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If you were around for the period of civil war that was Smash 3DS/Wii U’s DLC cycle, you likely remember how the Smash Fighter Ballot was on the minds of everyone and their mother. A time where people made use of ballot stuffing robots to pitch in votes for their most wanted with really no idea whatsoever as to how the results would be tallied. Over two years after the ballot’s end, we still don’t know the exact results, who was in the top 5 alongside Bayonetta, and what exactly ‘among realizable characters’ meant. And probably for the better. It was ultimately a better choice in retrospect to not leave certain fans feeling bitter over losing by x amount of votes and just leave the Ballot be. Perhaps some things are best left forgotten for now.
So later on, there was another Nintendo poll, the Choose Your Legends poll, this time to gain fan insight into who people preferred for their upcoming slot machine mobile Fire Emblem crossover, Fire Emblem Heroes. And there was voting. Lots of it. Considering the Fire Emblem fanbase has its infamy for being volatile, it would only make sense to maintain the same level of secrecy that the Smash Ballot had-
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) January 26, 2017
This is an event from months ago, but it comes up as relevant since it’s one thing fans might default to when reading the recent interview with the producer and the director of Fire Emblem Warriors, another Fire Emblem crossover due this year.
Let’s look at this line in particular. One edit is made for context’s sake:
“Hayashi: We had a really hectic time in choosing [the characters]. At first our company considered from the weapons first and sent the proposal [list], but Intelligent Systems pointed us to the results of popularity polls, and Nintendo also told us ‘please add this character’, so we adjusted it little by little.”
Popularity polls…so, like the very public and open Choose Your Heroes Poll? The one with publicly available final results? What would that have to do with Fire Emblem Warriors in any se-oh wait they mentioned popularity polls as part of the influence and there was a recent worldwide one. Granted, it’s worth noting that by the team’s own admission, Fire Emblem Warriors was in development for two years by the time they revealed it, and there were earlier polls from Famitsu like these two, which a lot of Western fans would likely not know about given their exclusivity to Japan. But this goes back to the point as to why the secrecy around the Smash Ballot was for the better.
Imagine the average Smash speculator, around mid-September 2015, during the drought of news for DLC, discussing the chances of their most wanted character. Then @NintendoAmerica comes around and tweets this out of the blue (for the purposes of this article, a faked tweet):
The chain effect begins of flaming, calls of the ballot being rigged, derisions of overrated echo chamber characters, articles elsewhere bashing the characters at the top, and in general the community being about as stable as a raging bull. Now imagine that tweet in retrospect if Bayonetta had still won. Some people would feel cheated, calling Nintendo out on a vote that could have easily changed from when the tweet was posted. The complaints above intensify and leave a black mark for their infamy. Now imagine all that, with publicly available final results on the Smash Ballot, with perhaps one of those three characters mentioned in the tweet losing the top spot by about 7,000 votes, or other unforeseen conditions where the character won, but string pulling from Nintendo had them shafted in favor of someone else.
And the results would then be used in the future. For what, who knows, but then the next crossover arrives and…where are the top characters on the ballot? Those characters were in the top 10 but characters over 50 spots down get in first?
You see the point I’m making, right? How ballot results can/would still be relevant far into the future? Companies slip up all the time, yes, but Nintendo kept the Smash Ballot results secret for a reason, albeit an unknown one, so what exactly was it about the Heroes poll that they thought would have had less of an impact if they released results with a fanbase like Fire Emblem’s? (Worth noting as well is that they made those ‘If there were a Smash 2’ poll results public, but that was when Smash was relatively low profile and in its infancy).
Fans will greatly scrutinize those poll results for future games, and no amount of Orb microtransactions/unit pandering in Heroes or well-made games will change their mindset.