This post is an extension of the thoughts outlined in Getting in on the ground floor. Much of my time working on this blog has been spent planning and researching the most optimal use of the flash of time that Ultimate will be the biggest game on the block. While I’ve left out a few important specifics to maintain a big-picture viewpoint on this issue, even if I included them I would not be able to do this alone. Thus, if anyone with more resources, a larger audience or just an interest in helping reads this and thinks there is some merit to it, contact me through the email form. I will expound that information. Any time you see the ♦ symbol, there’s some important information that I’m withholding.
I’ve said before that Ultimate’s release will be a very large kick in the pants for the amiibo metagame, but if we don’t take advantage of it then it will be lost forever. I stand by that statement: there’s nothing else foreseeable that would give us a boost. This is do or die.
The issue that the amiibo community has always had (stop me if you’ve heard this before) is one of size. This is partly due to the incredible fiscal and time expenditures necessary to participate in amiibo competition, but it’s also due to a lack of awareness. Nobody knows we exist, and the ones that do left because they never won anything. While we can’t completely solve the overall cost of amiibo, the issues of awareness have held us down for years, and if we’re to succeed in any capacity these issues must be solved.
So let’s solve them, and knock out a few others while we’re at it.
Pre-Ultimate: a Full-Court Press
We’ve got our work cut out for us over the next ninety days. While there’s really not much juice left in the Smash 4 tank, we can lay the groundwork for a successful and popular Ultimate community by initiating the solutions to the first problem: awareness that we’ve been here all along.
In the weeks from now to Ultimate’s release, we have to cooperate to lay down interest on certain Smash-centric websites and forums and drum up conversations about the amiibo metagame. Discussions about the amiibo metagame should be held on publicly available forums instead of closed-off groups like Discord or email groups. Having multiple people privately coordinate public conversations could prove helpful. There’s a few places that would be most effective to use:
- ♦SmashBoards’ Amiibo General thread in NintenZone (enough discussion here could warrant a new discussion board just for amiibo use)
- Aminoapps (there is a legacy of amiibo content on there, and there is usually about two hundred people on the Smash Bros section at any given time)
- ♦Reddit (While I have not been active on Reddit in a long time, my wonderful junior editor reactivated his account and has informed me that /r/amiibo no longer has much amiibo training content)
- Twitter (we need memes, folks!)
In addition to populating forums with amiibo discussion, we also need to spread awareness through video platforms as well. This is the hard part, and successfully accomplishing this may require financial resources, which I may be able to provide to a limited degree♦. We will need Youtube videos of amiibo clips similar to Prince Royale’s old series, or in-depth explanations of amiibo science, or maybe both. It doesn’t need to be edited very well, even raw game footage would suffice. The most important thing is for the content to be interesting and popular. (Feel free to rip off my posts if it means a good video!)
Accomplishing both of these tasks will push us farther up in the all-important Google search results, too. Google is where the long-term sustainability will stem from, but the only way to get that is to succeed in these other areas.
Pre-Ultimate: Lowering the Barriers of Entry
On top of public discussions and Youtube content, we need a referenceable communal infrastructure of literature. We need more people pushing out amiibo content based on their unique research, true, but we also need more tutorials. Getting into amiibo is not an easy thing, and there’s quite a few hurdles to overcome. We need to publish instructions (preferably videos) on these topics, and more♦:
- How to use a Powertag
- How to use Tagmo to scan bin files and send them to tournaments
- What to do when you’re new to amiibo training
Basically, before Ultimate releases, we need to spread the seeds of the next amiibo metagame. We now have the technology to host online tournaments instead of mailing amiibo to each other. We can now edit amiibo to have the stat layouts that we want (although you know how I feel about nonvanilla play) instead of spending hours grinding for a specific piece of gear. The amiibo scene is much more accessible now than its original inception, but it’s not accessible to people who aren’t already aware of how to use these new improvements. We need literature that lowers the technical barrier to entry.
