Smash Ballot and DLC Characters

Today I’ll be discussing my thoughts on the reasons why each character who appears as DLC did so, I’ll also go into the Smash Ballot to continue the discussion on the article by Source Gaming and how many of these factors relate to Wolf.

character-mewtwo

This is a fairly straight forward and easy explanation. Mewtwo as far as we can tell was meant to be a playable character in Brawl however due to time constraints (which is a large reason used for multiple characters over the entire series) he didn’t appear.

Considering he was likely meant to be in Brawl, and being a very popular pokemon from arguably the most popular generation Sakurai made the effort to make sure he returned even it he couldn’t do it in time for launch. After all he only had partially developed assets from Brawl and its possible much of his Melee development assets couldn’t be used requiring lots of new work.

Mewtwo was also the testing ground for DLC. I believe they always had plans to go down the DLC path however around this time Nintendo was still fairly new to the DLC scene compared to how long Sony and Microsoft have been doing it for. They wanted to be able test the waters but pull out if it didn’t do well enough. They controlled expectations by saying Mewtwo was a one-off promotion and if he happened to do really well they already have all the infrastructure in place to keep the train rolling.

If a character as popular as Mewtwo could miss an entry due to time constraints, even a character as popular as Wolf could also fall into the same set of circumstances. Mewtwo also started the precedent that a Veteran who missed being in one game can return either in the base game or as DLC.

Lucas.jpg

Lucas is one example that breaks the myth that the original 8 (12) characters from the very first Smash game are untouchable and will never be replaced or cut. He was meant to outright replace Ness in Melee however because Sakurai didn’t have the time and the delay to Mother 3 he just put Ness back in.

He appears in Brawl, which makes sense considering the Japanese audience tends to have considerable sway in character choices and Mother 3 released in Japan in 2006 making him relevant.

Move forward to 2012 and Mother 3 has not seen a release outside of Japan at all let alone an English version and the Mother/Earthbound series at the time had been stagnating. We also know that not every character was going to return due to time constraints and series without a future are likely to have characters removed. This is the likely combination of reasons leading to the reason why Lucas doesn’t appear in the base game of Smash 4. Compared to a character like Mewtwo who didn’t have finished assets from Brawl to work with and would require more time Lucas did and would be a relatively quick character to include which leads me to believe he was dropped for this game.

What Sakurai didn’t count on was the community support for Lucas and because he was a character that could be adjusted and completed in a relatively quick timespan he returned as DLC. I don’t believe Lucas was part of the original plan to become a DLC character and only returned due to fan support.

Compared to Wolf who only shares about 30% of Fox’s structure, Lucas shares almost roughly 50% of the developement assets and structure from Ness so would be easier and quicker relatively speaking to work on. This could be a reason as to why Lucas was selected as the Brawl Veteran representation over Wolf when it was decided that they could fit in a few extra veteran characters, since the work on those Veterans needed was minimal compared to Wolf.

character-roy

On the surface Roy appears to be included purely due to popular demand to being a Veteran despite a vocal minority on the Internet being against ‘another’ Fire Emblem character and ‘lazy’ clone who didn’t ‘deserve’ the spot.

We know that clones don’t ‘steal’ another character’s spot. For instance if all the clone characters were cut in Melee, Sakurai would still not have been able to add Wario in that game so Roy being included in Smash 4 didn’t deny ‘Insert your preferred character here’ a spot.

Roy while sharing many development assets and structure with Marth, he is now a character that provides a different playstyle similar to characters like Luigi and Ganondorf. There definitely are characters like Doctor Mario, Dark Pit and Lucina who as they are would be difficult to justify based purely on playstyle given that they have extremely minor differences and share the same playstyle with their counterparts.

Similar to Mewtwo, Roy was also planned to have been a playable fighter in Brawl however due to time constraints didn’t make it in. Also similarly to Lucas since he already has some assets leftover from Brawl and shares enough of development assets and structure with Marth he would a relatively quick addition.

Roy also does appear as DLC within Fire Emblem: Awakening. In which that game has been attributed with re-energising the series which has been around longer than the majority of Nintendo’s franchises so there is also a relevancy aspect to Roy also.

