11 Years of The Big House – Their Key to Success

Kelsy Medeiros

Published on 25/06/2024

Every story has its beginning. In this case, The Big House has had a long-running history of 11 years, cementing itself as the longest-running Super Smash Bros. Held every year in Detroit, Michigan, The Big House was first established in 2011 and has been the most prestigious tournament series event alongside the “Evolution Championship Series”(EVO) for Smash Bros. Now, why are we taking a look at an esports event today? Well, game marketing is everywhere, and we can prove it!

The success of this event stemmed from talented gamers hanging out and playing games in a basement when they had an idea to create the tournament. Robin “Jugglyguy” Harn went on to fulfill his vision and produced The Big House by renting out a small space on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan, for 115 people. By 2017, over 2000 people were in attendance, forcing Jugglyguy and his team to get a larger space at the Cobo Center in Detroit.

But what makes The Big House so unique as a premium event for spectators, gamers, influencers, developers, and sponsors to attend?

A crowded space, 2016 marked the moment of realization that this event was only growing larger and larger. “We need more space” – Jugglyguy – 📸: Connor Smith.

My Experience at The Big House 11 Event

I had the absolute pleasure to have attended this past weekend’s Big House 11, where I was on a hunt to find out these answers for myself. Upon arriving to pick up my pass, I noticed the long line wrapped around the inside of Huntington Place’s Halls.

The line was filled with people in attendance for different reasons. Some were spectators, competitors, developers ready to show off their indie fighting games, sponsors who were there to promote their products, and sponsors who were there to promote their brands. There were camera crews, vendors, and even marketplace representatives. I started to understand what was making this tournament so special.

Upon passing security, I was met with a spacious setup. Each room section was divided into groups by vendors, controller repairs, developers, and video game tournaments. I stretched extensively and kicked off my research by speaking to many attendees. I noted how each role contributed to The Big House organization, making the event so special. Here are some insights I gathered on how to create a successful event from the ground up.

The event was easy to find, with its Logo splashed all over the building and nearby billboards – 📸: Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros – Content and Communications Specialist at GameAddik.

Organized and Professional Management

The main organizers are all kind individuals who show genuine interest in the video game community. They are gamers, making the event relatable to the gaming community.

The organizers did a lot of research into each year’s event. They take in feedback from their attendees and ensure safety regulations, well-planned schedules, clear rules, and a supportive, responsive team to help provide an intense experience for participants and viewers.

Prize Pools and Incentives

Attractive prize pools and incentives motivate top players to participate. High stakes can generate excitement and draw in more viewers. As the Super Smash Bros. scene is known to be an independent community, the prize pool is already low, as each prize is usually funded straight from the community itself.

As the Big House has increased in visibility, viewership, and attendance each year, so has the prize pool, which has attracted more top-level players who want to watch perform in person. Prize money for last year’s Big House was just short of $19,820.00, which, compared to the first-ever Big House’s $1000.00, is a huge prize.

This weekend’s “2VS2 Doubles Winners” included Angel “Pocket” Mireles, a Top 20 worldwide player as of 2023, with Jayson “Soar” Medeiros from Montreal, Canada. 📸 BlueRoseTori

Live Streaming and Production Quality

High-quality live streaming, with engaging commentary and production values, enhances the viewer experience. Well-executed broadcasts make the event more enjoyable to watch. This attracts viewers to attend the following year, making the anticipation for the next event even greater than the previous year.

Sponsorships and Partnerships

  • Sponsors often contribute to the prize pool and add legitimacy to the tournament. They also add exclusivity to their products that can’t be found elsewhere. This makes the event unique and gives attendees an even more reason to try and attend the event.

Rare and Retro items are available at booths by Gamers4Gamers

Global Accessibility & Price:

The registration fee was much less than for other events. My pass for the Big House was $60.00 CAD, while other similar events cost easily over $100.00 CAD. The hotels were only a 5-minute walk from the venue, and food was easily obtainable within the forum.

This saves attendees a lot of time and money, making the trip all worthwhile for a reasonable price. I only had to pay for a UBER twice when arriving from the airport and travelling back to the airport on the day of departure, which helped out my budget for this trip.

Downtown, Detroit – near the Event’s Venue – a 5-minute walk to the main Hotel.📸: Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros – Content and Communications Specialist at GameAddik.

Community Engagement & Word of Mouth

  • The Super Smash Bros. community is undoubtedly the largest and longest-running independent scene. The Smash scene uses social media platforms and shares its content through forums.
  • Fan engagement activities help create a dedicated fan base, making marketing more accessible for The Big House team.
  • What builds a relatable connection between the organizers and its attendees is that the organizers are gamers. This makes speaking with the scene and its supporters much more personal.

