The announcement of a new Super Smash Bros. game for Switch set the internet ablaze back in March and people have been scrambling for any shred of information since. It’s safe to say that Nintendo’s digital event and Smash Bros. Invitational June on 12th will share heaping amounts of information that fans have been hungering for.
The biggest topic people love to speculate about before the release of a Smash Bros. game is who will be on the roster. As the roster continues to grow with each successive title the character select screen is starting to resemble the periodic table. While new characters are always great it’s also important to look at the sustainability of maintaining an ever-expanding roster.
The roster of 58 playable characters—a far cry from the original 12 on N64—in Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS makes for the largest roster the platform fighter has seen and is even one of the largest in the history of fighting games. My biggest fear for this series is that the addition of new characters will lose its novelty. It’s hard to imagine that now since the anticipation of a new Smash Bros. game is months or sometimes years of hype with each new character reveal adding to the insanity. However, with the lax pace at which Nintendo has been releasing new IP they will run out of recognizable playable characters. As exciting as Isaac from Golden Sun or Andy from Advance Wars would be they likely won’t move the meter much for the average Nintendo fan. No Advance Wars game has ever sold over 1 million copies and the Golden Sun series is fantastic but also very niche. Now don’t get me wrong I have my niche favorites too—see: Prince of Sable—but I also realize that about only 10 people would care if a diminutive prince who can turn into a frog and a snake makes it in as a playable character.
While virtually unknown and bizarre characters don’t always bring as much hype on the leadup to a Smash Bros release, it would be remiss of me to ignore the weight this series puts behind smaller or lesser-known franchises. The two examples that always come to mind are Roy/Marth and Pit. There’s no doubt that Fire Emblem‘s popularity in the West finds its roots buried deep in the inclusion of Roy and Marth in Melee. Now the series is one of Nintendo’s biggest money makers with multiple critically and commercially successful titles on 3DS and a highly lucrative mobile game. Pit from Kid Icarus came from relative obscurity and was revived by Sakurai for Brawl and a very well received 3DS title in Kid Icarus: Uprising. Even though this is fantastic for Nintendo’s backlog, it still doesn’t translate to making Smash Bros. a better or more interesting game.
The other major issue with having a large roster are the cost and time of development. Nintendo’s efficiency—when it comes to creating assets for HD games—has come a long way since the Wii U released in 2012, but if the next and future iterations of Smash Bros. aim above the 58 mark then that could still cause significant slowdowns in development. The cost of development is almost a non-factor for consumers since the game will almost assuredly cost $60 no matter what it takes to make the game. However, more characters mean more DLC. The total amount to buy all of the DLC fighters on Wii U is $35 (about $5 per character) which isn’t too bad, but that total will climb exponentially if the downloadables follow the same pattern that the roster has been over the last two decades.
I can’t claim to know the future and I certainly don’t have an uncle at Nintendo, but I feel like it’s safe to assume that Nintendo will continue growing the Super Smash Bros. franchise to an unsustainable level. I hope that I’m wrong, because this franchise is so ingrained in my personal history and would hate to see it end up just becoming a list of Nintendo and related third-party characters as opposed to a thoughtfully constructed roster.