There’s a lot of information that people need to know in order to train amiibo. They need to know how amiibo think. They need to know what amiibo can and can’t do, and the smaller nuances of amiibo science. We need a rabbit hole of easily-accessible information for them to go down. But most important, we need to teach them how to get started – people need to know how to get started with amiibo training, and how to minimize the cost. I think back to when I started seriously training amiibo and finding information, and I had to gather it from nearly a dozen sources across the internet, aside from my own tests. We need a condensed literature that lowers the information barrier to entry.
Pre-Ultimate: Training Wheels
I’m not so sure that this one is a good idea, but I can’t see any other way to solve the same problems that this solves. If done incorrectly, then it may take a long time for the metagame to progress beyond its initial point.
On top of breaking down those barriers to entry, we have another prevalent problem. The amiibo metagame consists of a few people who have been doing this for a very long time. They’re pretty good at beating each other’s amiibo: so good, in fact, that the metagame has largely staled out and is only kept alive with changes to the ruleset and with research and application of Reverse Feeding. (On a future post, we’ll talk more about how metagames need either lots of time or lots of people to develop).
This manifests itself whenever a new guy shows up and enters a tournament with anything less than a copy of someone else’s tournament-winning amiibo, he gets crushed, and crushed hard. This is true in both vanilla and nonvanilla competition. Usually these people enter a few more tournaments, lose more, and then decide to leave amiibo training behind. We can’t retain new players for a variety of reasons, but this is the biggest one.♦
Side note: don’t call it saltiness, because it’s not salt. If you joined a new hobby and realized the only other people to play against the most experienced trainers on earth, you’d quit too.
So what can we do to solve this before it becomes a problem in Ultimate? We can create some kind of Beginner’s Repository. If we take the bin files of some good amiibo (not the tournament winners, just amiibo that take a match off the better ones) and post them online for public download at, say, nfc-bank.com, then we can redirect users to use those amiibo as a starting point for tournament training, so long as they rename them. We can give them a starter’s kit so they don’t get immediately destroyed: this will hold their interest long enough for the new competitors to gain a working understanding of amiibo, and train their own.♦ (Obviously the owner of the bin files needs to consent to this as well, or else it would be Amiibo Socialism). Basically, we need to break down the competitive barrier to entry.
Post-Ultimate: Big Press
Of everything I write here, this is the most crucial point.
When Ultimate releases, it’s going to be a headline event in the video game community for roughly a week. As I remember, that’s about how long Smash 4 held the attention of the overall community before they eventually moved on to other topics. We’re going to need to make the most of this week-long flash in the pan before it disappears permanently, and we’re going to need the big guns to do it.
Some of the more popular video game websites act simply as repositories of simple information, while others tend to focus more on the cultures behind video games. Polygon, for example, likes to put up a straightforward “We had this much time with this game, and here’s what we think”, whereas Kotaku prefers to write on a much wider variety of topics, ranging from a niche video gaming hobby to a newly uncovered secret in an old game. Polygon is an informational video game site, while Kotaku is a cultural video game site.
We need to get the attention of a cultural video game site, and get them to write a piece on our little community. I have thought up a number of ways to accomplish this ♦, but there’s no guarantee that any publisher would pick up the story. Clearly, we’re a niche hobby, and a rather interesting one too. We’re prime material for a good article, but they may not see that. I’m not sure how to get them to see that, short of getting the site to do an interview with a notable member of the amiibo community. The list is pretty short.
Post-Ultimate: an Amiibo Backroom
I debated this with myself for about a month.
As I’ve said, we have a divided community, and we also don’t have a reasonable ruleset. There’s nothing headline-worthy happening that could potentially interest people not already in the amiibo community. That’s three problems weighing us down, and they cover a pretty wide array of the aspects of our hobby.
