Smash Ultimate Summit 4 is in the books, and we may well be entering a new era of Ultimate, maybe with a new king. The prophecy spake by old king Leo has come to pass now, and Sparg0 has risen to sit atop his throne, lord of all he surveys. Truly, it was a changing of the guard — but one thing that never changes is the confusing scheduling Summit viewers have to endure to get to the actual games.
You see, Smash Summit 4 was an event that took place over four days, but for those who actually care about elite Smash, three of those days are close to meaningless. Sure, the bracket/gauntlet thing on Saturday can have some impact on the path players have to take to get to the finals, but the reality is that the level of play at Summit is so high that even then it’s very much a case of when you run into a Leo, or Sparg0, or Tweek, not if.
Given that fact, Sunday is basically the actual meat and potatoes of the event so it's baffling as to why the final day of the biggest event is such a frustrating experience for the viewers. There are often 10 minutes or more between each set taking place, at a venue where everyone is in the same building and nobody is confused about the draw — and Summit 4 ended up finishing at 10:50 PM PT or, for viewers in EU, nearly 8 AM in the morning on Monday.
What went wrong with the schedule at Smash Ultimate Summit 4?
Events running over is nothing new in esports, of course. We’ve all seen big events go long, with Smash itself being a place where tournaments once finished in the parking lot because the venue was closed down, and top Melee players suffering from the same in 2021.
But Summit isn’t a Melee local, held a decade ago in a school gym. It’s the biggest tournament in the scene, and takes hundreds of thousands of dollars a year from the community too, rather than generating prize pools through sponsors and marketing like traditional esports events tend to.
Furthermore, there is no real time pressure on the tournament organizers. If an entire day isn’t enough to run a 16 man bracket (it is) then you can move or cancel any of the shoulder content that, while entertaining, isn’t really relevant or necessary to the tournament itself, and is just filler for the average viewer.
Things like the "VIP Bracket" or endless games of Mafia, Squid Game, or MKLeo’s Gauntlet should all be fit around the main event, and if the tournament itself is going to run over nobody will miss a canceled side event now and then.
Admittedly, this Summit ran even later than usual, with most events in the series finishing an hour or two earlier than Summit 4's 10:50 PM (local time) finish — but even those ran late, late into the night for many viewers in other time zones, and the event is one of the few that brings both EU and Japanese players in.
With the most funding of any Smash event ever, and an audience well in excess of 100K viewers, it is hard to see exactly why the final day of the event should be so slow, bitty, and broken up, as many fans on Reddit, Twitter, and beyond have said.
The reason this is so frustrating is that by most other metrics, Summit is an amazing event. It manages to combine the intensity of an elite invitational with the prestige of a major, and draws in many fans who wouldn’t normally tune in with the guarantee of having no ‘bad’ matches.
If they can just refine the Sunday schedule to make the top 16 a more coherent and enjoyable experience for everyone watching at home, it will pretty much be as good as it can. And if that means one less round of Mafia here or there, that’s a price fans are willing to pay. They did, after all, tune in to watch the Smash.
Image credit: Todd Gutierrez