(a minor special thanks to the Leaks Group on SmashBoards for forming some reasons)
After thinking about it for a while, I decided there was a need to share my way of thinking when it comes to predicting characters. This is because a lot of people question my prediction rosters and why I add certain characters over popular candidates. Finally, I decided to share it in the form of a list, as I might have cracked the code on how decides on characters. Be sure to refer to legends below, and read carefully and enjoy:
* = mostly applies to 3rd parties.
**= mostly towards Nintendo characters.
1. Does the character have unique characteristics that would stand out from other characters?
Sakurai has stated before that he didn’t want to add Chrom because he would just be a similar sword wielder; like Ike and Marth. All of the below factors could be ignored completely if the character doesn’t provide anything distinct. One unfortunate examples of this includes Toad (Who doesn’t really have any unique characteristics that can be taken from Mario that would make a distinct moveset).
2. Does the character come from a franchise/genre that cater to a distinct audience or demographic?
Sakurai has said before that doing so would definitely make developing and balancing the game easier, but it would also reduce the number of people that would play and enjoy the game. Wii Fit Trainer and Villager are examples of this as they come from genres rarely seen added in Smash.
3. Has the character’s game(s) been released in multiple regions?
One thing to note from Sakurai is that he considered Takamaru for playability, but excluded him due to perceived lack of familiarity among Nintendo fans internationally. One notable examples of this would include characters like the Prince of Sable and possibly Lip (Though her games technically released outside of Japan, but with a different set of characters).
4. Has the character’s game(s) been released to Japan?
If their their games have never released in Japan before, characters like Mike Jones and Nester are probably going to be questioned by Sakurai, he might not even see them as eligible and just pass through those choices.
5. Does the character have an in-game role?
Having a notable role in the game already likely means that Sakurai will most likely not consider them since he already made his stance on those characters before and finalized what role they will play. 3rd party characters will likely not follow this rule at all, as they aren’t going to go through legal rights with a company just to give them a minor role unless the company itself asks them to give them a small role. Notable examples include Ridley and Skull Kid.
6. Can the character work as a playable character?
Sakurai himself said the reason he didn’t include Ridley was because “he’d have to be shrunk down, or its wings reduced in size, or be unable to fly around freely. Providing accurate portrayals of characters is something I want to pay ample attention to.” Simply put if the character had to be modified greatly in terms of traits and characteristics that defined the character it wouldn’t do the character justice.
7. Is the character iconic or highly recognizable?
Not necessarily important to reduce a character’s chance or anything, this is more of a bonus factor than anything. If the character is an icon well known by many people, he could potentially put the character in a higher position. Duck Hunt, Pac-Man, and Mega Man are examples of this.
8. Does said unrepresented character or character from a popular franchise have a probable future?
According to Sakurai, “characters from a series that has no probable future are rarely chosen.” Any franchise/character or character from a popular franchise that has been absent or has had notably failed installment will likely not be chosen. Given with the newcomers added in this game, most of them who were added had upcoming and recently released games. Aside from retro characters (they likely don’t apply), no character Sakurai added included any of the negative things I mentioned before. Notable newcomers suggested who have no probable future include Ray MK, Geno, and King K. Rool.
9. Can said character work as a easy to develop clone?
If the character has similar proportions and characteristics to a character already in the game and have enough good factors to warrant their inclusion, they can be worked as a clone. Notable examples include Dark Pit, Lucina and Dr. Mario.
10. Is the character a representative of the franchise/game(s)?
To make it more clear, does the character have a notable or major role within the game(s)? Sakurai is not going to choose a character whose role was minor in the games they appeared in, he’ll likely pick the main character. (or the one with the most notable role in the game) Examples include pretty much almost all newcomers added in the game really.
11. Has the character appeared on a Nintendo console before? *
Obviously characters created by Nintendo pass this rule automatically, but this is towards 3rd parties specifically. If said character hasn’t appeared in one, he’s probably not going to be chosen for the roster. Notable newcomers suggested include Meat Boy and Master Chief.
12. Is the character a video game character?
The ballot itself says this rule, and this likely applies to pre-ballot as well. Sakurai himself has laughed at suggestions like Goku and Spongebob, so he won’t be changing his mind about this anytime soon.
13. Can the character work around technical limitations?
Sakurai has stated about the Ice Climbers that he was unable to make them work on the 3DS, due to the handheld’s hardware limitations. If said character requires a multitude of characters that act like Nana’s AI (Not like Rosalina’s Luma and Olimar’s Pikmin), the character will probably be scrapped over time.
14. Has the character’s franchise been very important historically to Nintendo?
Sakurai has said that the reason he included Duck Hunt was because he came from one of the best selling titles on the NES(article for details). The easier the negotiation becomes, the less stressful it will be for Sakurai to add the character in the game. Now if they already have a trophy appearance like Rayman, then Sakurai doesn’t have to do much to get the character in the game other than ask.
16. Does said character from an already have an upcoming/recently released game and has a major/advertised role there?
Sakurai, in many cases, has picked newcomers based on upcoming/recently games, this includes cases like Greninja, Little Mac, and Lucina. Having an upcoming game can influence Sakurai to put them in their priority list at high pretty easily (though other factors are considered too). It can apply to retro characters too. Some newcomer examples would include Young Link with Majora’s Mask 3D and Chorus Kids with Rhythm Heaven Plus
17. Is said character highly requested?
This is probably going to matter the most ballot-wise. If said character gets a large amount of requests, it automatically brings them to Sakurai’s consideration list of newcomers, though it doesn’t mean it automatically guarantees them. Newcomer-wise, notable examples include King K. Rool, Bayonetta, and Shovel Knight.
