Nintendo's history with eSports is spotty, at best. They're notorious for placing odd restrictions on their titles being played at competitive events, with the EVO controversy a few years back being a particular low point. But now, it seems like they're changing their tune in a major way.
The Nintendo is teaming up with ESL for a series of officially-sanctioned Splatoon tournaments. This series of competitions, entitled "ESL Go4Splatoon," starts this Sunday in Europe. From there, the series will continue for the next six months, being capped off by a finals tournament.
"The first of the weekly ESL Go4 tournaments," says an official statement, "taking place this weekend, will award players on the cup-winning team an item of official Splatoon clothing signed by members of the Splatoon development team. The top teams each week will earn themselves Go4Splatoon ranking points. Each calendar month, the eight teams with the most ranking points will proceed to the following month’s Europe Monthly Final."
Each winner of those monthly tournaments will end up at a grand final in 2017. But it's the prize at that final tournament that makes things really interesting
"The champions of each monthly final earn themselves a spot at the grand final in 2017 ..." says ESG in a press release. "Not only will the ultimate splat showdown reveal Europe’s best Splatoon team, it will also award each player on the winning side Nintendo’s next video game system, code-named NX."
That's right, Nintendo's next console, which is still unannounced, will be offered as a prize. While the details are still spotty, this raises a pretty major question. Will the NX actually be out in six months, or will this be a voucher to use down the line? With more and more developers discussing whether or not they'll be developing for the console, such a close release window wouldn't be surprising. After all, some games have already been confirmed for the system, including "Sonic Project 2017."
Nintendo getting behind Splatoon as an eSport is an enticing proposition. Not only that, but incentivizing "getting good" at the game with a shiny new console is pretty great. With this being Ninty's first rodeo when it comes to this scene, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out.