Melee Attendance and Viewership: A Deep(er) Dive
Last week, people seemed to enjoy my column on Twitch viewership of Melee over the years. I figured, why not jump into the numbers even further? In today’s column, I’ll be sharing some more insights regarding supermajor attendance in singles, singles prize pots, and peak viewership of Melee since 2016. There won’t be a real “question,” I’m answering, but I’ll be talking about the biggest takeaways I have from my research. Here are some disclaimers.
- For supermajors, I’m using the current criteria used by Melissa Blight for her All-Time Majors Database, which gives us a total of 33 tournaments.
- For a later segment, I’ll also be examining the impact of SCL in spite of it not being a supermajor.
- I am not using watch time hours, as this information for specific events is not easily accessible.
- Peak viewership is technically in reference to viewers of Melee as a whole, but for the sake of clarity, I’m going to associate it with specific majors, as the number of people watching other forms of Melee on supermajor finals days are relatively negligible.
- I’m rounding numbers for ease of viewing.
- I genuinely do not care about doubles, but if you do, I’m sorry I did not count it as part of my analysis; take that as you may.
- Data is per SullyGnome.
What are the most attended supermajors ever?
|2016||The Big House 6||1,563|
At this point, there’s no denying the power of having a massive brand – one agnostic of Melee – bringing in players who may have otherwise not been interested. Without groups like Evo or Mogul Moves, it will be very difficult for the community to ever consistently top itself in terms of entrants.
As of when I’m writing this, Genesis 8 has 1,558 registered Melee entrants. If this holds up, it will be the biggest offline tournament we’ve had since Genesis 4, making it the fifth biggest LAN tournament ever. That is objectively encouraging, even if it’s not necessarily record-breaking. Looking at only LAN supermajors, the average attendee count is 1,129 entrants, so this is well above the standard we’ve become accustomed to.
There’s one more thing I want to mention with regards to tourney attendance. Across all forms of Melee, it’s very difficult to get your tournament to the level of prominence as Evo, Genesis or The Big House. Only one series outside of these two has ever broken the top ten of most Melee entrants at an offline event: Shine 2017, at 1,156 entrants. Ironically, it’s one that I did not track, because it’s technically not a supermajor.
I feel bad about this. It’s not Shine’s fault that it had to compete with Evo for most of its lifespan, and it’s travesty that Shine hasn’t been around for three years. This was the only major that had clearly proven itself to be anywhere near the top echelon of open LAN events, and yet because it usually happened around the same time as Evo, it just didn’t draw enough top player interest as Genesis or The Big House, which is certainly a high bar to clear. By the time the community didn’t have to worry about Evo anymore, Shine had moved from Boston to the less accessible Worcester.
If you ask me, Shine was the best annual tournament to attend. Barring a return to Evo, I would strongly suggest the community start treating it as the summer’s premier major ahead of everything else, because there’s nothing like it for an attendee experience.
What supermajors (roughly) had the highest peak viewership?
*NOTE: Because LACS 4’s top eight was streamed on YouTube, I am not counting it when it comes to Twitch metrics. I am uncertain of how well it may have performed. For what it’s worth, LACS 3 peaked at 61,999 viewers on Twitch. Even if the second one doubled in terms of viewers, it would still likely place out of the top five most watched supermajors.
Unsurprisingly, the Evo series leads the way in terms of viewership. Evo 2016 is the clear No. 1. To be fair, the Genesis series exists within the same universe of popular recognition, but Evo is just a completely different beast.
The Big House’s weirdly low spectator numbers
Out of curiosity, I wanted to examine the relationship between each supermajor tournament series’ peak viewership (on average). I took a look at the four biggest tournament series in particular: Genesis, Evo, The Big House, and Smash Summit (more on this later).
|Major Series||Average Peak Viewership|
|The Big House||59,545|
It’s clear that The Big House just doesn’t have the same level of popular recognition as Genesis and Evo, and it’s under Smash Summit as well. The Big House 6 had peak viewership of 73,990 viewers (12th most), but that doesn’t come close to touching Evo or Genesis on average.
I have so many questions. Who is this entire half of our spectator range who are interested in Genesis, but not The Big House? What were their reasons? Is it a timing or seasonal thing for college audiences? Among community members, The Big House is so clearly (and correctly) treated in the same caliber of prestige as Genesis and Smash Summit, which makes its relatively modest spectator numbers quite confusing. I once again wanted to see how The Big House performs on an entrants level basis, wondering if maybe I miscalculated the level of prestige it has among competitors.
|Open Major Series||Entrants|
|The Big House||1,257|
NOTE: I included Genesis 5’s currently registered 1,558 entrants on Smash.GG and $23,430 prize pot per Liquipedia.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the average prize pots per series and I noticed that The Big House had relatively modest prizes for singles winners – on average $12,612. Genesis had $17,703 and Evo had $17,169. I’m hesitant to say that there’s less spectator interest because of a lower prize pool. At the end of the day, this is Melee; no one’s trying to be the best player in the world for money in a grassroots scene. There’s few places you can really find it….or at least just one.
Stop saying “Summit isn’t a supermajor.”