Regular and Consistent Events:

Over time, The Big House has shown consistency in hosting tournaments on a regular yearly basis. With more people in attendance every year and more vendors and sponsors, each year has offered fans new but familiar experiences that have left attendees comfortable.

This consistency and yearly improvement only built anticipation and loyalty among fans. It’s the event to look forward to every year.

Activities for Everyone

The Big House isn’t just a tournament but an event for families and those who may be unfamiliar with the video game industry. Arcade machines from the 1970s-1990s were lined up in its play area for families to enjoy leisurely.

Side brackets that would occur once every 2 hours all weekend were an excellent approach for new fans who wanted to understand the competitive nature and ambiance of the community. Finally, there were different games by independent studios.

There’s only so much Smash Bros. a person can take; even the most hardcore players, like myself, can use a break. Games such as Rivals of Aether 2 were present to try and even hosted their tournament throughout the weekend. Everyone of all ages, regions, cultures, and genders was welcomed.

The Big House expanded the event’s reach to various areas and cultures, making it more inclusive and attracting a more diverse audience. Even language translators were in attendance to help the community connect.

Content Creation

Throughout the event, and even after the event had ended, top-quality content was produced for the community to enjoy from home. There were skits, recaps, interviews, highlights and trailers filled with announcements for the following year’s show that only had people watch more.

The Big House 11 has attracted over 100,000 viewers online throughout the weekend’s show.

Preparing for Next Year: Feedback and Improvement

On the event’s final day, I noticed organizers who all had the same T-shirt to stand out. They went up to attendees, vendors, sponsors, and others for feedback. A short questionnaire was given to fill out. It took about 2-3 minutes to complete my thoughts about the event.

The most important part was that the organizer I spoke with was genuinely curious and made eye contact with me formally as he expressed his concern about how they could improve the event for next year.

Why is Big House an Important Event for Developers to Attend to?

The video game industry offers many events to connect with potential publishers and consumers. Among those events, you have B2B, where you connect with industry experts and present your masterpiece to potential business partners. You have B2C events to connect and present your game to the final consumer or a mix of both. The Big House is recognized as a B2C event since you can access gamers on the spot.

Events such as cons or esports tournaments open up opportunities for developers to connect with gamers. These are your clients, and they are at this event to enjoy gaming. You can connect with the gamers personally while dazzling them with what you offer within your product.

You can take in feedback and apply improvement before your game’s launch. This also opens up discussions about your game, as their engagement will blossom around the event throughout the weekend amongst gamers and their friends.

One of the studios present at The Big House was Rivals of Aether 2’s Aether Studios. This event was the perfect place for these developers because of the Fighting Game Genre. Rivals of Aether’s 2D-styled fighting game genre matched the interest of the event’s gamers and could lure players into trying out their game.

The studio also offered a side tournament to deliver excitement and motivate players to practice new combos and stats within the game after its launch.

Winners of Rivals of Aether Event – Top 4 Finalists – 📸 HelloWrld

Rivals of Aether’s social media pages grew followers and pre-orders for their upcoming game following The Big House 11.

Advice for Promoting Your Niche

After the hype was over, I found myself some 1-on-1 time with one of the tournament’s main organizers on Discord: Raymond “Rayn” Jackson. We discussed developers and independent communities, such as the Smash Bros. community and its events.

I now understood what makes The Big House so unique. It’s the passion that goes from a gamer’s point of view to the business side of the community. I did have one more question on my mind:

“How do you advertise such a niche community to the rest of the gaming industry?”

My personal branding success came from the consistency across each delivery. Spreading your news across platform services, even through word of mouth, is best achieved simultaneously daily across different platforms.

It’s essential to research the times in which each social media platform is at its most active. Platforms now offer tools to keep track of this and the ever-so-changing algorithm across each social media platform. What may work now may not work in a year from today. Luckily, social media platforms offer their website analytics for you to use as research to promote your branding needs.

📸: Kelsy “SuperGirlKels” Medeiros – Content and Communications Specialist at GameAddik.

The Big House 11 may have concluded this year, but work is never over for the recurring indie giant. The Big House team has already begun to take in this year’s feedback and is already brainstorming for next year’s adjustments. In response, The Big House 11 was a huge success for fans who were in attendance.

But much is yet to improve, even when you’re as big as The Big House. If you aim to be Number 1 in your field and reach it, there will no longer be any purpose to continue after that. But if your goal is to learn and constantly improve at your work, then the results within your field will be unlimited.

Let’s set up a meeting through GameRebellion to discuss amazing tradeshows you should attend to improve your visibility.

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