There has been a lot of hype surrounding Summit 13. The major is one of the biggest Melee showcases of the year, just as it has been 12 other times. But despite being an iconic Melee event that is seen as one of the most important proving grounds of the year, the prize pool is astonishingly low — and that's nothing new either.
It was recently pointed out that Summit 13's prize pool for the singles bracket currently sits at a little over $24,000. Almost 60% of that is crowdfunded, meaning more than half of the prize pool comes from the community's donations and purchases. Due, perhaps, to fan burnout with Summit's to this reliance on fans and grassroots tournament organizers, Summit 13 currently has the third-lowest prize pool in Smash Summit history.
But even more shocking, it's the 16th largest Melee tournament prize pool ever. That means that $24K is enough to make Smash Summit 13 one of the most lucrative Melee events in the past two decades. And that's not a good look for the scene.
It's no shocker at this point that Melee isn't as lucrative as League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike when it comes to being a pro player. Super Smash Bros. has long been a community-oriented esports scene that doesn't have flashy sponsorships or a publisher-supported league. While the Smash community takes pride in shaping their esports scene without outside interference, it still has left a bad taste in competitors' mouths.
Tyler "Ninja" Blevins recently revealed that Nintendo ghosted him when he reached out with the proposal of adding his own $500K to the Smash prize pool at Evo 2019. This may sound wild when you first hear it, but Smash fans have been unmoved by this information. Nintendo hasn't been supporting the scene for years. Nintendo hasn't supported the scene ever. Period.
Not only has Nintendo not provided prize pools or financial support to the competitive side of Smash, but the company has also purposefully attempted to shut down the community's attempts at doing it themselves. This has ranged from getting Melee removed from Evo to fighting against Project+ side events.
Nintendo teamed up with Panda Esports a while back with promises of a new circuit for Melee and Ultimate. So far, nothing has been revealed and the year is halfway over. That's not a shocker either. There is a reason Hungrybox used his platform at the Streamer Awards to call out Nintendo — there's nothing to lose by doing so. And no wonder Mango is thinking about retiring. He would make substantially more money streaming than competing at Summit.
Despite having very litte money on the line, Melee has survived by creating exciting narratives and rivalries. There's pride on the line. There are titles on the line. There's respect, revenge, and hope. But there's no money. While the Smash community has questioned raising entry fees to create a bigger prize pool, that would still mean almost all the money comes from fans.
How long can the scene survive without top players being able to pay for their flights to majors? How long can the scene survive without the promise of sponsorships or cash for hopefuls and up-and-comers? Only time will tell, but the signs from Summit are that the community is beginning to run out of patience with crowd-funded events.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.