If someone told me ten years ago that people playing video games would generate a bigger audience than the NBA, NHL, and MLB, I…
While wildly popular in Japan, Splatoon as an esport is practically unheard of on our shores. In Japan, Splatoon 2 recently became the first home console title to exceed two million sales in the last decade.
This is especially impressive considering the console it’s on hasn’t even been out for a year. What I’m trying to say is it could be kind of a big deal.
Splatoon is one of the most Nintendo games to have ever existed. The family-friendly company wanted to make a competitive, team-based shooter, so it made one where the priority is to shoot the map, rather than each other.
The setting is also familiar in premise, but with a typically Nintendo twist – a post-apocalyptic Earth, but this time squids came out of the seas to take human-like forms, wear sick clothes, and battle it out in rad turf wars.
It’s bright, fresh and, most importantly, easy to follow. From a player perspective, it’s easy to jump into regardless of skill. Killing or ‘splatting’ opponents may help your team momentarily but what counts for a win at the end of the day is who has the most paint down. For everyone who’s picked up a shooter and could swear their bullets peppered everything but the enemy, in this game, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
The world is fun and accessible. Quick-burst matches where teams are clearly separated by colour come with enough weapon variety that most will find something to fit their groove. Even those with no confidence in aiming can run along pushing a roller, covering the map with ink and thus helping their team.
On the other hand, players who excel will master motion-control-based aiming to get the finest precision out of their weapons.
There’s no chat and with that comes no salt, no arguments or trash talk – this game is for everyone and no one is given the chance to claim otherwise.
What this means for a spectator, is a game that’s instantly easy to follow. At a glance, you can usually tell which team is on top by the colour of the map without knowing the intricacies. Even on payload maps, the bright, divisive scheme makes it easy to grasp the basics, and weapon variety and tactics give depth that can be learnt gradually.
It’s the kind of game you can turn on, pick a team, and get excited no matter your age or understanding – which is not common in the esports space.
If that’s not enough, there’s still plenty to delve into. Not only do weapons come in heaps of different variations, they are also paired with different sub-weapons and special abilities which can totally change the style of play between individuals. Clothing also adds different buffs, allowing for even more possibilities, and the different maps and hidden paths mean there’s plenty of meat on these fishbones.
Splatoon is also relatively young, so while watching a game now can leave a bit to be desired on the presentation side, entering now is getting in on the ground floor. It’s a unique opportunity to watch a sport grow and transform alongside the careers of new players entering the industry at relatively low risk. The current sales and Nintendo backing means that it’s unlikely this scene will die out anytime soon.
This also means there’s a culture and spectacle to get involved in. The world and style of Splatoon is uniquely fun and Japanese in some of the best ways.
The finals in the European tournament will be held on March 31 and not only will this decide the current top team on the continent, it also comes with a virtual concert. The mascots, who are also an in-game musical duo, will be appearing and performing in hologram form alongside a live band.
Although a relatively normal practice in Japan, with popular digital idols like Hatsune Miku, a hologram concert with video game characters during a tournament sounds like a wild halftime show in a cyberpunk future – and I am 100 per cent here for it.
Splatoon 2 is the esport you’re probably missing. Whether overlooked for its unassuming appearance or limited platform, it’s easy to see how this has fallen off so many people’s radar.
This is unfortunate, because from a casual game to have on in the background, to something deeper with weapon nuances and fun lore, there’s something to satiate every level of interest.
The broad appeal and future potential mean Splatoon 2 is well worth checking out, if only to dip your toes in some fresh ink.