We can solve these problems, at least partially, by establishing an amiibo backroom. Similar to the other Smash games, we can take our best trainers, our tournament organizers, our researchers and our media personalities and get them seated at a (digital) round table to hash things out. Once we’re together, we can establish an official backroom and begin creating a consensus on an official tier list and ruleset.
Backrooms have a very large advantage over letting the community in general decide these things: because of their centralized, democratic nature, backrooms can represent each section of the community fairly, so long as people from every section of the community are in the backroom. It’s a benevolent oligarchy.
If we were going to establish a backroom, we would need to establish one about a month after Ultimate’s release. Ultimate will still be hot stuff, people will have just been given the game and several amiibo for Christmas, and its establishment will be a noteworthy headline for the previously mentioned cultural gaming press. While it will still be a bit too early to make any declarations about the official tier list, establishing the backroom will provide a central “gravity” to the community that we didn’t previously have.
Those of you who are already in the amiibo hobby may be questioning why we need a central point of the community. After all, for as long as it’s been in existence, the Amiibo Dojo has unilaterally determined the rulesets and tier lists. Why change that?
It needs to change because that system won’t work once we have a large number of people. Right now the metagame is tiny, and we only have enough people for one person’s input to be of importance. However, if we follow through with this successfully, the amiibo metagame won’t be so small anymore. We may have a few dozen new and active faces, or even a hundred people involved! One person dictating the rules over a hundred people would only splinter the community out even farther. We’re already in disagreement over what to do: in a recent strawpoll, the amiibo community voted 60-40 to continue with a nonvanilla ruleset (although I wonder how many people voted multiple times). There’s already a split present, and a unilateral system would only break us more.
Once this backroom is established, it’s going to need to be independent of any existing amiibo institutions. It’s going to need to be independent of the amiibo subreddit, the Amiibo Dojo, the Amiibo Doctor and any Youtube channels that spring up. The backroom is going to need to be its own separate entity♦, with its own Discord channel, Twitter account, and other media representations. We cannot have one person speaking for the backroom if the backroom speaks for the community.
There is another benefit to having the amiibo backroom exist as its own entity: we will have something to tell people about. For each decision that the backroom makes, we can post a Reddit thread, a tweet, a Smashboards thread, and a Facebook post. Even the least popular Reddit links get several hundred clicks, at least they did when I was on (it’s been a while). The backroom will function as both an official governing body and a media magnet to get people’s attention.
We have more to gain from establishing a backroom than what we stand to lose.
Ultimate releases December 7. Barring an unforeseen delay, the game will come out right at the start of most people’s finals week. (Mine too, actually.) Immediately after finals week, guess what happens? Christmas! A full three weeks of people with their hands on the game and nothing better to do, starting December 25.
This is the time to start tournaments. Regardless of anything else that happens, we need to cram as many tournaments as possible in these three weeks, and we’ll get bonus points if there’s some form of video content involved. (A Youtube video is worth a hundred Challonge links). There’s a few reasons for the timing of these tournaments:
- Constantly reminding people that amiibo tournaments exist will make them more likely to enter a tournament
- People are going to be getting Ultimate and amiibo, and they’re going to want to use amiibo. There’s really no other game that makes use of amiibo as well as Smash.
- We can use the tournament results to start outlining the first tier list, laying the bedrock for the backroom and future interest in the metagame.
- Social media usage is at its peak for the year (except for the first few days of summer), so having amiibo content in the right spaces in large volumes can attract spectators, too.
- Ultimate, as I’ve said before, will still be hot stuff. Anything with the words “Smash Ultimate” in the title are going to be more popular than, say, “Not Smash Ultimate”.
Riding into the sunset
Well, folks, that’s it. I’ve been turning this over and over in my head for about two months, and this is what I’ve come up with. If we can let go of the excessive drama in the amiibo community (let’s be honest, we’re not exactly full of unemotional people) and maximize our opportunities to grab a crowd, we can finally get the amiibo community the size it deserves.
We have nowhere to go but…