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The Newest Super Smash Bros. Title Isn’t Even Out Yet, But a Competition is Already Airing on TBS

The lines to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate at E3 were massive and often filled shortly after they opened. Some players were even able to take part in a competition for the latest Smash Bros. release at the video game convention, the first time the game was playable.

And since the latest Super Smash Bros. title was announced in June, fans have been clamoring to get more information, videos, character news, and anything they could get their hands on. But in a wild break from tradition for the notoriously by-the-book Nintendo, Mario fans will be able to see the game in action when TBS airs the E3 competition—three weeks ahead of its release.

Eleague, a partnership with Turner and IMG that presents premium e-sports content, will release a three-part episodic series of the competition that took place at E3 in Los Angeles back in June. The series begins airing on Friday, Nov. 16 at 11 p.m. ET/PT, and runs for the following two Fridays.

“It was an exciting tournament with a lot of great moments in it,” said Bill Trinen, senior director of product marketing for Nintendo of America. “I think that will drive excitement for the Smash Bros. franchise overall as well as, hopefully, competitive Smash Bros. in general.”

The televised tournament is largely a win-win move for both Nintendo and Turner. Nintendo has the opportunity to bring even more attention to Smash Bros. Ultimate right before it goes on sale on December 7, and Turner gets to expand its e-sports offerings to appeal to a more mainstream audience.

“E-sports in general is a large audience, but it’s a niche,” says Craig Barry, executive vice president of production and chief content officer for Turner Sports. “When Nintendo came to the table, we saw an opportunity to cast a wider net, a much wider demographic, a more dynamic, diverse audience of younger and casual gamers, and a really strong brand.”

This is also the start of possible larger opportunities for both Nintendo and Turner. Turner has been expanding its e-sports programming under the Eleague title. For instance, this week the company announced it will also livestream a charity competition on Oct. 13 with the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 game, which releases on Oct. 12. The three-part Call of Duty series, similar in format to that of the Super Smash Bros. competition, will air on TBS beginning Friday, Oct. 26 at 11 p.m. ET/PT.

But for Nintendo, competitive gaming feels like a natural point of exploration. “What’s interesting about our approach to competitive play is that we don’t really, necessarily look at it purely as e-sports,” Trinen says. “We really look at it as an extension of what’s been true to Nintendo over the years, which is that idea of competitive fun together in the same place.”