It all started on March 8th of this year. On that day, Nintendo premiered a Direct. At the end, an announcement for a new Super Smash Bros. for release in 2018 was unveiled. This came as a surprise, as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS was less than four years old at that point. Nonetheless, this became the big talk of the Nintendo gaming community. Would this be an enhanced port of Smash Wii U, like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? Who will be the newcomers? Will there be an Adventure Mode like The Subspace Emissary? The buildup to a Smash Bros. game is always grand. With just a teaser, Nintendo had gained the community's full attention.
Everything changed at this year's E3. Smash Bros. took the spotlight, with series creator Masahiro Sakurai detailing the new game. The subtitle this time would be "Ultimate," but that wasn't the biggest deal. The big thing that everyone is still talking about is the fact that Ultimate features every playable fighter in Smash history. This was unprecedented, as that would mean over 60 characters, plus newcomers. In short, this was truly going to be the "ultimate" Smash Bros. experience.
Maybe Ultimate is the last Smash Bros., and it could simply be ported to future Nintendo consoles.
Now here's the conundrum. With Ultimate featuring every playable fighter, newcomers like King K. Rool and Ridley, and an awaited story-based Adventure mode, where do you go from here? Unless a future game also has every single fighter, all these stages and more, it could be seen as a downgrade. Maybe Ultimate is the last Smash Bros., and it could simply be ported to future Nintendo consoles. In a recent interview with Game Informer, Sakurai was asked about Ultimate as a final product.
Sakurai: "With the background I just explained here, every time I work on this game, I’ve devoted myself to making it under the assumption, "this is the last one." That said, I have no idea what the future holds, so I can’t deny that there’s no next one either."
Sakurai: I’ve devoted myself to making it under the assumption, "this is the last one."
Ultimate has been marketed as the biggest Smash Bros. experience, making it a difficult game to top. So, there are factors pointing to the idea of this game being the last one in the series. However, Nintendo has never remade a Smash Bros.; every game has been different, and that's not likely to change despite Ultimate being as big as it is. Here are the reasons why Ultimate won't be the final Smash Bros.
Smaller Number Of Characters Doesn't Mean The Game Is A Downgrade
The first thing we'll address is the characters. It's important to discuss this because the big reason why Ultimate has been hyped is its large character roster. After you include every playable fighter, where do you go from there? Sakurai told Famitsu (translated by Siliconera), "I question what we’ll do with the next title, and I feel that having ‘all characters playable’ may have been a Pandora’s Box that could ruin possibilities for what’s next in the series." Sakurai is saying that by including every fighter in the series, it potentially hurts what Nintendo could do in a future game. At this point, it would seem like having fewer characters is a downgrade. One could say that, but it's actually not unheard of that sequels get fewer characters.
Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite has a base roster of 30 characters. This is six fewer characters than Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Soul Calibur VI also has fewer characters than its predecessor. Street Fighter V actually started with a base roster of fewer characters than its predecessor (though through DLC, that has changed). In short, to say that Ultimate is the last Smash Bros. based on characters is not a valid enough reason. Yes, a smaller character roster could be seen as a downgrade, but if the next game also featured every single playable fighter, Ultimate would lose its significance. Thus, the next Smash Bros. will likely have fewer characters, but this wouldn't be a downgrade - maybe the mechanics for individual characters will be deepened, or we'll see more explosive newcomers.
A Port Would Make Less Money
Here's a question: does it make sense to re-release the same game over and over again? It does not if the company wants to keep making large amounts of money. Super Smash Bros. Melee is the top-selling GameCube game of all time according to VGChartz, and yet that game has never been remade. According to Nintendo, as of September 30th, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U is the fourth best selling game on the Wii U. It would have been easy to port Smash Bros. Wii U to Switch, but Nintendo opted to create a brand new game. Why? Many fans who had already bought Smash Bros. Wii U would not be likely to purchase it again.
PREVIOUSLY: Smash Bros Pre-Order Numbers Were Insane
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the greatest pre-selling Switch game of all time, according to Nintendo. Would it hold that title if Sakurai had said, "We are porting the Wii U title, just with some newcomers"? Smash is not just about the multiplayer; there are numerous other modes as well. Ultimate features "Spirits" and "World of Light." In four years, everyone would have played those modes to death. So, if Nintendo were to announce that Ultimate was being ported to Nintendo Switch 2, it would make significantly less money than a brand new game would. Yes, there would still be people interested, but Nintendo is not like Capcom in this area. While Capcom may be fine with re-releasing Street Fighter II another time, Smash Bros. caters to a wide audience that includes younger players. This is why a Melee HD port is unlikely; it would really only cater to a niche audience. Ultimate won't be the last Smash Bros. because just porting it over to the next console with the same content would make less money for Nintendo.
Potential Licensing Issues
In the interview Game Informer, Sakurai said it's a "miracle" that a Smash Bros. game is even able to be made. He explains that Nintendo has to get the approval of all the I.P. holders. For example, Konami had to give its approval for Simon Belmont/Richter, and Square Enix has to give its approval for Cloud. This isn't an easy process, and it doesn't seem likely that every company involved would give their approval for the next Smash iteration.
As an example, let's look at Diddy Kong Racing DS. This game serves as an enhanced remake of the original Diddy Kong Racing for Nintendo 64. However, the DS game lacks two big characters from the original: Banjo-Kazooie and Conker. This is because these are major Rare characters, and Rare was bought by Microsoft. So, while Nintendo may own the original Diddy Kong Racing, it does not own those two major characters, so it could not add them without Microsoft's approval. So, it makes sense more sense that Nintendo will make another Smash Bros. game with less third party characters and more from its own library.
Ultimate is the big thing right now, as it should be. But in six years, fans will once again be wondering about what's next in the series. Every Smash Bros. has been positively received upon release, and it will be no different for the next installment. It will probably have fewer characters, but that's okay. Just like every other major Nintendo franchise, Super Smash Bros. will continue into the future with new installments.