I wasn't planning on writing anything about the Nintendo World Championship 2015 qualifiers this past weekend as none of the events were near where I lived, but spotting Patrick Scott Patterson's epic story at his event led me down the rabbit hole and I sound found several other stories detailing what seemed like a lukewarm event across a couple of other locations.
Several stories here and here, complained of low attendance, hours spent waiting outside Best Buy, and generally 'unfun' event management, with one participant questioning the use of NES remix as the game for the qualifiers. Nintendo apparently was expecting and allotted time for over 700 to participate in some of their locations, at least two reports indicate less than 200 showed up to their events. This led to a rule-change mid-day that generated some controversy related to Patrick Scott Patterson's San Francisco event where only 150 showed up for the qualifiers and Nintendo allowed participants to retry their attempts, while other locations (presumably busier) may not have allowed it.
Though to be fair, at least one report I found, from the Tacoma Washington event appeared to have gone off smoothly. The Torrance California event (video below) also appears to have gone well.
Stepping back, this all seemed like something Nintendo of America's marketing department pulled together on a shoestring in early May with no time to properly organize. Nintendo have the Nokia theatre at E3 to fill (it's already rented and sunk) and Smash tournament last year did well for them so this is the next best thing. But announcing the whole thing about a month before E3 and jamming in qualifiers in just 8 locations weeks before the supposed 'championships' and on the same weekend on of their bigger releases (Splatoon) hit was probably not the best idea.
If Nintendo still have Nokia theatre for 2016 and want to continue with the World Championships format, I would hope they roll it out over many more months with qualifiers stretching across both the US, Canada (bonus points if they manage to set up events for Japan and Europe) with events happening across malls and Best Buys in the post Christmas late winter/early spring months, where space is cheaper to rent, and foot traffic wanted. This would lead to semi-final event held at PAX or some other major fan convention to build hype, with the event ending at E3 in June.
Nintendo is not the swaggering company that could do no wrong it was in the 90s, granted. But it's still a multi-billion dollar a year operation and a major player in video games. A very rich one at that. It is a bit disrespectful to its fans to organize such a bare bones event in so few locations on a what appears to be shoe-string budget. The apparently low turn out and the resulting rule changes have already generated some controversy that may have tainted the final outcome. Speaking as a fan, this past weekend's qualifiers is disappointing, and I feel for those who lined up outside Best Buys to participate.
All that said, Patrick Scott Patterson's first hand account of his time at the qualifiers is a great read. Highly recommended.