I hate when people try to argue that Smash Summit isn’t a supermajor. The argument goes something along the following – it isn’t an open bracket, invitations aren’t strictly based in competitive merits, no one takes it seriously, and it doesn’t hold the exact same history as Genesis or The Big House. This perspective sucks. One look at the five biggest prize pots in Melee history should show you why.
|Year||Major||Singles Pot Size|
|2021||Smash Summit 11||$155,372|
|2017||Smash Summit 5||$83,758|
|2020||Smash Summit 9||$69,412|
|2021||Smash Summit 12||$57,000|
|2017||Smash Summit Spring 2017||$51,444|
When there’s this much money on the line, several top-level competitors (even if not all of them are the very best), and so much series lore established, this is clearly a tournament that people should care about as much as Genesis or The Big House. A large portion of Summit’s success is due to its broad-based appeal; the event is basically a premier invitational with a full on content marathon attached to it. Both are funded by the community and overwhelmingly adored, so it’s not like they’re just buying out top players to attend; they’re just ensuring that the people actually competing there are trying their hardest.
It is against everyone’s interest to claim that Smash Summit isn’t a supermajor. For spectators, it diminishes hype for an event that they love watching. For top players, it’s against their interest to lessen the stakes for one of their most profitable events. Besides, one of last year’s Summits was voted on as the greatest tournament of all-time. Are we really going to say it isn’t a supermajor?
And that’s that – Smash Summit 11 is the greatest Melee tournament of all time! Thanks to everyone who voted during this year’s March Madness! pic.twitter.com/kn7SA9R70V
— Melee Stats (@MeleeStatsPod) March 26, 2022
The Mango Effect
No one would deny Mango’s monumental importance to the scene. In addition to being the greatest player of all-time, he’s undeniably the scene’s most successful figure, having walked away from his time in Melee as the landmark streamer of the last decade. If you’ve seen Melee anywhere in the world, it was likely on one of three streamers: VGBootcamp, btssmash (early on, BeyondTheSummit) or Mango. It’s so much so to where the common saying goes that a lack of Mango deep in a major bracket inevitably kills its viewership.
Or does it? Of the top five watched tournaments ever, only two of them featured Mango in grand finals, with the other ones coming from Evo 2016, Evo 2018, and Genesis 6. Initially, that made me think the effect was overstated; that Evo and Genesis were strong enough brands to draw greater interest. However, when we stretch out the data set to include the top ten most watched majors, the No. 6, No. 7, and No. 8 spots include deep, if not classic, Mango runs: Smash Summit 11, Genesis 3, and Smash Summit 12. Coming in at No. 9 and No. 10 are, in order, Smash ‘N’ Splash 4 and The Big House 6, one tournament where Mango got drunkenly smacked out of top eight and another where he won in memorable fashion.
As I mentioned above, I didn’t just take a look at LAN supermajors and invitationals; I wanted to see how SCL and Smash Summit 10 online compared to other events in terms of viewers. See below.
|SCL Season 1 Week 1||20,104|
|SCL Season 1 Week 2||21,390|
|SCL Season 1 Week 3||21,797|
|SCL Season 1 Week 4||16,658|
|Smash Summit 10 Online||52,947|
|Smash Summit 9||60,594|
|SCL Season 2 Week 1||53,332|
|SCL Season 2 Week 2||30,360|
|SCL Season 2 Week 3||52,135|
|SCL Season 2 Week 4||64,132|
Now, I want to be clear about something: these events rocked. Most of them came in a context where the community was so uncertain about how it would survive during a pandemic. They gave purpose to our scene in a time when we were scrambling for tournaments to have meaning. Moreover, it was great to see the entire community moving toward a structure in which other tournaments would supplement SCL. I’d add that the first season of SCL probably featured the best commentary I’ve ever heard.
At the same time, the numbers clearly show that they weren’t a replacement for LAN. These events together, on average, drew about 36,984 viewers at their highest moments. When compared to offline events (80,862), it’s not even close. As nice as SCL and online tournaments with “stakes” are, they are probably never going to come close to LAN. I would still argue that something like SCL should happen in Melee’s informal offseason, maybe sometime during the winter before or after Genesis and integrated with FlyQuest’s TMT series.
Other quick points and suggestions:
- In a normal year, Genesis and The Big House are going to remain the supermajors for the winter and fall seasons.
- In my opinion, the late winter to early spring should becomes Melee’s “SCL” season, but instead of being self-contained, placements determine invitees to the next Smash Summit, which will ideally lead into the summer and take place in the late spring.
- Moving forward, we’ll likely need a new summer supermajor in place of Evo. I suggest Shine.
- Every smaller major should be ran with complementing – not competing with – Genesis, The Big House, Shine, and Smash Summit in mind.
- The realistic attendance range for future LAN supermajors is probably something around 1,000 to 2,000 players in the short-term.
- Melee’s market of dedicated viewers is probably something around 90,000 viewers who will tune into top eight of supermajors.
- Our realistic ceiling for maximum amount of viewers is probably twice as much.
- 2017 levels of recognition, notoriety, and hype are very likely for 2022 Melee, but getting back to the 2016 golden era will be a challenge.
Full data set can be accessed here.