Squid Squad: The Splatoon Community
When Splatoon was first announced, the colorful shooter made a splash across the internet. Nintendo, usually one to shy away from the shooter genre, stumbled upon a smash hit. Splatoon might be one of Nintendo’s more recent franchises, but both entries hold the sixth spot for best-selling titles in their respective consoles.
Splatoon 2 has been lost among a sea of new releases and exciting upcoming games for the Switch. But now, two years later, if you log into the game, you will find that the community for it is still going strong. Although the community is relatively small when compared to other online multiplayer games, it is incredibly strong and tight-knit. While the game does not reach the top of the Twitch charts, it does float around ~500 viewers at any given point in time.
I first encountered the community when the game suddenly re-piqued my interest a couple of weeks ago. Seeking ways to improve my competitive play, I ventured over to Twitch. There, I was surprised to find a variety of streams all with their own little audiences. Each of the members in their Twitch Chat seemed to know each other and consider themselves as friends. That’s how I found Mellana’s stream. Mellana is a community figurehead, a competitive player, and also a commentator for the game. She competed in the team Element-R and will be casting Nintendo’s Splatoon 2 World Championship at E3 this upcoming week. To get a better insight into the community, I spoke with Mellana. I hope you enjoy learning about this bastion of competitive play as much as I did.
Squid or kid? The Splatoon Community
During my time navigating the Splatoon community, I was pleasantly surprised to find it is focused on positivity and inclusivity. It wasn’t unusual to see female streamers on Twitch, and many of the stream titles I saw made it clear that the content revolved around positivity. As I mentioned earlier, and perhaps it’s due to the small nature of the community, I noticed that Twitch chat was focused on interaction. Viewers would talk among each other, and I noticed more streamer-viewer interaction than in other communities.
“The community is quite small, making it really easy to know each other. I think it’s because of the grassroots beginnings of the community,” said Mellana. Much like Smash Bros. Melee, Nintendo’s approach to the competitive scene has been more hands-off which has led to a grassroots scene emerging. As a result, Splatoon as a franchise is also relatively young – the first entry in the series was released in 2015. As such, it is no surprise that a good percentage of the fan base trends towards the younger side. Not to mention that Nintendo markets Splatoon as a kid-friendly entry in the shooter genre, and is on a console that many in the “hardcore” scene, unfortunately, consider as “for kids.” When I browsed Twitch, a decent amount of the streamers were teenagers, or at least in their early twenties.
No wonder, then, that the community has grown into a space of positivity and inclusion. Both Millenials and Gen-Z tend to have such ideals after all. As such, Splatoon might just be one of the most diverse communities in esports, in terms of both race and gender.
“I find that the community is much more welcoming to diversity than other communities,” Mellana said. “There is space in the community for members of the LGBTQ+ community, and there are a lot of female competitive players. Most of the diversity is fostered and cared for, although most of the top players are largely men. I think what makes it unique is the small, tight-knit nature of the community, which lends itself to be able to have players supporting each other.”
Splatoon 2 Esports
When Nintendo first released the Switch’s launch commercial – which I analyzed here – they dedicated some time to esports, specifically Splatoon esports. And while Splatoon is not necessarily at the level of esports like League of Legends or CS:GO, the game does boast a small yet engaged competitive community.
Unfortunately for the Splatoon community, they do have to deal with Nintendo’s tendency of not being supportive towards the esports communities of their own games. The Melee community had to build itself up, and Splatoon is doing the same thing. For competitive gaming, Splatoon has a league system called Leagues Under The Ink (LUTI) that helps organize teams into divisions.
“Usually teams are placed from an initial tournament into a division, which then they would have to play against other teams in their division for the top spot in their division,” Mellana said. “It’s really not an end-all-be-all, but it can be helpful in distinguishing the initial skill level of a player if team captains aren’t familiar with their names.”
The competitive side of the community is pretty welcoming too. Players who wish to up their game can visit a variety of Discords such as The Inkademy. These servers offer tips on the meta as well as a place to receive feedback on your play or gear. The community has built up these little swaths that welcome new players in its quest to continue its growth. But where do players go and show off their skills? Most of the time, according to Mellana, players will find themselves a team through Twitter or Discord. The more they play and the more recognition they achieve, the better their probabilities of getting into a team that plays at the higher level.
Much like Melee, there are a number of events where teams clash in the ultimate battle of competitive Splatoon. Recently, Smash’N’Splash attracted over 62 teams from many different parts of the world. Although the event featured many other games, namely Smash, there are Splatoon-specific events such as Summer Splat that are spaces for the community to grow. And following in Nintendo tradition, the World Championship will include a Splatoon 2 segment — featuring Mellana!
Splatoon In The Future
Splatoon is the sixth most-sold Nintendo Switch game with a total of 8.7 million copies sold worldwide. As such, there is no risk of the franchise, or support for it, going away. Whether or not Nintendo will support the growing competitive scene in the future, however, remains to be seen.
One thing is clear: if the Splatoon community continues to show as much passion as it currently does, the game can only go upward. We’ve seen it happen before with Melee. Splatoon does have the added benefit of the nature of its community; in all my years watching esports I have never seen a more diverse cast of players, viewers, and cast members. Perhaps Splatoon can be the bastion that pushes for more diversity in esports.
If you haven’t had a chance to watch competitive Splatoon before, I highly recommend you do so. It’s among one of the most entertaining games out there, and it has quickly become one of my favorites to watch. And no matter what happens, Mellana is always looking at the bright side:
“Although I’m not sure where Splatoon will be in two years, I know for sure that the relationships and connections that were created and fostered during Splatoon 2’s tenure will surely last.”