Last week, a collective of European TOs launched a global poll to gather data on stock count preferences in Smash 4. The poll was spread through SmashBoards, SmashEurope, SmashAsia, Reddit and various local communities in order to poll a diverse sample of people. We ended up with 4806 votes from 59 different countries, after removing roughly 50 duplicates and clearly bogus answers. In this article we present the results and some of our conclusions.
These are the results across the entire group polled, regardless of location or role in the community:
You can play around with our data at: http://www.imranshafikhan.com/pages/Smash.html
The link will also provide you with a breakdown of voters per country. The US provided over half the votes, followed by European countries totaling roughly one third of the votes. The remainder consists of Canada and various countries with a limited number of representatives.
The following graph shows the proportion of players, viewers, TOs and commentators in the total polled group:
Citizens of the US and Europe might be interested in knowing the preference per state and country, respectively:
While the results of the poll were decisively in favour of 3 stocks, we will use the remainder of the article to zoom in on specific groups and address a few common assumptions.
The preference of Smash 4 players
Our scene often struggles to find a happy medium between the player experience and the “esports” reality of increasingly tighter schedules and a lower setup to player ratio. Presumably to this end, the stock setting for Sm4sh was lowered from Brawl, its direct predecessor, at several American nationals without open debate or consulting the community. This resulted in many regions in the US sticking to 2 stocks, while most of Europe and US states like Texas run 3 stocks and 8 minutes, in line with previous competitive entries. Both metagames have survived the game’s first year, but one can wonder whether the lower stock count has taken away too much from the players.
It should hardly come as a surprise that most players prefer to have the extra stock. There is a clear majority for 3 stocks even if you filter player votes by country (not considering those with less than 100 voters), where it can be as high as over 70% for several European countries. American players prefer 3 stocks with a majority of 54.11% to 26.81% for 2 stocks.
If you were to poll local communities (a city, neighborhood, clubhouse etc.) or certain minorities you might find different results, but at that point it could very well extend to FFA, stages and item settings that are vastly different from the competitive norm. If you find that the great majority of your local attendance prefers a certain ruleset, by all means run it, but you owe it to yourself and your audience to verify it first. Events are kept alive by the support of attending players and it behooves TOs to pay particular attention to this group. We are aware however that players should be expected to always want more, so we will consider other audiences next.
The preference of viewers and spectators
The most common argument among supporters of 2 stocks can hereby be put to rest: viewership does not have a preference for 2 stocks. The voters who predominantly consider themselves viewers or spectators have roughly the same preferences as the other groups polled. The majority (55%) actively prefers 3 stocks, while 20.29% is fine with both 2 and 3 stocks. Only about 1 in 4 viewers prefers 2 stocks, 24.71% percent to be precise.
The findings hold true if we differentiate between American and European viewers, which is actually not that relevant when you consider that viewers aren’t restricted by their location in the same way players are. TOs who heavily base ruleset decisions on supposed viewership are already on thin ice, but these results suggest that anyone who runs 2 stocks “for the viewers” is only catering to a minority. Consider whether evidence to the contrary is anecdotal or based on research.
The preference of players of other Smash games
Although the playerbases for individual Smash games are quite different from one another, there is a considerable amount of overlap and the games share both online platforms and live events. It is no surprise then that Smashers who prefer other entries have weighed in on this discussion.
As can be seen above, particularly the Melee crowd (17% of the total votes) has a relatively large preference for 2 stocks. It could be because Melee itself is the most fast-paced Smash game, but it could also be a byproduct of streams running both games, forcing players to watch (final) brackets from Smash games they don’t participate in. There is anecdotal evidence of Melee players being vocal about not wanting to sit through Smash 4 events or any game that is not Melee for that matter (the booing of Brawl at APEX 2014 comes to mind), leading them to prefer games that are as short as possible. It should be noted though that even the Melee players had a majority in favor of 3 stocks and Melee is the preferred game of this author.
We had a small group of voters who normally do not keep up with Smash 4 at all. This was the only instance where we found a somewhat larger preference for 2 stocks, although the numbers are too low to make any sweeping statements. It might be worth looking into the reasoning of complete outsiders with future research.
The poll was only available in English, which made it less accessible to traditionally isolated scenes. Various community leaders stepped up to spread it in their local scene and most participating countries actually did not have English as their primary language, but countries like Japan and Mexico were sadly underrepresented. In the case of Japan however, we have to consider that they often run shorter sets (bo1 leading up to bo3 at most later on), don’t play for money and employ a more limited stage list than most other countries. The Japanese scene, while at the forefront of the metagame, is an outlier in many ways.
It also needs to be said that, although we cleaned up the data, it is hard to be 100% certain of the legitimacy of all votes. The numbers were so one-sided however that we do not have reason to believe things would be significantly different under more controlled settings.
We set out to shed light on the preferences of the Smash 4 scene at large, be it players, viewers, TOs or commentators. Due to the large response to our poll, we believe we have succeeded in outlining the overall consensus among these groups and debunked or provided data to back up certain assumptions. A majority wants to play under 3 stocks settings and from here on out events that opt to go with 2 should be put under some scrutiny regarding their motivation. Time is to some extent a valid concern, as is the opinion of the local playerbase, but especially larger events seeking to include people from all regions should factor in that the majority prefers 3 stocks. Further research could be done to find out to what extent the stock setting is a deciding factor for people to attend an event.
Major thanks go out to Tom Scott (G~P from the UK) for setting up and processing the poll results, as well as kindly providing the graphics used. You can follow him on Twitter and visit the page of his TO team.