It's no secret at this point that Super Smash Bros. Melee is not the most lucrative esport scene. The 20-year-old game has a dedicated and passionate competitive community that have continued to travel the world competing in majors despite knowing they will likely go home with a few hundred bucks at most.
Juan "Hungrybox" DeBiedma was the most recent pro to remind everyone of the sad state of Melee esports. After coming in 5th place at CEO, once one of the most prominent and prestigious Melee tournaments of the year, Hungrybox left with a whopping $75. The winner, Justin "Plup" McGrath, ended up with $1,100.
"We definitely need more sponsor support," Hungrybox told Inven Global, noting the tweet wasn't a jab at CEO and was instead meant to show the "state of things in Smash."
Why is the Super Smash Bros. Melee prize pool so low at CEO?
Unlike other major esports like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, VALORANT, and Dota 2, Smash doesn't have the support of the publisher — Nintendo. Independent tournament organizers must come together and create a circuit themselves and most of the prize money is a blend of entry fees and crowdfunding.
At CEO, Super Smash Bros. Melee only had 220 entrants. The entry fee was $10, making the total prize pool $2,200. This left the top players with almost nothing for their weekend-long efforts and years of grinding. It's no surprise that Hungrybox had a full time engineering job throughout the start of his Melee career and now relies on content creation for the majority of his income, even casting Smash Ultimate at CEO after his top eight run.
Back in 2015, CEO had a prize pool of $7,000. This is honestly not much better but shows a pretty drastic decline from 2015 to 2022. But even the biggest Super Smash Bros. Melee prize pools are nothing to write home about. Smash Summit 11 had the biggest prize pool in Melee history, reaching over $140K in crowdfunded cash. Compare that to the $47+ million prize pool in Dota 2 or even the $1.3 million circuit Brawlhalla is doing this year — it's easy to see why Melee players are salty about Nintendo's lack of support.
There have been discussions on how to make the prize pool bigger, like requesting higher entry fees. But relying on the community's money in general has left a sour taste in the competitive scene's mouth. Seeing one of the Melee Gods walk away with $75 after placing so high in an importnat Smash tourney is not a good look for Smash as an esport.
Esports writer and editor with a passion for creating unique content for the gaming community.