The ultimate competition that will be released this autumn. Next spring, the company plans to organize a competition for its Mario Kart 8 Deluxe game. But the company's inaugural Super Mario Bros. event is a much tougher sell for three key reasons.
Super Mario Bros. might be one of the flagship titles in gaming culture, but that doesn’t mean the Nintendo franchise is entirely welcome in the modern eSports industry. Though the game has eight worlds with four levels each, for a total of 32 unique adventures, pundits aren’t convinced the game is competitive enough to launch global competitions.
That doesn’t mean Nintendo isn’t eager to get in on the action. This year, according to Statista, the eSports market ballooned to a valuation of over $1 billion. This is up 50% from last year, causing some experts to project that eSports will be worth over $1.6 billion by 2024.
There’s budding growth in peripheral industries as well, from eSports betting to advanced tech solutions for gamers. As more US states legalize sportsbooks, many oddsmakers are shifting to offer lines on eSports competitions. For example, Illinois free bets list four sportsbooks, one of which offers eSports wagers.
For now, these oddsmakers cover competitions for more established eSports games like CS: GO and DOTA 2.
In terms of tech solutions, the gaming peripherals market reached an astounding $4.25 billion in revenue back in 2020. According to Statista, this will grow to a valuation of almost $7 billion by 2025.
It's obvious that eSports is a lucrative industry that’s here to stay. As such, there’s a clear incentive for Nintendo to launch its town global tournaments, build an elite Super Mario Bros. team, and start raking in profits. In fact, in May of this year, Nintendo announced a Super Smash Bros.
A Question of Culture
After the game’s release by Nintendo in 1983, Super Mario Bros. quickly became a recognized name in the gaming community. Slowly, elements of the game seeped into mainstream culture; the Super Mushroom power-up became a favorite image, and generations can still recall Koji Kondo’s iconic soundtrack.
With over 50 million copies sold worldwide, Mario and Luigi are ingrained into pop culture. But little of that reputation correlates to a sense of competition. In other words, people relate to Super Mario Bros. with nostalgia, not cut-throat competition.
Aside from the culture surrounding Super Mario Bros., another challenge is how to actually structure a tournament. A player ‘wins’ the game by completing all 32 levels. Multiplayer functions allow gamers to team up rather than compete against one another, with no battle arena modes.
The most popular eSports are multiplayer online battle arenas, first-person shooters, and real-time strategy games. As a platformer, Super Mario Bros. doesn’t fit any of these categories making it difficult to market as an eSport.
To create an eSports tournament for Super Mario Bros., officials would need to decide on how to determine winners. In the original arcade version, this is determined by high scores, however this doesn’t exactly create riveting competition for eSports fans to spectate.
As mentioned above, Nintendo is moving ahead with preliminary Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart competitions to gauge viewer interest, and build a competitive infrastructure. One unique challenge is the question of consoles; most major eSports competitions feature PlayStation, Xbox, and PC games.
Though there’s ample interest in launching Wii Sports competitions, the Nintendo Wii console isn’t a major player in eSports. Though Nintendo has had great success with its Play! Pokémon eSports leagues, the endeavor is split between playing cards, handheld devices, and hybrid consoles like the Switch.
A potential Super Mario Bros. competition would need to be played on the Nintendo Switch, which isn’t widely used in competitive gaming. As of June 2021, Switch consoles have sold 89 million units around the world, with Nintendo’s titles as frontrunners. Should Nintendo’s endeavors with Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe pan out on the Switch, a potential Super Mario Bros. competition could gain some traction.