Last week, I broke down some of the numbers behind attendance in doubles. Examining the number of doubles entrants across majors in 2022, as well as the number of doubles entrants across majors from 2016 to 2019, I found out that doubles had seen a significant decline, even when compared to a similar decline in singles entrants. I then took a look at how top players treated doubles and saw a similarly worrying trend for the format. The one silver lining I found was a sudden resurgence in interest at Genesis 9.
Was it a sign that doubles is about to make a big comeback? Or is it a fluke? These are difficult questions to answer, but in today’s column, I’d like to examine one variable: top player interest. Over the last week, I sent a survey out to several Top 100 players. Unsurprisingly, only twelve of them filled out the survey. A few were willing to speak to me off the record to share their thoughts on doubles as well. For what it’s worth, I think this does ‘bias’ the responses quite a bit, so take this for what it’s worth.
An Embarrassing Note
When I launched the survey, my first move was to account for any potential disparity in responses from Top 100 players. To give a more concrete example, I wasn’t sure whether a Top 25 player would share the same views on doubles as a Top 50 player or vice versa. I asked each surveyor to briefly acknowledge which part of the Top 100 they were on, lest there be any trends particular to specific skill ranges.
In hindsight, I think this was a dumb question. I only had 12 responses, so it would not have been particularly relevant. Besides, there were no big disagreements. But it’s what I did, so I’m sharing it here.
Most Top Players Like Doubles
One of the first things I wanted to figure out was if top players even enjoyed doubles. Given what we had studied from the previous edition of Monday Morning Marth, I was somewhat worried that most top players would land in the “neutral” or “no opinion” zone. To my surprise, this was not the case.
Not only do top players like doubles, they really like doubles, with all of them agreeing it plays a role in shaping their supermajor experiences! Of all the people who filled out the survey, only one person said they had negative views toward doubles. Everyone else, a whopping 91.6 percent of top players surveyed, said they like it. Most of them went the extra step of picking the most affirmative option.
Obviously, however, most people will prioritize singles over doubles. I don’t see anything particularly newsworthy there – and for what it’s worth, the one respondent who picked “about the same” is a member of a premier doubles team right now. No, I am not outing them.
Did The Pandemic Kill Interest?
This was a factor that sat in the back of my mind throughout the last week., but I wasn’t sure how to address it in a top player survey, let alone verify if people’s descriptions of their interest actually matched up with the reality. Ultimately, I just decided to take my respondents at their word – and what I found was that there was a notable, though not earth-shattering, shift in doubles attendance since the pandemic.
I was fascinated by these responses. You have one person going from “Very Inactive” to “Mildly Active”, one former “Very Active” player going to “Mildly Inactive,” and then everyone else either retaining “Very Active” status or moving downward to “Mildly Active.”
Some personal hypotheses I have for this aren’t necessarily immediately measurable. For example, there’s been a big shift in time allocation for most Melee players when they aren’t at events. Additionally, it’s just easier for players to hop on Slippi Ranked/Unranked and grind singles rather than try to organize people together to play doubles over direct connections. The scene’s always prioritized singles over doubles – not unjustifiably – and additional tools to simplify singles grinding certainly makes it more alluring. One of my respondents told me privately, “if the thrust of this questionnaire is “did COVID kill dubs?,” the answer is unequivocally yes,” before adding that it was “a shame TOs haven’t been more keen on reviving it” and that “new players don’t know what they’re missing.”
Last note: I spoke with one notable player who didn’t fill out the survey, but was willing to talk to me in private about their thoughts on doubles nowadays, and they corroborated many of these reasons with me. They added that it was kind of sad, because they used to have a static partner that they’d team with all the time – and since the partner stopped playing, their natural interest and investment in doubles shattered. Even when they won, it was not particularly satisfying; it was just draining given how much pressure they had on themself for singles.
The Power of Friendship
On that note, I had accounted for this topic in my survey. In hindsight, I wish I had taken a similar approach to the previous section – measuring teammate availability before and after the pandemic – but for now, let’s examine how players answered.
I found myself in a weird paradox. Everybody says they want more teammates, but they’re all looking for teammates. To be honest, I have no further thoughts on this topic. Some part of me wonders if this is a “convenient” reason for not entering doubles rather than a sincere one. Events aren’t going to “mandate” that top players have a dedicated teammate. Maybe a doubles circuit will? I should look into this more.
Without spoiling who it was, I spoke briefly with one player who refused to fill out the survey, but gave me their thoughts on doubles in the most succinct manner possible: “Doubles is tight; scheduling is ass. That’s my tl;dr.”
The data didn’t seem to bear their assumption out. It seemed like most top players thought scheduling was fine (the majority of most supermajor schedules, I add). The bigger issues came up with regards to two things: teammate availability, which I covered earlier, and “gameplay enjoyability.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: I cannot tell you what went through my head when I chose to put “Gameplay Enjoyability” as a category instead of “Fun.” I asked the one person who put “none of the above” what their biggest factor was and they told me, “fun.” I felt very stupid afterward. Such is life.
Considerations and Takeaways
One of my respondents was particularly vocal in private about what they thought of doubles. I spoke to them for a bit afterward and they said outright that they thought doubles was fun, but unwatchable. A big factor they noted was the absence of two of the leading teams from the previous era (Armada/Android and SFAT/PewPewU). Without them, there was no incentive to push the metagame of doubles, per my respondent’s words.
Other than that, we’ve learned the following:
- Top players still really like doubles.
- Top players value having a good teammate.
- Top players are mostly fine with scheduling at events as it pertains to their doubles experience.
With that said, I think it’s important to note that this is not the end-all-be-all of responses. Top players are just one part of the community. For next week’s column, I’m going to survey event organizers regarding their thoughts on doubles.