18. Is said character being advocated (or okayed) by their own company? *
If the company of the third party character says they want to see or are okay with their inclusion in Smash, it can make negotiations with Sakurai much easier. Examples include Shantae, Shovel Knight, and debatably Captain Toad.
19. Is the character a veteran?
If the character has officially been playable in Smash before and has been cut in SSB4, it gives them a good shot in getting back, going by Sakurai‘s word and how it’s painful to cut a character from the game. Notable ones include Wolf, Ice Climbers, and Snake. I’d personally think this would give them 10% increase in chance.
20. Has the character been planned before?
I’m talking about this data-wise. If said character has been planned before, Sakurai may pick up his old ideas again as DLC characters as DLC. Notable example includes the Forbidden Seven. (Toon Zelda, Roy, Toon Sheik, Praimai, Dr. Mario, Mewtwo, Dixie Kong)
21. Has the character been important/close their already represented franchise for quite a while?
I think characters from new franchises and character from already represented franchises have a few differences to deal with. In short, has the character been an important and recurring to their respective franchise for a while. For example, Bowser Jr. has been an important Mario character ever since the first NSMB game and has continued to appear with a major role with further installments, further benefiting his inclusion in Smash. Notable newcomer examples of this include Bandanna Dee and Impa.
22. Is said character a Sakurai creation?
If the character has been created by Sakurai, I can imagine it would be way easier to implement the character in the game since he has so much knowledge about the character that can make them work as a playable. Examples include Palutena, Dark Pit, and Hades.
23. Is the character from a successful and/or popular franchise?
This is probably explanatory by itself. If it doesn’t come from a successful, popular franchise, the character from it will likely not be chosen. Pretty much all of the characters are examples of this.
24. Can said character the already represented franchise going forward? **
Given what Sakurai has stated previously in his Pokemon newcomer criteria, it most likely applies to other Nintendo characters too. Take Rosalina for example, after her notable appearances in Super Mario Galaxy 1 + 2, Nintendo started to push her intensely with her playable appearance in Super Mario 3D World, a bigger emphasis on Rosalina’s appearance in Mario Kart 8, and her recurring appearance in most Mario spin-off games now, this certainly shows how the Mario franchise is going forward with Rosalina as a new mainline Mario character.
25. Can said character make people want to buy the game?
This is taken from Sakurai’s four rules of criteria. This applies to highly requested and recognized characters, and it’s a bit of a plus to their chances really. If said character is in the game and is highly requested, it makes it more likely that the character will sell more. Though not all characters Sakurai adds will be just popular requests, knowing him, there will likely be some surprises Smashboards didn’t expect.
26. Does said character come from a critically acclaimed, merited game?
Even if the franchise the character is from is a bit niche and slightly less popular than most of Nintendo’s big IPs, critical reception may help with the character’s chances. It can certainly make the character much more stand-out to Sakurai. Shulk, Ness, and Lucas are notable examples of this.
27. Does said character have a large fan-base outside of Smash? (fan-base referring to the character, not the actual franchise)
If said character from an already represented franchise has a big fanbase (whether it be Europe, United States, or Japan), Sakurai can easily take advantage of the opportunity, though so far, this factor has notably been taken into consideration when it come to clones, including Dark Pit and Lucina.
28. Does said character from a popular franchise appear in the mainline games with consistent notable/major appearances?
The important thing when it comes to selecting characters is the fact that they actually appear in the main games with major, consistent roles and not just only spin-offs. That’s where characters like Waluigi, Grovyle, and Daisy usually get their chances kicked by this.
29. Is said character from a popular franchise star in a very popular spin-off series?
If the spin-off series the character stars in is a very popular one, it’s pretty much a notable enough plus for Sakurai to consider and put on his priority list. Notable examples of this include Wario, Dr. Mario, Yoshi, and Diddy Kong.
30. Does said character have games outside of the eShop?
This is where I see characters like Chibi Robo, Pushmo, and Dillon having their chances ripped by, since an eShop game usually gets far less attention and notable success than Nintendo games published with a physical release.
31. Has said character been teased by Sakurai himself?
This is probably a big factor in of itself. If any character has been teased by Sakurai like with Dark Pit, they are already likely in.
32. Has the character been leaked by data or by a very credible leak?
This one is another doozy, anyone who’s files have been found in the character folder or has been in a credible leak will mean the character is likely in.
33. Has the character’s company/studio have personally been in touch/or friends with Sakurai before? **
This one mostly focuses on the relationship that he has with Sakurai, with an bigger relationship could potentially have Sakurai consider their character. Could potentially benefit Bayonetta, Wonder Red, and has benefitted Snake before.
34. Does the character contribute to game balance?
From my perspective, I honestly don’t think Sakurai means game balance in technical terms, it’s probably in terms of balancing the amount of popular and unpopular characters he’s going to add in the game. As previously mentioned with catering to a wide audience, anyone can contribute to game balance here, but that depends on the situation Sakurai is on right now, for example, he might want to add an unexpected newcomer from a distinct genre to balance out the amount of popular characters he’s added in the game to bring more variety in the newcomer selection.
35. Does the character fit into the style of Smash Bros?
Probably the least important factor here. There are very rare cases to which a character can feel out of place visually, but most newcomers just fit just fine, they just blend in the game in a different distinct way, like with Snake.
Most of the factors I listed are just ones needed to be considered by Sakurai, others are essential or notable factors to making the character playable. There are some factors that apply to certain characters. In my view, a character has to have at least a good sum of these factors without breaking any of the others to get prioritized high for DLC.