Is Nintendo about to turn Super Mario Bros into an esports title?

Steven R. May 17, 2019

Could Super Mario Bros become an esport? Nintendo might be angling for just that, given a recent announcement regarding the upcoming Super Mario Maker 2.

Ahead of E3 2019, the company will host the Super Mario Maker 2 Invitational 2019, a tournament featuring new levels in the upcoming game. The event will take place alongside the Splatoon 2 World Championship 2019 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate 3v3 World Championship.

The Super Mario Maker 2 Invitational was announced during Super Mario Maker 2 Direct, a live stream detailing new features for the game including upgraded level design tools and a story mode. Outside its existence, no details were given on the tournament. It is unclear what sort of format it will use, how many competitors will be involved, or what sort of background those competitors may have.

Regardless, this is an interesting development from Nintendo and one that could lead to some intriguing things in the future.

Is Super Mario Bros an Esport?

 

Outside the original arcade version of the series, Super Mario Bros has never been the kind of head-to-head multiplayer game that can be considered an esport. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a sizable competitive scene behind the series.

Since the dawn of streaming videos on the internet, speedrunning has been an incredibly popular subsection of gaming. Though players do not compete directly, speedrunners race one another to beat games as quickly as possible. This can be done in a number of ways, ranging from lightning quick dashes through levels to exploiting various bugs and glitches.

The Super Mario series delivered a number of early speedrunning favorites, and remains one of the most hotly contested to this day. Each new installment of the game attracts thousands of players looking to slice their way through as quickly as possible.

So does that make Super Mario Bros an esport? Only if your definition of “esports” doesn’t involve money.

Though there is a sizable talent pool in speedrunning, there hasn’t been much money there in terms of direct competition. Top players can receive sponsorships from esports organizations and run successful Twitch streams, but legitimate speedrunning competitions are rare. Even at notable events like Games Done Quick, races have nothing on the line except pride.

The nature of the Super Mario Maker 2 Invitational is still unclear, but speedrunning competitions could be fertile esports territory. No tournament organizer is touching the field, and the fanbases for certain titles rival some established esports.

If Nintendo decides to take an esports approach to the event, slaps down some money, and flies out top speedrunners, it could make for a unique event. And if that shows there’s a market for speedrunning tournaments, we might just see legitimate Super Mario Bros Esports at some point.