Mewtwo, Lucas and Roy share many circumstances in which Wolf also does.  Roy was thought to be a character forgotten however shows popularity and fan support for one character can be a powerful ally in allowing characters to return after missing an entry.

character-ryu

We now move onto the first of newcomer DLC to the series. Ryu is a recognisable and famous video game character from another fighting game which before only Little Mac shared that distinction.

Capcom and Nintendo have had a generally quite good working relationship. This is easily seen by the fact Megaman appears in the base game so if any other characters Capcom owned that fit the criteria to be in Smash there would not be many hurdles on the business side of things to stop that from happening.

No-one saw Ryu coming but in hindsight when looking at all the individual factors he definitely makes sense and adds a lot to the roster.

While not many characters Wolf included that can match the prestige that Ryu brings, Wolf would be like Luigi, Ganondorf and similar characters in providing a niche playstyle that compliments the varied styles provided by the current roster. Ryu would have been a huge undertaking to make a possibility, Wolf would be a relatively quick addition.

character-cloud

The character no-one thought was possible. Cloud definitely caught everybody by surprise. This is partly due to the unspoken rules and precedents the community had when it came to considering who was safe and who even had a chance of being included.

One big reason was the history Nintendo and Square-Enix had, infamously the falling out that lead to Final Fantasy VII and Square-Enix siding with Sony instead of Nintendo. In the years after that event Nintendo and Square-Enix mostly worked on side projects and a core Final Fantasy game had not been released on a Nintendo system for a number of years.

However in recent years even a juggernaut of a series such as Final Fantasy has to recognise a few business realities. It sells incredibly well but not enough for Sony to justify the cost of being permanently exclusive to it’s platforms instead opting for either timed exclusives on games and/or DLC. This saw the spread of Final fantasy to other platforms.

It would appear that Square-Enix is quite interested in developing games for the Nintendo NX. This would mean it would have to start repairing the grudges both companies might have built up over a number of years. What better way to do that then to allow the character who was responsible for the fallout initially into another fighting game. It’s worth noting that Cloud was not given permission to appear in Sony’s Playstation All-Stars.

The expansion of Final Fantasy beyond Sony’s platforms and the repairing of relationships between Nintendo and Square-Enix leads me to believe that the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake could easily be available on Nintendo NX after the exclusivity deal with Sony has expired.

Cloud while unexpected, when looking at the various criteria and factors shares many of the same circumstances to Ryu and makes sense to be in Smash regardless of what you think of Cloud as a character.

Cloud similar to Ryu would have been quite an undertaking in development time and resources. It is possible characters like these fed into the lack of development time for Wolf.

Corrin

Continuing the theme of DLC characters being controversial mostly because the vocal minority on the Internets personal preferences not being met and lacking empathy and understanding we have ‘another’ Fire Emblem character.

I’m going to deviate for a moment and relay my own personal opinion on the whole Fire Emblem ‘situation’. I think the Internet would have taken Corrin’s inclusion a lot better if the following had happened:

  • Lucina was an alternative skin for Marth which was her original purpose instead of a clone occupying a separate character slot
  • Roy was included in the base game

I like to believe if Sakurai had the time and resources he would have done the above instead of how development played out in regards to the Fire Emblem characters. He is aware some people think there are too many Fire Emblem characters however sticking to his creative and design philosophies because he was able to come up with a unique playstyle that highlights Corrin’s unique personality  he was included regardless.

Corrin share’s many circumstances with Roy. At the time Roy was originally released in Melee, his game had not released yet simiarly to Corrin with Fire Emblem Fates. Corrin also leans on Fire Emblems relevancy these days as well as beloning to a series with history and prestige.

Again as with the other characters the individual factors when it comes to the Criteria for fighters to appear in Smash previously mentioned also apply to Corrin.

Bay.jpg

Bayonetta is also another unexpected character and the apparent winner of the Smash Ballot. As a character and how she is represented as a fighter in Smash I think she’s pretty cool, that being said I have a few issues surronding the circumstances regarding her inclusion because I believe they are not honest due to how the whole Smash Ballot went down. If she was included under other circumstances I wouldn’t have an issue with her.

