When Source Gaming was first started, many of our articles, including mine, were speculation and predictions about what the DLC would be. I took the stance there were be few, if any, third party characters. Of course, I’m the one eating crow. While my article focused on the cost of characters, it appears that the main focus was getting fans to open their wallet in any way possible rather than managing expenses. Of course, when access this fact, I realized it is not simply limited to the third-party characters, but to DLC as a whole. So let’s look at how DLC was made to get fans to open their wallet.
Third Party Characters
To illustrate this, let’s look at the third-party characters, who made up three of the seven DLC characters. Now, PushDustin and myself have both written a lot about first-party and third-party characters in Super Smash Bros. PushDustin has argued that the future of Smash is characters, less so than Nintendo. Based on the volume of new third party characters added, that appears to have been the case. So is the series moving away from Nintendo? Not necessarily. When looking at the content, the game features plenty of obscure and off-brand Nintendo content, such as Color Game TV-16, Takamaru, Prince Sabal and Sheriff.
So, there must be a reason for the number of third-party character as DLC? To answer this, let’s look at Mario Kart 8, another major Nintendo game to feature DLC. Instead of using primarily courses based in the Mario universe, both DLC packs featured characters, courses and vehicles from Animal Crossing and The Legend of Zelda. Additionally, the DLC packs also featured courses from other Nintendo series including Excitebike and F-Zero. For Mario Kart’s 8 DLC, the team went for other Nintendo content rather than more Mario. Likewise, the reason to include third-party characters was they were more interesting. With Super Smash Bros. already having the most popular Nintendo characters, the only way to spice up the content is to add more guest characters.
Consider Cloud. The character was very popular, but was seen as more of a joke from fans given the fact that Final Fantasy 7 was never on a Nintendo system. Of course, during the final Super Smash Bros. Broadcast, Sakurai mentioned that the team wanted to add a Final Fantasy character, and Cloud was the most popular request. In that regard, Cloud would be able to hold his own as being standalone, purchasable content. There was a lot of excitement to this character, and Nintendo even took a video of people reacting to him at their Nintendo World Store in New York City. Nintendo also did the same with Bayonetta, the winner of the Smash Ballot. While it may have been easier to add a popular Nintendo character, adding Cloud is a much bigger news story than King K. Rool.
Other New Content
Of course, this doesn’t apply exclusively to characters; the same can be said about the Super Mario Maker stage. The stage was released as part of a promotion for the game, getting a trailer in the style of other Mario Marker videos released by Nintendo. The stage was announced on Youtube only 4 days after Super Mario Maker was released, then released later that month. During a Nintendo Dream interview, Sakurai stated the stage was chosen to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros. If that isn’t promotion, I don’t know what is. Likewise, Corrin was chosen to promote the newest Fire Emblem game, Fire Emblem Fates, and was chosen because he was a new character.
Outside of using new and exciting content, Sakurai as his team included old content for the same reason, to excite fans. The DLC included classic N64 stages Hyrule Castle, Dream Land and Mushroom Kingdom as well as Pirate Ship from Super Smash Bros. Brawl. While these stages may not be as “exciting”, it is something fans are familiar with. Likewise, Pirate Ship was another popular stage from Super Smash Bros Brawl and was added to the Wii U version. While content like Cloud and Mario Maker were done to raise interest in new content, the purpose the returning content was to entice fans with content they are familiar with. A study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, analyzed why consumers buy familiar products. As a result of the experiment, Bhavna Jani-Negandhi stated “I would agree that we tend to buy familiar products. It is probably because we have heard of it, maybe our mothers have used it and it has been around for a long time.” The same holds true for the classic Super Smash Bros. content. We buy it because we know it.
Of course, this is the same reason Sakurai brought Lucas and Roy back as DLC. Based on Sakurai’s comments, he wanted to include a characters from Super Smash Bros Melee and one from Super Smash Bros Brawl. While many fans complained about the volume of Fire Emblem characters in Smash, Roy is beyond the most popular character from Super Smash Bros Melee. This supports what he said recently, that all the Fire Emblem characters were chosen strategically. I suspect Sakurai wanted characters from both games to represent them, more or less: to have content from these now classic entries into the Super Smash Bros franchise.
On the other hand, could the content have been chosen because it was easy to make? Perhaps, but it was likely not a serious factor. There is some evidence that some content was made using assets of other characters and content. This is most definitely true with Corrin, who shares some animations with Marth and Lucina, and the same is true with Lucas and Roy. I suspected the number of humanoid characters were included because they could use the same base. While this is somewhat true, a team with such talent as those employed by Bandai Namco would have no more difficulty creating a non-humanoid character as they would be a humaniod character. Basically, the determining factor in choosing characters was its ability to excite fans.
Again, the focus wasn’t about the most cost effective route, but the most exciting one. If the team wanted to have a cost effective route, there could have been more clones or even more returning content. Instead, the team wanted to excite fans first. For instance, when discussing the Midgar stage, he mentions that everything must have been made from scratch. Likewise, when discussing Umbra Clock Tower, he states “we did get some assets for Umbra Clock Tower from Platinum Games, but of course we can’t just chuck that into Smash, so we made the stage from scratch.”
In truth, what I am saying is probably common sense, but hindsight is 20/20. It’s easier to say this after the fact, but we have to look at the past to understand the future. There will likely be a new Super Smash Bros for the NX and we, as fans, would like to avoid our mistake again. With that said, it is good to look back and understand why things were done the way they were.
Regardless, we can say that Sakurai definitely meant it when he said that the DLC was fan service. For the prior three quarters, Super Smash Bros for Wii U and 3DS have maintained the top selling downloadable content among Nintendo’s titles. Part of this may be due to the popularity of the series, but it can not be ignored how much fan’s excitement played into these results.
I want to thank Marioking64DS-WAA on Reddit and GG for their assistance in helping to form this article.
 Information from this section was obtained via questions with Marioking64DS-WAA on Reddit and GG.