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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Diminishing Marginal Returns of Super Smash Bros. DLC

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I have an unpopular position here, but it's the right one.

Out of all the news that came from yesterday's Nintendo Direct, what's gotten everyone's attention? The Super Smash Bros. Ultimate stuff. Terry Bogard as the fourth Challenger Pack. Banjo & Kazooie released. Sans (uggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggh) as a Mii Costume, along with wonderful Team Rocket Grunts, and returning Super Smash Bros. 4 costumes Zero and Proto Man. (And there's Goemon but no one cares.) But possibly the most enduring news is that there's more fighter DLC to come after the five from the Fighters Pass, and they're sold separately from that Fighters Pass. How many characters? Unspecified, but enough to make it plural. Will there be more stages and music with it? Unknown.

Masahiro Sakurai said...
 “Finally, it was announced that we will be working on even more DLC fighters. To me, it feels like the finish line is sliding farther away. You may wonder, ‘How much longer can he be involved in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?’ But I'm also excited. Adding more characters to the game means that more game worlds will be added to the series, and ultimately that means there will be an even greater opportunity to delight the fans. At the same time, I feel that Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is now representing so many characters and game worlds, that it's become an enormous game. Even if the Super Smash Bros. series continues moving forward, I doubt there will be an opportunity to bring this many characters together again. And so, I want to keep improving on this record as much as possible, and I will continue to work hard at developing the game. I appreciate your support.”
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate even more additional DLC fighters wave 2 newcomer letter envelope
“Even More DLC Fighters will Join the Battle!”
(There doesn't seem to be a grammatical style where “will” isn't supposed to be capitalised.)

According to polls among the users of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate board on GameFAQs, the community and fanbase is largely psyched about this additional wave of fighters. 

I'm not. I'm really, really not. I'm not just fatigued by Super Smash Bros. constantly being the day's biggest news story whenever there's a Nintendo Direct (seriously, there was other stuff in that Direct, though I must admit nothing in particular from that resonated with me), but I think this has a net-negative effect on the whole Switch ecosystem. And the game itself.

In economics, there's the concept of marginal returns. That means that, for each additional thing consumed or produced (in this case, each additional Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC fighter made), there is a certain amount of additional happiness/utility for it. After a certain point, you start getting less and less happiness the more additions there are... and then they start having no effect. At some point, it actually makes it worse than before and it's a net-negative. This applies for both customers buying more stuff (such as drinking water when you're desperately thirsty, which feels great... and then you eventually keep drinking water until your organs drown), and companies’ factors of production (you put so many workers in the factory that they're stepping on each other and causing problems).

Similarly, this applies to the production of more DLC fighters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. For a consumer, there is such a thing as too many characters in a fighting game. The character selection screen becomes very unwieldy, and it's hard to get your mind around all of the match-ups in the game. Plus, you might just be bored of trying to clear all the game modes with all of the characters.

For Sakurai's team, it becomes progressively more complicated to balance (and debug) the game when there's more and more characters, because there's more interactions the team has to take into account.

My biggest problem, however, is that they're really running out of characters that make sense in Super Smash Bros. They're basically at the bottom of the barrel, or getting near it. Sakurai's goal seems to be getting as many new third-party franchises in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate just for the sake of having more characters, which is not a good philosophy.

I've thought this way since the end of Super Smash Bros. For Wii U, by the way. Right after Cloud got in, that's enough. That's the climax. Then there was the likes of Corrin.

Nintendo is apparently the one picking all of the DLC characters, but Sakurai here is making it seem like this is all a big personal goal for him. I don't trust his word.

By the way, this article could've guilt-tripped you for wanting endless amounts of DLC while Sakurai is apparently still in great physical pain, or at least coming to work right after his morning IV drip. I didn't take that approach because, in the end, I do want Masahiro Sakurai still working in the industry. (Though he should have a vacation in-between projects. A real vacation.)

I just think the industry would be better-served if he could work on a new project of his choosing, instead of being chained to endless amounts of bottom-of-the-barrel character DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate just to “delight the fans.” Screw the fans. The fans got us Sans.


Appealing to one of the worst fanbases in videogames (Undertalethe idea that Super Smash Bros. itself is the worst fanbase is a made-up media-driven narrative) is bad, Sakurai. Don't go around like that's a good thing.

Ludwig would still put Terry Bogard above the likes of PAC-MAN in terms of where along the bottom of the barrel the new characters are. Him not knowing who Terry even is makes it hard to hate him. Still, this goes well beyond Terry. With each new DLC character, one should logically ask if they should exist instead of Phoenix Wright.


  1. It already feels like one of those Newgrounds Smash fighter clones where anyone remotely popular is in.

    1. Super Smash Flash... ha... Yeah, with Naruto and whatever.

  2. "Banjo & Kazooie released. Sans (uggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggh)"

    THANK YOU. For CRYING OUT LOUND "Sans Undertale in Smash" wasn't even funny when it WAS just a dang joke! They've gone too far this time, it's DUMB.

    1. ...Apparently I'm too annoyed by this to spell "loud" correctly. X_X


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