We need to first recognise that the Smash Ballot wasn’t a popularity contest or election. While the word ‘Poll’ is used, it’s used in the verb sense considering ‘Poll’ and ‘Election’ in their noun forms are quite formal processes referring to politics and top positions within companies which is not what the Smash Ballot was. Even the official microsite stated that each request would be taken into consideration on it’s own merit.

The standard Criteria used to assess whether a fighter should be included still applied to any character appearing in the Smash Ballot and was always going to be a suggestion box that had some influence on things but business and creative factors were always going to take priority. Take note this is not the first time a Smash Ballot has occurred, only the first time it’s opened up to an audience outside of Japan. While previous polls had some sway Sakurai and Nintendo were always going to lead the way with character choices so if the fan choices didnt fit in line with their views and criteria already they wouldn’t go out of their way to make it happen.

Bayonetta 2 released on Wii U in Q4 2014. As of February 6th 2016 the game has not even surpassed 1 million sales. These sales could be described as mediocre. 260,000 sales are attributed to the European region. The Smash Ballot lists Bayonetta as the #1 voted realisable character. Bayonetta 2 has sold 550,000 units in North America and was the #5 voted realisable character for that region.

Compared to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain alone which sold 4,580,000 units (Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC). Snake and the Metal Gear series arguably is more iconic, influential and more likely to promote DLC sales compared to Bayonetta. Splatoon has sold 4,160,000 units when it released in May of 2015 which is about 7 months after Bayonetta 2.

These figures highlight an interesting picture. The lack of transparency and clarity as to the purpose of the Smash Ballot and how much influence it actually had puts the entire process and its validity heavily into doubt and could be viewed little more as a marketing tool. While Bayonetta as a character and how she is represented in Smash is definitely valid and by no means am I trying to discredit that (on the contrary I enjoy and welcome her) there are other characters who could easily be argued to be more popular and a safer monetary investment when it comes to the number of potential sales.

The voting for the Smash Ballot ended in October 2015. With the results announced in December 2015. I recall seeing the Global sales for Bayonetta 2 at around 0.96m (Will include reference asap if possible). This would mean that Bayonetta in that time has only passed 100,000 copies at best between the time she was announced to the 6th of Feburary which is the lastest sales data figures we have available, even despite Nintendo’s push to advertise the Bayonetta series since Bayonetta’s reveal in Smash. These figures can also be described as medicore.

Bayonetta 2 only occurred because Nintendo funded and published it and the game wouldn’t have exist otherwise. My theory is the sales of the original game did not inspire sales confidence by other publishers to warrant a sequel. In addition Nintendo needed a lure to bring in the more hardcore audience to the Wii U and was able to invest in the Bayonetta License on the cheap.

As a result Nintendo quite rightly so would want to do everything they can to ensure a good return on their investment. As we have seen with the sales figures alone they haven’t been described as good compared to the excitement Nintendo has had with Splatoon. Since they own the rights to Bayonetta 2 and have a good working relationship with SEGA there would be few business related obstacles in making it happen.

One theory I have is that characters that could be attributed as a result of being part of the Smash Ballot needed to be big enough to legitimise the entire process, but not big enough as to take away any possible buzz any future smash games. Bayonetta and Corrin definitely fit this criteria considering how many people were shocked by her appearance but not to the extent compared to the reaction to Ryu or Cloud received. Third party characters are exceptions to this rule because they are guests and could easily not return as we have seen with Snake.

Creatively however Bayonetta definitely has a few issues and her representation in Smash isn’t 100% true to the character or the series. This leads back not only the issues with the Smash Ballot as outlined above but the question of the results themselves and how much influence we actually had, which we know as also described above to be minimal at best.

rahywq1

Source Gaming has already covered most of the points in regardings to the poor handling of the Smash Ballot. For the most part I agree with the general sentiments from the team. It definitely is a good read and something to keep in mind. We know Wolf polled well in the majority of credible online polling and looking at all the various factors for him we know he would have polled well within the official Smash Ballot. I’ve already expanded on those factors and why he may possibly not have been included in this entry to the series so I won’t repeat myself here.

What do you think about each of the DLC characters and the Smash Ballot? Let me know in the comments below. That being said none of this article is to be taken as a hostile attack on any character, references and additional information links are included where possible and to constructively provide your opinion in a neutral manner.

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3 thoughts on “Smash Ballot and DLC Characters

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