When it comes to trying to go pro and make a living in the fighting game community, it’s already hard, but for Smash Bros players in Japan, it has nearly always been impossible. Case in point, it seems EVO Japan 2020, one of the biggest fighting game tournaments in the world, was about to make a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller the entire prize pool for winning Super Smash Bros Ultimate at the tournament.
The issue was first noted by Smash Bros Melee Content Creator Andrew Nestico, as posted on his Twitter on January 20, 2020. At the time of Nestico’s original posting, it appeared that while many other games in the EVO Japan 2020 line-up had decent prize pools on offer, Smash Bros Ultimate featured only a Pro Controller, and only for the winner of the Smash Ultimate tournament. It would appear that since Nestico’s original posting, EVO Japan 2020 has changed this. The EVO Japan website states that the prize pool for Smash Bros Ultimate is to be “announced later.”
This is not the first time issues of payment have come up in Japan tournaments, and it stems largely from Japanese law regarding esports and a perceivable gambling element to them. Gambling is illegal in Japan, and under Japanese consumer protection laws, esports get murky unless the sponsor behind the product is footing the entire bill, as pointed out in an article by GenVid. That is to say, players can’t contribute to a prize pool the way they do in American tournaments like the original EVO, because Japan considers that gambling of a sort. Japan is only now starting to recognize gaming as a profession, but their myriad of laws and rules almost kept Street Fighter 5 pro Yusuke Momochi from keeping his prize money when he won at EVO Japan 2019, as reported by Kotaku.
Then it comes down to Nintendo, who has been infamously stingy about whether or not to support Super Smash Bros in official capacity. Though Nintendo has made a couple leaps in offering tournaments for Super Smash Bros Ultimate, the company has almost always refused to be a part of sponsoring other events like EVO. That means that there’s really nobody to foot the bill of a prize pool for Smash Bros Ultimate except for perhaps the organizers of EVO Japan itself.
It’s a bummer to say the least, considering EVO Japan is easily becoming one of the more interesting overseas fighting game events of the year. Hopefully EVO Japan will be able to offer up something a little more to Smash Bros players who make the trip, but with difficult Japanese laws to navigate through, it will remain to be seen what the winner’s circle holds for players.
TJ Denzer posted a new article, EVO Japan 2020's Smash Ultimate prize pool was almost just a pro controller