If you’ve been reading Monday Morning Marth for a while, you’ll know that I love making tables – especially tables about viewership. These are some of my favorite columns to write. People seem to like them and it’s fun to put numbers together. Today, I’m writing another column about viewership. I’m going to explore why September to December of this year could bring Melee its best final four months in recorded history. I believe this is because of the following factors:
- The sheer amount of notable events featuring players who could win them.
- An unprecedented level of potential attendance by said top players.
- The fact that these events are spread out across each of the four months, rather than condensed in two or three of them.
- A tight race for No. 1.
Why This Matters
You don’t have to be the Crimson Blur to grasp the magical concept of “high viewership = good.” To give that a little more meat, it’s good because you can sell it to sponsors – a strong alternative revenue source to ticket sales for tournaments. The long story short: ticket sales aren’t adequate on their own for events. High viewership, however, could be.
If you run a major enough times, you’ll get an idea for how many viewers you draw. If you’re especially smart, you’ll measure how many watch time hours you get from your stream, as this is the metric that trumps everything else. And if you’re serious about taking your tournament to the next level, then you’ll reach out to a company and tell them something along the lines of, “hey, I think many people in my audience would potentially buy your product.” You’ll then ask for X amount of money in exchange for running commercials, having commentators run quick ad reads in between sets, and ultimately bringing your prospective sponsor new customers.
It could be The Yard, Metafy, Frame 1, Papa Johns, Melee Stats, Warner Bros., Nickelodeon, or even a cryptocurrency sponsor like Blockchain.com or Coinbase. Point is, if the pitch is good, the sponsor accepts, you secure the bag, run on a profit, and everyone’s happy. You might even get a few subscribers in your viewer base.
How much is “X” amount of money? It depends. I talked to a few of my industry contacts and the answers varied. I’ve heard as little as a thousand dollars to as much as potentially $200,000 for a single event. If you have a circuit, you’ll get even more than that. Basically, there’s tons of money on the line. So with the high-level stakes for tournament organizers out of the way, time to look at what’s coming up.
What to Expect
The first thing to note is the amount of events we have coming up that feature top players. In 2015, we had five big events. 2016 had six; 2017 had five, 2018 had three, 2019 had three, 2020 had seven, and 2021 had seven. Want to know how many big events we have coming up in 2022? 10.
|September 9-11||Riptide||Zain, Hungrybox, Jmook, Plup, lloD|
|September 30-October 2||Lost Tech City||Hungrybox, aMSa, Plup, KoDoRiN|
|October 7-9||The Big House 10||Zain, iBDW, Jmook. Leffen, aMSa, Plup, n0ne|
|October 14-16||DreamHack Rotterdam||Zain, IBDW, and Leffen|
|October 21-23||Ludwig Smash Invitational||Zain, iBDW, Jmook, Hungrybox, Leffen, aMSa, Plup, lloD, n0ne, KoDoRiN, and Mango|
|November 3-6||Smash Summit 14||Not confirmed yet|
|November 18-20||Apex 2022||Jmook and aMSa|
|December 2-4||Mainstage 2022||Jmook, aMSa, and KoDoRiN|
|December 9-11||SWT Championships||Not confirmed yet|
|December 16-18||Panda Cup Finale||Not confirmed yet|
NOTE: This column was written before Riptide happened, as well as the announcement of an OpTic event featuring Wizzrobe and aMSa in Texas. If I were to update this table with more accurate information, that would have to be considered.
I wasn’t sure how to predict the rest of the year. In my original version of this column, I was going to post separate tables for the last four months of every year from 2015 to 2021. I had prepared a whole nostalgia trip write-up, which was supposed to lead into me pulling numbers out of my ass and saying we could probably get 5.5 million watch time hours.
Then, I realized that was stupid. Instead of following through with that, I looked for some guidance. I realized I needed math in my life. I reached out to my dear friend (and Patron), Jackzilla, someone I trust with statistical analysis, for help.
The first thing we did was make a note of every single “major” of the fall from 2015 to 2022. Though this was admittedly a subjective call – I did not want to solely rely on Liquipedia’s definition for a major nor Pikachu942’s all-time major database’s definition – I ultimately do not care enough to justify my decision about “what’s a major” other than “because I feel like it is.” If it’s good enough for the Supreme Court, it’s good enough for Smash. Wait, maybe that’s not the best analogy. Oh well.
Following that step, we tracked every single player who made grand finals of a major between January and August of each year. This process was further muddied by our desire to filter those players through another difficult call: “who was a feasible contender to win a major?” It was hard to create a consistent standard for this process. For example, I did not think Fly Amanita in 2015 was a true contender to win majors, but I thought ChuDat and SFAT in 2017 had non-zero chances. Once again, I beg you to not nitpick too deeply.
We then examined those players’ total attendance rates from September to December. Additionally, we counted both the total times that these players actually attended majors and the total amount of times they could have theoretically attended. This was done in order to account for the likelihood of a disqualification and to demonstrate the impact this could have on watch time hours. The goal was to find out a bit more about the relationship between attendance of players who audiences think can actually win, number of events, and viewership.
We did some simple one-variable models, as well as a rough regression on the small data set we had put together. If Fall of 2022 behaves similarly to Fall of previous years, there’s a lot to be excited about. There’s also a slim possibility that what happens will give me an aneurysm. Perhaps even lifelong despair. We’re now going to present the “three timelines.”
