an event that anyone can donate to during the event itself (or leading up to the event) by checking out the donation drive prize pool that runs each week through the InkTV Twitch channel. And what does this help do? It helps get money flowing into the community, increasing the level of competition (there have been several notable teams playing in these events, probably in part because of the chance to win money), and can show external parties that the Splatoon community is able to raise funds on their own, which could further increase the level of interest in the game and the events produced around it. And while four events in a row may not be "consistent", the more people that get into Splatoon equals higher chances of donations, which can lead to even bigger prize pools and the cycle keeps going from there.
For those that don't know what LUTI is, it is a league format where you face teams that are similar to your skill across a six to eight week period, and if you're good enough, you add an additional week or more for playoffs. This is the second season of LUTI for Splatoon 2, and it is by far the biggest in terms of attendance, with over 200 teams, many of them are newer to the scene and trying to get their feet wet with regards to competitive. What does this tell me? Well, a couple things:
- There's a lot of Splatoon talent out there, interested in getting into the competitive scene (if there wasn't, I would personally expect similar numbers to what LUTI has gotten in the past, if not a lower number - which, in the interest of full disclosure, I expected a lower number and have been proven very wrong).
- A lot of veteran teams are out there and still interested in competing against teams that are more on their level, even if they don't play in the weekly/biweekly tournaments that this scene produces.
- You can say this scene is dying, but these teams and these numbers came from somewhere. To me, that "somewhere" is an interest in Splatoon 2, whether it be a more competitive mindset or, for some teams, just wanting to play and have fun. Teams don't have to be full on competitive in order to be considered part of the community. They can start off small or casual, and maybe their interest will grow, especially if we encourage it and allow them to grow, learn, and improve.
Event wise, one could argue this is the biggest that our scene has had to date, combining Splatoon 1, Splatoon 2, and any and all Nintendo sponsored events. For those unaware, the top two teams in this event, per the Smash.gg page, "will receive invites AND flights to Platinum Cup 4 (page in Japanese), a Splatoon 2 LAN sponsored by Splat Japan League and Shinobism in Tokyo, Japan on August 4th!"
I'm sorry... WHAT??????? If a TRIP TO JAPAN to face some of the best teams IN THE WORLD doesn't excite you, then I don't know what to say. This is not only a great opportunity for the two teams that win, but also shows that this scene is able to obtain growth and has so much more that could happen down the line. Imagine, if this happens once, couldn't it happen more often? This event deserves everyone's support, even if it is just promoting the event (it doesn't have to be financial support, but we'll talk more about this later in the article), because it doesn't get much better than this!
Ghost Gaming signing Team Olive
For more information on the specifics of this signing, check out this article written by my friend and InkTV colleague Walky! But what does something like this mean for the community as a whole moving forward? Let's break it down!
As Walky mentions in his article, one of the parts to the Ghost Gaming sponsorship is that they will help their players attend as many major LAN events as possible. What does this mean for the community? It means that four-time LAN champion SetToDestroyX (StDx) will have strong competition for each event moving forward. I loved that we had a fully sponsored team in this community, but now we have two? And they could compete at most (if not all) major LAN events moving forward? And this could just be THE START of something even bigger??? Personally, that gets me VERY HYPED and I'm very intrigued to see who gets sponsored next.
If that's not your cup of tea, so to speak, maybe this is more your mindset. Feel the community or LAN events are getting stale because StDx has won all four Splatoon 2 LAN majors? Wish there was someone who could dethrone them? Feel that grand finals is basically a formality? Well, something like this can help rectify these issues, because now another one of the best teams in the game is on the same level StDx is in terms of being able to attend LAN events. And from there, you have to ask who's next?
Splatoon 2 UK Championship Series
For Splatoon 2 fans in the UK, good news! Nintendo UK has announced its plans for the rest of 2018 regarding competitive Splatoon, with the announcement of the Splatoon 2 UK Championship Series!
Comparing it to other series like this in the past, the people running the UK Championship Series are modifying the format a bit, splitting participants into an Octo League or an Inkling League. The Octo League includes ranked mode gametypes and is open to all ages, while the Inkling League is for younger players (13 and under) focusing on the more casual side of things by being Turf War exclusive. Nintendo UK's official Twitch channel will be casting footage from these events, and the winners of these qualifier events will meet in a finals event hosted in Birmingham in November. The top squads in both groups (Octo and Inkling) will be crowned the Splatoon 2 UK Champions of 2018 and will go on to represent their country in the Splatoon 2 European Championship in 2019.
Wait... read that last part again. They will go on to represent their country in the Splatoon 2 European Championships in 2019. This tells us that Nintendo of Europe has plans moving forward to keep Splatoon 2 alive at least through next year. What it could also lead to is another Splatoon 2 World Championship at E3 2019, because remember, just because something hasn't been announced doesn't mean it isn't in the works!
Super Smash Bros on Nintendo Switch
Alright, this is something that may have caught your eyes regarding it being a good thing for the Splatoon community. And there are a lot of people that say, once Smash comes out, Splatoon 2 will die for good. But might I remind you of these two games and ask you to reconsider:
Both of these games have come out post-Splatoon 1's launch. Both times, the game (Splatoon or Splatoon 2) was supposed to die according to the public perception. But it didn't, either time. I've been in the community since pre-launch for Splatoon, so I was around when both of those games dropped. Will it kill it? No, especially since Nintendo seems quite interested in keeping up support for the game (don't forget, they announced at E3 that updates for Splatoon 2 will persist through the rest of 2018).
Now, why is the launch of Smash Bros for the Switch a GOOD thing for Splatoon 2? Here's where it gets fun, because there's a lot of things I want to highlight.
