The year is 2001, you're at the local game store to pick up a brand new Nintendo Gamecube, and with it, Super Smash Brothers Melee. You run home, start playing, and have the time of your life with your friends. That night as you fall asleep, you think to yourself "I'm gonna play this game forever."
Fast forward twenty years ahead, and that very well could be true. In spite of three newer generation consoles, three sequels, and no institutional support from Nintendo, Super Smash Bros. Melee is alive and well. The game has a dedicated fan base that for the past twenty years has come together for numerous tournaments and events, fundraisers and more. While the conventional wisdom might think that the newer the game, the more fun it is, there's something special about this particular game that keeps fans clamoring for more.
Of course, playing a game this old comes with its share of challenges: finding ways for it to work on newer screens, getting enough copies of a twenty year old game, but most of all, finding reliable controllers. Since its inception, the Gamecube controller has been loved by players alike, but not all controllers are made equally. Finding old controllers in good condition can be difficult, and even then it doesn't guarantee an equal playing experience. The precise technical skills used in competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee make having an unreliable controller a pain, as it can cost you lives, games, and tournament wins.
Due to this issue, the community has had controller modders grow in the scene. Individuals who familiarize themselves with taking apart, fixing, and implementing modifications into these older controllers to make them viable. The pressure has even had Nintendo keep releasing newer versions of the Gamecube controller, although their manufactured results have not been ideal. Between getting the right parts that will perform reliably and assembling them in the demand that there is, the costs can be very high and make it hard for new players to join the scene.
Seeing this as an opportunity, a hardware company affiliated with eSports sponsor Panda Global just launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of a brand new, feature-packed modern Gamecube style controller. The product addresses all the concerns from professionals on customization, standardization, adjustments, reliability, and longevity. Expansion pack add-ons and firmware update capabilities give promise to the tagline of the product, "the last controller you'll ever need."
And even while on the whole the competitive Super Smash Brothers community is somewhat niche, as of writing and only one day after the Kickstarter was launched, this controller has been funded to the tune of $875,000; nearly 9x the funding goal. With the campaign lasting for another 28 days, it's likely to exceed $1 million dollars in funding, giving extra perks along the way for the over funding goals such as extended warranties, new color options for controller shells and buttons, and more.
The market is an incredible force of cooperation. What a small, dedicated community needed, invested innovators came together to solve. No threat of force, only the cooperative action of fans who share the love of keeping a niche game scene alive were able to both create a profitable venture and address the very real needs of the community. This is the power of the free market.