MultiVersus Is Missing One Key Ingredient: Smash Discourse

Although the hype has died down a little, there's no doubting MultiVersus has been a pretty big hit right off the bat. The game is technically still in its beta, yet it has already attracted more than 20 million players. That'll happen when a game clearly inspired by Super Smash Bros. launches less than a year after Ultimate's roster was officially completed, and anyone can play it on almost any platform for absolutely nothing.

Saying MultiVersus has replaced Smash would be a little bit of a stretch. The only thing that will ever replace Smash is the next Smash, and if there's never going to be another then Ultimate will never be replaced. Certainly an appropriate title if that is going to be the case. Warner Bros. has already proved it has the next best thing in MultiVersus when the world was crying out for it. There is one thing missing though, and it took me a while to figure out what it is.

It's discourse. That might seem like a wild thing for someone in an industry teeming with too much discourse to say, so let me explain. Most of the discourse the video game industry experiences on a daily basis, and there's a lot of it, is bad. Developers being hounded by players nitpicking their games, titles launching in a broken state because they weren't ready to go. That's obviously not the kind of discourse I want for MultiVersus, or anything for that matter.

No, the discourse I'm referring to is what used to come with each and every Smash reveal. A day or two before Nintendo was ready to unveil who would be coming to Smash Ultimate next, it would proudly proclaim a new fighter was approaching. Thus began 24 to 48 hours of everyone, whether they played Smash regularly or not, declaring who they believed the new fighter should be, and in many cases who it definitely shouldn't be. It was fun, light-hearted, and it added an even bigger sense of occasion to each and every reveal.

The best part was the list of characters being touted prior to every reveal. Almost always the same candidates because almost every time, Nintendo would let us down. Crash Bandicoot, Master Chief, Rayman, and of course, Waluigi were never added to the now completed roster. That Nintendo would seemingly never add who most people wanted oddly made the whole process even more fun. The period of squabbling over who the next fighter should be was followed by everyone coming together to bemoan the fact that Minecraft Steve had been added to the game rather than Spyro.

MultiVersus doesn't have that element, at least not yet. A few characters have been revealed and added since the open beta began, and all of them have been met with a collective “oh, that's cool” or words to that effect, and where's the fun in that? I wanted someone losing their mind when Gizmo popped out of that box because they wanted it to be Scrappy Doo, or players questioning why Black Adam will be getting a spot before Aquaman.

It's tricky to determine how exactly that harmless discourse element can be added to the mix, especially at this early stage. Everyone cheering for a new addition to the MultiVersus roster like they're watching the Avengers assembling in Endgame is exactly what Warner Bros. wants and needs right now. The aim is to keep adding to the tens of millions of players it has already attracted. Even one roster addition that turns off a chunk of the player base is a risk at this early stage. MultiVersus doesn't have the loyal following Smash has that allowed Nintendo to disappoint so many people over and over again only for us to come back and beg for more a few months later.

The key to that for Nintendo was two things. That aforementioned loyalty built up over decades, but also that people paid a lot of money for Smash, and even more for the Fighters Pass. It's one way MultiVersus being free is actually a disadvantage to its creators. While that's the reason it has already attracted so many players, it also means a couple of wrong moves and people will have no issue leaving it behind, potentially forever, without losing any money. Stick to characters that can please as many people as possible for now, but I'll remain hopeful that if there really is no more Smash, one day we will all be fighting over who should be the focus of the next MultiVersus reveal just like we used to with Smash.

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