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Published April 3, 2023

It feels like a lot has happened in the last few months, doesn’t it? Between Genesis 9, Collision 2023 and Major Upset, we’ve seen Jmook win his first two majors, and Cody Schwab’s added yet another major title to his figurative trophy cabinet. At the same time, that’s just scratching the surface. We saw the shutdown of our most important organization the free agency of the world No. 1, and the functional absence of our scene’s most popular player. There’s a lot to unpack and so many questions I have, with potential answers that aren’t necessarily connected.

In today’s column, I’m going to explore four or so topics that I’ve been thinking about over the last week. There’s no cogent theme to today’s column, so don’t expect something super tidy. Treat it like a stream of consciousness that I’m sharing with you.

The Hole Left by Summit

It’s no secret that Smash has been going through a bit of a rough time. Nothing would point to this more than the collapse of all three community giants of 2022: VGBC, Panda and, worst of all, Beyond the Summit. The shutdown of BTS has been particularly devastating, as this was basically the closest thing the scene had to a grassroots community-wide sales and partnerships team. Summit’s content game, of course, speaks for itself, and it was one of the few things that people were willing to pay money toward.

To be clear about something, I don’t think any singular thing will ever ‘replace’ BTS. And yet I don’t think we should move forward assuming that this last part – getting people to put their dollars toward something – is impossible to replicate. It’s true that the scene is older than it used to be and that the magic of the “BTS” era will be difficult to capture, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way to get people to spend money on Smash. Between the people from BTS still, by all accounts, remaining to be involved in Smash, a whole new generation of prime content creators in the community, and the meta game being as exciting as it’s ever been, I think there’s still something special about Smash that people will put their money toward supporting. I’m curious to see how this will manifest in the future.

The Turbulent Sponsor and Top Player Landscape

I mentioned Panda’s effective departure from the scene before, and one of the byproducts of it was the sudden free agency of Cody Schwab and Plup. Right now, Plup still has a Red Bull sponsorship, yet for the time being, I’m assuming the nature of this sponsorship is a little different than an official one where he’s signed to a team. Cody, as we know, is now signed by CLG, who also managed to take Magi after she left beastcoast. Speaking of which, HomeMadeWaffles left beastcoast and joined Golden Guardians, as did aMSa, who left VGBC after staying with the long-time Smash streamer for almost a decade. At the same time, Zain left GG.

It’s a bit of a strange time for sponsors. 2022 looked like a bit of a renaissance year for Smash, and 2023 looks to be a return to Earth. Rather than organizations leaving the scene for dead, however, it seems like there’s still a bit of optimism in sponsors; just optimism in the form or re-aligning certain expectations. The same goes for players, both in terms of their willingness to test out the waters (especially in the case of Magi and Zain), as well as their presence at more events and understanding what “being present” can do for their brand.

In fact, I’m going to go a step further: my prediction for 2023 is that we see the return of stacked regionals featuring major contenders, like how Kill Roy had Cody Schwab. I also think this is where the value of top player channels can come in handy – we saw Mango lend his store to the Kill Roy series. I would not be surprised if Hungrybox were to ever host a top notch Melee regional on his channel, as he’s already hosting Coinbox and has done similar things for Ultimate before. If this actually happens, I would likely to humbly offer one request for whomever does this: please don’t ask for money from the events and ‘rent’ your stream out like a digital landlord. Take a note from BTS – it’s better for everyone in the Smash ecosystem, yourself included, to keep the broadcast/content dynamic centered around supporting events, not the broadcaster.

Can anyone defeat…Hungrybox and Plup?

A specter is haunting Melee doubles: the specter of Hungrybox/Plup. The longtime duo once looked on the outs when they finished in fifth place at Smash Summit 3. Back then, it was considered a terrible performance from them, and it was especially bad because after that, they took a five year break from teaming at majors. In the last year and a half, however, they’ve taken home the gold from each of the five tournaments they’ve entered: both Riptides, Lost Tech City 2022, Genesis 9, and now Major Upset. At a time when doubles has actually seen renewed interest at supermajors, Hungrybox and Plup have looked as dominant as they’ve ever been.

Now, let’s be real: none of this is supposed to inspire you. Not only have Hungrybox/Plup consistently won tournaments, they haven’t even dropped a set. Hell, they won Genesis while going 22-0 in games. Though S2J/Salt gave them a brief scare at Major Upset, ultimately, they still won without dropping into loser’s bracket. At least SFAT/PewPewU, Armada/Android, and Plup/Mew2King lost to each other and had teams beneath them that occasionally punched above their weight class. Hungrybox/Plup are making fools out of the doubles field and it honestly doesn’t even feel particularly special.

How does nobody care about this? Where are you Cody and Jmook? Are we destined for the Hungrybox/Plup path toward doubles immortality? Since none of the top players have clearly done anything about this, I am going to try my best, through the only way I can. I am officially putting a bounty on this team; the first team to defeat them at a major will win $1,000. This offer is limited to the next three major tournaments that Hungrybox/Plup enter together. If they have not dropped a set by then, then I’m going to return to being a doubles hater and never talk about it again. Actually, no; I’ll probably talk about it every now and then. I’ll just be significantly more jaded.

When will Mango come back?

No one person is “above” the health of Smash. We’ve had three exciting majors so far this year, and with or without Mango, Melee will do just fine. However, you have to admit that the temporary absence of the scene’s most popular player has still been a downer. Although Mango has technically spent longer time away from tournaments in the past, the nature of this break is unusual enough to where it feels more noticeable than ever. Though he still streams other games, his YouTube channel hasn’t had anything uploaded that’s Melee related since February. We haven’t seen him trying his hardest in a real competitive environment since Scuffed World Tour. No; an exhibition where Mango clearly did not care at all about the outcome does not count.

So when exactly will Mango come back? It’s tough to say, as it depends on what you mean. He was supposed to commentate at Major Upset, so it wouldn’t be too crazy to see him show up even at something as soon as DreamHack San Diego, but I think we all want to see Mango primarily competing. I doubt that will happen this month, which leaves Battle of BC 5 in May, Combo Breaker the week after and then Tipped Off 14, Wavedash, and CEO in in June. My hard call is that the itch starts killing him especially around May and he attends BOBC after missing his flight last year. The idea of Mango taking more than six months away from serious competition is a little hard to imagine.

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