Old Game/New Twist: The creation and life of the Project M Championship Circuit

An examination of why and how the Project M Championship Circuit came to be.

Project M has always been in the dark corner of Smash competition. A modified version of Super Smash Brothers Brawl, it was the pet project of a team who loved Melee. The original goal was to give one character, Falco, mechanics from the Gamecube game. Over time, the team grew and the vision with it. Modding one character became modding the entire game into it’s own installment. After several beta runs and invitationals, Project M became a full competitive experience. With it, came several years of good standing within the greater Smash community. Several major tournaments held streamed Project M tourneys. The meta shifted to form its own identity and feel.

Then, Project M hit some road bumps. VGBootCamp removed Project M from its streams and VoDs over “uncertain legality.” Apex 2015 removed the game from its lineup. Rumors cropped up about Nintendo pressuring anything Project M. Then, on December 1st 2015, the Project M Development Team disbanded. Smaller regions started to drop the game from their lists. The phrase “Dead Game” circulated among the wider Smash community.

Yet, Project M persisted. While the number of regions for the game shrank, dedicated regions grew. Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and various pockets still thrive. Project M found a new streaming home on hitbox.tv. Character Tier lists were being formed, and content creation started to normalize.

Path to Championship

Then came the announcement of something new. The Project M Championship Circuit. While not the first circuit for a Smash title, it was the first of its kind for Project M. The idea was simple. Take major Project M tournaments and assign points to higher placings. Those points would determine the seeding for the final event, Olympus. Whoever wins Olympus becomes crowned the 2016 Project M Champion.

The circuit tried to serve multiple purposes. It would give the wider community a focus. Games like Melee and Smash 4 have some coherency in their international communities. They have rankings, storylines, recognizable players, and established tournaments series. Project M has had to deal with these on a smaller scale, and less focus. The circuit would give the community a model to stimulate organic growth of its own and players had a final goal to work towards that was larger than their local region. It offered an incentive to inter-region travel. It rewarded dedicated practice in Project M and it tapped into the latent potential of the community to stimulate growth.

There would also be the benefit of individual tournament growth. Being part of the circuit would give a sense of legitimacy to tournaments. They would become part of a bigger story, rather than being a single event of their own. The idea was to boost tournament exposure, attendance, and viewership. All while helping progress the larger circuit.

In a way, the circuit was self running. A small team from PMTV theorized the mechanics behind the circuit. They then approached individual Tournament Organizers, and finalized a system. Each tournament ran as an independent entity and  tournament results then would seed players in the final event. Tournaments running themselves gave PMTV and hitbox time to work on the finale at Olympus. To (over)simplify, circuit organizers only had to gather data from each tournament. Tournaments did not feel controlled, and still got a piece of a greater pie.

hitbox’s Involvement

What might be the most interesting aspect of the circuit was the involvement of hitbox. With hitbox being the home of Project M streams, this was a grand experiment in maximizing a single game. hitbox has competition when it comes to other games. Counter-Strike, Melee, or League of Legends have multiple platforms to work with. Twitch, being the streaming monster it is, creates a giant hole in data for competitors. With a de facto monopoly on Project M, hitbox had a great opportunity. They could watch data in real time with no outside interference.

hitbox had a hand in creating the circuit, and has sponsored the final event at Olympus. Being involved, they paid close attention to how the circuit affected streaming. Different tournaments had different streaming styles. This gave hitbox plenty of data on what worked for viewer engagement, and how users approach hitbox itself. They plan on using this data to further grow how their platform approaches streaming, with the hope to stimulate further growth of their platform through smart use of it.

hitbox itself was quite impressed with how the circuit went this year. Impressed enough that they plan on being more involved for the second iteration of the circuit for 2017. After Olympus, Mike “Hawkeye” Chapman, Head of Community for hitbox, plans to release more information on how the circuit worked for hitbox itself. If people pay attention to what the circuit did for streaming, Project M might see more growth as a spectator eSport.

In a way, Project M was the perfect game for a circuit of this kind. It has a strong, small community that is pushing the metagame further everyday. It has a streaming service that gives it attention and hopes to learn from the community. It has ties to the larger Smash community and it is damn fun at the end of the day. Overall, the circuit itself has been a success. It was smooth sailing throughout, and brought back attention to what was teetering the “Dead Game” status. All that is left is the finale at Olympus.

Analysis of Circuit players and where they stand: The Titans of Project M

Preview of Olympus and Olympus details: Ascent to Olympus!

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