This post is heavy on speculation and is not to be taken as fact.
This sounds like it has an obvious answer now, but really, there’s still a lot of information we don’t know about the Smash Fighter Ballot. In this post, I will try to speculate how the inner workings were handled during it’s 6 month life span.
What we do know
Several facts about the polling are set in stone, such as:
- Any video game character was eligible for voting.
- Votes could be made public(no instances of this have occurred).
- At least one character would be pulled from these results.
- The ballot was based on vote count and being “realizable”.
- 1.8 million votes were garnered over it’s life span.
- Duplicated and repeated votes were omitted.
- Only Bayonetta was pulled from the Ballot, as Cloud was Final Fantasy fanservice and Corrin was Fire Emblem Fates promotion.
- Bayonetta herself was among the Top 5 in North America, #1 in Europe and #1 worldwide(as a realizable character).
These known facts, however, lead to some confusion. Let’s tackle a few of the topics.
Arguably the most controversial aspect of the Ballot results. Bayonetta being among the Top 5 in North America does mean that there was at least one character above her. Judging by the western community’s notorious tendency to insert stupid suggestions such as Shrek or Goku, it’s not an inapt suggestion that one of these joke characters could have actually been in this top 5 list.
On more realistic terms of “realizable”, the fact that a Nintendo character did not get selected could possibly mean a dominance of third parties, as evidenced by point #1. Bayonetta herself shows that there are a fair amount of characters that could have won the Ballot, and as for other potential third parties, there are separate roadblocks as well such as negotiation issues or even being a bit too distant from Nintendo; characters like Master Chief or Kratos fit in this category. However, an M-rating for characters like these would likely not have been an obstacle; Bayonetta is a heavy sexual icon and yet is still in Smash, albeit with significant wrangling from the censors.
It was mentioned in the same explanation for “realizable” that the results included other Smash veterans, all of which had issues; Solid Snake having company controversy, Wolf and Young Link being semi-clone veterans when two were brought back already and Ivysaur + Squirtle having their main gimmick removed.
The term is arguably the most questionable thing about the whole ordeal; unless it is stated what the boundaries for realizable were, we may never know.
Deleting repeat votes
It should come as no surprise that people, myself included, crammed in as many votes for their most wanted as possible. Some were more reasonable, while others employed ballot stuffing robots to get their voices heard. However, the reveal that duplicate and repeated votes were eliminated brings up an interesting question: how much did this affect certain characters?
Notably, on the day of the reveal of the King K. Rool Mii costume, the fanbase launched into an outrage which can only be described as a Metroid Prime: Federation Force style backlash, cramming in vote after vote after vote to try and tip the scales like Robin. This combined with the repeat vote annulling could have led to many votes being discarded and thus the character losing otherwise significant potential ground. It is possible that this happened with other fanbases as well, but there is no clearer or more evident example for this phenomena taking place within a character fanbase than King K. Rool.
Also worth pointing out that with the progress Bayonetta had, she was likely decided around June or July(one month is not enough time to create a new character between October and December), so many characters’ fates could have been sealed by then, not just King K. Rool’s.
As mentioned above, with repeat votes removed, the total was 1.8 million votes; conversely, both versions of Smash 4 have sold 11 million units combined. This is around a fifth of total Smash consumers. However, it is also important to acknowledge that people outside the Smash fanbase could have voted as well. While the comparatively low number of votes seems to discredit this, the vocal minority does, in fact, exist. Despite the ease of claiming as well that Sakurai dismissed Japan in Bayonetta’s placing, he did say “worldwide #1 realizable pick”; this by extension includes the Eastern country.
Regardless, Bayonetta’s vocal minority got her into Smash, while communities in their echo chambers fail to acknowledge outside influence as a potential factor, thinking their character had the most votes. And it’s true that their character could have had the most votes…in their community, that is. Online polling does not accurately reflect actual results, so one must be wary of using it as a source, lest disappointment ensues because of commitment to a supposed truth. Too many factors are in play to solidify it.
Influence on other Smash DLC
Sounds odd, but give it some consideration: a common view on Mii costumes was that they were consolation prizes if the character could not make it in full, and some of them could have been from ballot results and/or other circumstances.
King K. Rool is the prime example of this, being turned into a costume around July. The community was torn apart following this, debating on whether it meant that it was a DLC tease or a deconfirmation. In the end, it was the latter. If King K. Rool was not in the top results, then the costume could be seen as a recognition of the fanbase’s efforts to get their character included; this is notable because no other character commonly speculated in the hardcore communities was given this treatment.
Geno from Super Mario RPG became a costume after Cloud was added to Smash; likewise, fans initially interpreted Cloud’s inclusion as a small bit of hope for their magic doll, but in the end granted them a costume. This was years after Sakurai acknowledged Geno as a curious request ever since Brawl(despite the character being requested since Melee with the Smash 2 Poll), and the character had become an in-joke ever since. Ballot results could have possibly influenced the decision to request the Geno license for a Mii costume as well.
Lastly on this point, the Inkling costumes in theory would count, but have a few traits that make this questionable. These costumes were a pre-order bonus for Splatoon at first. Splatoon itself was released just under 2 months after the Ballot went live, so unless the Inklings were ranked high in the Ballot, these more than likely served as Splatoon promotion more than anything.
All in all, however, it’s hard to give veracity to any of these claims without official explanations. Releasing the voting data would also be a risky decision; giving us insight into the Ballot in exchange for angry fans after the majority have calmed down. I’m of the opinion that it’s better not to.