Crowdfunding is not a new concept in the Smash community. Having persevered through tough times and often no sponsorship, the competitive scene was able to get to where it is now thanks to the community’s passionate hard work and, just as importantly, pocket money. With the advent of compendium-style crowdfunding via smash.gg, the integrity of events funded through the community is coming into question.
A compendium is a system that uses public donations in order to fund a tournament, while bringing extra features and a bonus to the prizes as an incentive to the community. In Smash, this is generally done with tiered goals based on milestone dollar amounts.
On October 7, Beyond the Summit announced that they were taking a leap into the world of Smash by hosting a tournament with a prize pool of $11,600 and featuring 16 players, with ten directly invited and six to be voted in by the community. The tournament prize pool was to be augmented with a donation-based compendium, similar to the Big House 5.
This donation drive also provided the backbone of knockout stage voting. Many players took advantage of their social media presence and pushed their names out during the campaign, including people like HugS and Kage the Warrior. In the end, the proceeding six were SFAT, Zhu, Alex19, Swedish Delight, Kage, and S2J. While many were thrilled that their voted player made it through, others found heavy frustrations and concerns with the overall approach that Beyond the Summit took to crowdfunding.
First of all, the level rewards need to be worth the money earned to get to a milestone. The last tournament with a significant compendium was The Big House 5. Alongside growing the prize pool, Juggleguy and company provided extra incentives, such as the Zhu intro video and the Mike Haze rap. These weren’t huge, but they added something to the tournament that created excitement. They also flew in people who would have a tough time getting to the tournament, such as Abadango from Japan, Javi from Mexico, and Ice from Germany.
While the invitational structure of Smash Summit includes flying players out to the tournament as part of a tier reward, the tier rewards overall feel subpar. The top tier reward adds a good amount of money, but the bonus event that tags along is a game of Mafia for all the players. This feels like a cop-out, since the community raised $30,000 only to get an event that could be done anyways and that provides nothing substantial or even Smash related to the spectacle. Also, the fact that bringing out commentary talent takes crowdfunding from an organization like Beyond the Summit rather than being part of the show from the start is quite worrying to say the least.
Another problem with the system is that it revolves around a money-based voting structure. The system they had creates a paywall that blocks out people who can’t spare the money to beat out those with deeper pockets. The players with the most invested fans and those who tried to incentivize votes get to go through other more talented players. This leads to drama and spats throughout the community. For example, Kage and his group Melee Hell were able to have a high impact in the votes due to their sheer size (over 8000 people at this time). Both the group and whole regions of players, such as the SoCal region, had the ability to boost players either to the top or to save them from elimination. This makes the whole voting process feel biased towards those with deep pockets or to players more focused on their brand, rather than the Smash community in its entirety.
An alternative to the current system could be to split-up the compendium and voting all together. This would allow for the voting to be more traditional, better-balanced, and fair.
Crowdfunding should not be frowned upon in the Smash scene, as the increased money improves prize pools and tournaments in general, as shown by the Big House 5. It lets tournament organizers know that both players and spectators want to support the growth of Smash to new heights. However, it all depends on the approach that the TOs take. If more invitational-based tournaments take this form of crowdfunding, then the scene will be stunted in its ability to grow. With the Smash Summit voting behind us, crowdfunding for tournaments will be something to keep a good eye on in the future.