While younger sibling Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is going gangbusters, Japan’s Melee scene is struggling to keep up with the rest of the world. Hoping to explain the unique challenges facing the Japanese community, Japanese TO Watch has written a blog post which lays out the major roadblocks which are restricting the growth of the scene.
Japan’s strict anti-gambling laws are a big factor, as TOs cannot provide cash prizes generated from the tournament’s venue fees. The only way a cash prize can be given out is through a third party sponsor that is no way linked to the running of the event. Sponsors may be prosecuted if they are found to benefit from the tournament and even then, the upper limit on cash prizes is a measly $1000.
The Melee scene is Japan is also very small, with Watch estimating there to be 500 players in the whole of the country. Out of those 500, only 200 of them attend tournaments or Smashfests regularly. Japan does not have the wealth of streamers, writers, content creators and TOs to support a thriving scene. When you also factor in Japan’s strict work culture that bars many players from taking time off to attend events, the community is in a tight spot.
Watch is nevertheless optimistic and has set out a plan of action to grow Japan’s Melee scene. Along with increasing viewership for Japanese events, Watch wants to run a major Japanese tournament — similar in size to Smash 4’s Umebura Anniversary events — where overseas players are invited to play. He also wants more Japanese players to practice abroad, to increase their skills and bring more attention to the community.
This approach has certainly worked with the Japanese Smash 4 scene, which regularly has players traveling to and from Japan to compete. If US and European community leaders and organizations like smash.gg can rally support for Watch’s mission, Japan’s Melee scene could grow into something special.