Splatoon dev: 'Being an eSport wasn't something that we were ever really considering'
"While we had the confidence that we were making a game that would answer the needs of the more competitive player, we also realized that if we were going to have competitive play, it would need to be supported by a great community."
- Hisashi Nogami, producer on Splatoon 2, speaking to Glixel about the game's burgeoning status as an eSport.
With Splatoon 2 due out next month, it's interesting to read programming director Shintaro Sato and producer Hisashi Nogami's recent E3 interview with Glixel about the game's development and its burgeoning eSports scene.
Most notably, the pair speak cautiously about what the Splatoon team has done -- or more accurately, not done -- to foster a community of players that aim to play the game competitively at a professional level.
"While we had the confidence that we were making a game that would answer the needs of the more competitive player, we also realized that if we were going to have competitive play, it would need to be supported by a great community," Nogami told Glixel. "We're really grateful that we've had a good response from that community, and after seeing it grow, that gave us the confidence we needed to add these additional elements that encourage competitive play in Splatoon 2."
That's a bit striking in light of how common it is to see a game pitched as an eSport before it even comes out, effectively ignoring the many factors (mechanics, funding, luck, etc) that give rise to a competitive scene around any given game.
While Nintendo alluded to eSports ambitions for Splatoon back before its release (Nogami said in 2015 that "the game has elements of a sport...I think it will appeal to eSports players") the company didn't build a lot of pro play features into the game, which meant when people did organize Splatoon tournaments they reportedly faced significant logistical challenges.
"Being an eSport wasn't something that we were ever really considering or aiming for when developing the game," Nogami added. "After the release of Splatoon 1 we were definitely aware of a community that rose up, people who put together serious teams that were interested in a competitive tournament. And so we've included some systems in Splatoon 2 that acknowledge and encourage that type of competitive play among that more serious group of players."
The systems he's referring to include things like a spectator mode, which is key for gameplay broadcasts.
You can find more comments from both devs, including an anecdote about former Animal Crossing director Nogami's passion for fighting games ("I really enjoy fighting games, actually, and so I really understand the desire people have to compete with one another and enjoy games that way") in the full Glixel interview.