- First, when Smash launches, the most recent Splatoon and Smash will be on the same console for the first time since July 2017, and back in those days, it was on the Wii U. Though as I touched on earlier in this article, it took the Switch 10 months to outsell the Wii U (which took about five years to accumulate the same level of sales).
- To follow up on that point, more people will be able to have both Splatoon and Smash as the Switch console is very portable compared to the Wii U, to the point that there's little the player would have to cover for in terms of physical hardware.
- Now, the point that combines both of these for possibly the biggest argument: LAN events
- Have you noticed something about Don't Park on the Grass, Genesis, and Smash'N'Splash (and even smaller, more regional events like GatorLAN)? They're all Smash-centric events with Splatoon as a side event.
- What does this do? Well, a couple things:
- First, it helps advertise Splatoon 2 to an external audience that may not consider playing, watching, or even giving the time of day to Splatoon 2. (I, personally, have heard people in our community say that there were Smash players at G5 who came to the Splatoon section because they were curious about the game and thought it looked really cool and intriguing. That's marketing, people!)
- Second, we even had a group of Smash players participate at G5, and that would have had a much lower chance of happening should we stay away from being a part of bigger events like Genesis and Smash'N'Splash.
- Third, to piggyback off the second overall point, having both games on the same system makes it easier for people to sign up for both events at a given LAN, because they no longer would have to worry about watching their Wii U when playing Splatoon 2 or their Switch when playing Smash.
I even have a quote from LucidJackal (a Smash player, and yes, he has consented to this being used in this article), who I met at Genesis 5, the event that really exposed him to Splatoon for the first time.
The pros speak for themselves, but there are cons to switching from Smash to Splatoon (one is a single person game, the other is a team game as Lucid correctly points out). Here's how you can counter those problems though.
- Team game? Try a little networking and getting to know other people! That's what we've all done in this community, right? You've talked to people on Discord, Twitter, and the like, and we all care about Splatoon 2. If we didn't, we wouldn't be here!
- It takes time to "git gud"? Sure, it takes time to get better at anything you do. To circle back to the Team Olive sponsorship, those players didn't wake up on the day of the original Splatoon's launch and immediately play the game at a top level. It takes time to get better at Splatoon, both as an individual and as a team. StDx and Olive didn't magically get good, they put in the time and effort necessary to reach that level, and if they're capable of it, so are so many other people!
Okay, with all of those events finally noted, it's time to move on to the other part of the article. This is what some of the bigger organizations in play are doing, but what about you, specifically?
The power of one
Believe it or not, there's A LOT more people could do to help grow the community than they may realize. Here's some bigger things that people who have the ability to do so can do to grow the community on a more daily basis:
- Run tournaments that have incentives (money, prizes, etc.) - like GameSetMatch does, like BnS with a donation prize pool, etc.
- Create content - whether this be videos, articles (like this one you're reading right now), podcasts (like Ink Radio), etc.
- Donate to already established events, such as BnS, Squidboards, EGtv events, etc.
- Help other people out, whether that be one TO showing a new TO the ropes, a player that's really good at a given weapon taking another player under their wing, or something else like that.
- As a fun little side note, I did this with a newer TO within the last week, basically making it a one on one seminar because I wanted to pay it forward with all the knowledge and experience I've gained from others and on my own. So if I can do it, literally anyone can!
- If you don't like how something is run, then consider doing it better! That helps grow the community too!!!!!
Don't have the means or the time to put into a tournament or content? What if you don't even want to put in much effort to help (there's more people like this than you realize, but that's a separate discussion)? I posed this question to another friend and InkTV colleague, Bleck, and this was his response:
Are you capable of talking? Are you capable of watching something online? Are you capable of (and enjoy) playing Splatoon 2 at a competitive level? If the answer to all three of these questions is "YES" (which I'm 99% sure it is), then you are fully capable of doing all four things to help grow the community in your own way! If nothing else, you see something on Twitter that you feel is trying to help the community? They have this lovely button that retweets it, and another thing Bleck told me that I agree with? People heavily undervalue the power of a retweet! (Now, this isn't saying retweet everything you see, just be more willing to support other things that are going on.)
Oh, and the fun part is there's multiple organizations within our community, specifically, that are trying to grow Splatoon 2, the community, and everything else around it. InkTV, EndGameTV, Leagues Under The Ink, Squidboards, eSportBrosTV, and more! Support what these organizations are doing, partake in their events, look into their content, maybe even suggest other things that you would like to see that they don't cover yet, cause maybe the only thing preventing that from happening is they haven't thought of it yet!
We could even take it a step further beyond just one person. What if you, as an individual, can't do much but the team you're on can combine their resources to do more? You don't have to be a major organization to create content or have a website or anything of that nature! Look at Komodo, arguably one of the best branded teams in the community, and they have been for a while. They've not only built their team brand, they've built a successful tournament series, and even their own website to help further grow the community and share the content that their members make! Sure, your team may not have the technical know-how to do this themselves, but if you reach out, you'd be surprised how willing others are to help, and then all of a sudden, we have more teams creating their own brand, their own content, and the scene is seeing a lot of growth from all of that hard work.
Alright, with all of that said, let's recap:
- We've had/have nine events/important dates happening just this year alone (and more to come) that can help grow the community.
- There are a lot of people in this community with their own opinions, that if they put in the effort could very easily share those opinions with a bigger audience.
- It's actually a lot simpler to help out and grow the community than people think it is. Share ideas, promote things that are happening, be involved! If more people did this consistently, the thoughts of the community "dying" would dissipate if not completely vanish.
So doctor, what is your final diagnosis on the Splatoon community?
Doctor: After careful deliberation, I have determined that the community as a whole is very much alive, with the potential for A LOT of growth should it see more people do what they can to help out!
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