The Safe Bet
Imagine that top players start going to these events around as much as they did in 2021 for volume. Whether or not this involves consistently ‘decent’ attendance across the fall, or a similar type of buildup to a grand December that we saw last year doesn’t quite matter (my money’s on something close to the former).
This possibility would bring us, in all likelihood, about 5.5 million watch time hours, the original number I pulled out of my ass. It would meet last year’s general vibe of “it kind of sucks that we can’t get everyone in the same room, but hey, we have a ton of tournaments before Genesis.” So all in all, not amazing, but nothing to panic about. Speaking of which, let’s talk about that.
The Dark Timeline
This is where everything goes wrong – as bad as it did in 2019. In this timeline, the pandemic gets even worse. Events, while not shut down, suffer big time from a wave of top player dropouts, illness related issues to notable people at the events, and the worst excuses imaginable. Maybe Leffen wins a Strive major and decides to finally leave Melee.
One factor that could play into the dark timeline: the League of Legends NA Worlds event. I’m actually not sure of the overlap between the League audience and Melee audience, but because we’re going full doomer, I’m going to assume a significant one exists, and that it steals prospective members of the Smash audience. As a result of this disappointing fall, both circuit runners develop an even more openly hostile relationship, pointing fingers at one another behind the scenes and perhaps even publicly. The scene is fractured. Everyone is miserable. Melee Stats finally re-brands to Miscellaneous Stories as we transition to making non-Melee content. All we have to show for it are the least satisfying, most disappointing 3 million watch hours ever.
The Garden of Eden Timeline
This, my friends, is how we win. Not only do top players come out in droves, but we draw “enough” to replicate the attendance of the 2015 to 2017 era. Far from retirement or flirting with taking a break from the game, the race for No. 1 is the most stacked, competitive, and cared about that it’s ever been.
October and November – due to The Big House’s epic return, Ludwig’s stellar invitational event, and Summit – are the biggest months in community history. One of the two months, maybe both, smashes the 2.7 million watch-time hour record that July 2021 set. Furthermore, that’s all right before December with Mainstage, two circuit finales, and the ultimate content piece of every year: the year-end PGR. At the end of it all, we bring home over 7 million watch time hours, which nicely builds up to Genesis 9. We enter 2023, expecting it to be the biggest Melee year of all-time.
A Final Note (Why You Should Care)
A good stream is the difference between potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars and pennies for people who run events. This would help them sustain a better infrastructure for the scene, as well as financially justify their commitment and incentivize greater involvement for others in the scene. However, more importantly than satisfying another individual’s ambition, it would give these very people a chance to contribute “more” to the rest of the community. We all benefit from this.
At the risk of sounding like a shill, practically everybody loves Beyond the Summit. It runs amazing tournaments and makes compelling content for a universal audience. Best of all this organization is one that we feel ‘represents’ Smash in some way. It’s able to do that because the members have found a way to make money and financially support their efforts. Besides, in terms of watch hours, it’s not even close. I looked at each month of Melee in 2022 and can safely conclude that any iteration of Smash Summit is an instant 1,000,000 hours to a month of Melee. The only thing remotely approaching half of that is Genesis, which, based on April data, brought about 440,000 hours of streamed content.
Imagine if everyone who ran an event had the same kind of success and financial support. If we could consistently monetize off streams and sell ourselves to sponsors like BTS, we could get more contributions from the rest of the scene. I dream of a world where there’s more videos like this wonderful video essay made by our friends in Chicago Melee; more content pieces to enjoy like this great breakdown of the United Kingdom’s premier rivalry; and more hype for the scene. Summit doesn’t have to happen every month, but we would be much happier if we had that kind of buzz in the scene all the time.
A last note: it’s really easy to take the community’s grassroots and heavily-volunteer-reliant ecosystem for granted. At the peak of my “jaded” era of involvement, I once wrote in this series that Melee would be okay even if we returned to Apex 2012 levels of obscurity. I regret ever saying something like that. We can do better than “okay.” It should be encouraged to believe in a greater future for the scene. And you know what? I truly think we can get there.
|The Fall of Each Year||Contenders from January to August||Total Contender Appearances In Fall||Total Possible Contender Appearances in Fall||%Contender Attendance End of Year||“Majors”||Total Watch Time Hours|
The Big House 5
Smash Summit and DreamHack Winter
|24||30||80.00%||The Big House 6
Canada Cup 2016
Smash Summit 3
DreamHack Winter 2016
UGC Smash Open
Don’t Park on the Grass
|2017||Armada, Mango, Leffen, Hungrybox, SFAT, Mew2King, Wizzrobe, ChuDat||30||40||75.00%||GTX 2017
The Big House 7
DreamHack Denver 2017
Canada Cup 2017
Smash Summit 5
Mango Mew2King Armada
|14||21||66.67%||The Big House 8
Smash Summit 7
The Big House 9
Mango’s Birthday Bash
SCL Season 1 Week 1
SCL Season 1 Week 2
SCL Season 1 Week 3
SCL Season 1 Week 4
Smash Summit 10 Online
Mango, iBDW Wizzrobe Plup
SWT NA East Finals
SWT NA West Finals
Smash Summit 12