Wild Speculation: The real reason Byleth was added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
So Byleth has just released for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and a whole bunch of people are salty about it. Obviously this just means that not enough people realize how awesome Fire Emblem is, but if you will allow me a small moment to get my tinfoil hat on, I actually think that Byleth wasn’t originally supposed to be the final DLC character of Smash’s season 1 of DLC at all. I think they were a last-minute substitution for another DLC character that the Smash community probably wouldn’t have been quite so whiny about.
So why did we get Byleth instead? Give me a second moment to put a second tinfoil hat on, and I will give you my conspiracy theory, based entirely on gut feelings and speculation.
…for entertainment purposes only.
Expect the Unexpected
So we all assumed that all the DLC fighters in pack one were going to be third-party characters. Nintendo never quite came out and said that was going to be the case, but Sakurai sure did make vague statements like “wanting all the season one DLC characters to be unexpected.”
But Byleth is totally expected. Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the best-selling Fire Emblem of all time, and was one of Nintendo’s recent cash cows. Byleth being in Smash isn't a surprise at all. Certainly not "unexpected." So what gives?
Well, let’s get one thing straight. There was never going to be a scenario where they didn’t put Byleth in Smash. Smash is, whether you like it or not, one of Nintendo’s biggest advertising platforms. When they make a game that sells well, they put a representative from that title in Smash to further drive interest. It’s a formula that works, and they weren’t going to mess with that formula any time soon. So long as Three Houses sold as good or better than Fates and Awakening, we were going to get a Three Houses character. That just made good business sense.
However, we didn’t necessarily need to get Byleth now, and my thought is that wasn't the plan originally. However, Nintendo’s plans clearly changed after they started making DLC. They announced the second season of DLC late into the first season, which might mean they decided to make more only after seeing how well the first season sold.
It’s also clear that Nintendo knew that Byleth was going to cause a bit of a stink in the Smash community. Sakurai even joked about it in the Smash direct. Heck, Byleth’s trailer joked about how there are so many sword wielders in Smash.
So my theory is: Byleth was actually the first character that was made for season 2, and they were pushed up to season 1, taking up a third party slot which will now go to the first slot of season 2.
Was Byleth moved?
Why would Byleth be moved? Well, just look at how people are reacting! Nintendo may want to drive sales of the upcoming Fire Emblem DLC, Cindered Shadows, but they clearly want to push their Smash DLC even more. If Byleth was the first character of Season 2, Nintendo would lose a ton of sales from people groaning and going “not another Fire Emblem character.” They didn’t want Byleth to set the tone for a whole other DLC pack.
Meanwhile, the last slot of DLC pack 1 was basically safe. Anyone who was going to buy the full pack had already done so at this point. Anyone else who was buying the DLC piecemeal and was going to be angry at Byleth’s inclusion wouldn’t have bought Byleth piecemeal either. Whether or not you approve of Byleth barely affects their bottom line.
Think of the timing as well. Byleth was announced in January, but the next piece of Fire Emblem content is coming out mid-February. If they really wanted to push Fire Emblem interest they would have lined up Byleth’s release with the release of Cindered Shadows. Except they didn’t. Instead, they lined up their reveal with the reveal of Cindered Shadows. A decent but weaker marketing move. Perhaps mid-February was actually supposed to be when they revealed the teaser for the first DLC character of pack 2?
So if Byleth wasn’t originally supposed to be the final character of DLC pack 1, then who could it have been? Well, the fanbase seems to be convinced that the slot belonged to Dante from Devil May Cry, and maybe that’s the case. There was certainly some suspicious cross-promotion on Twitter going down.
My personal theory…. Wait, hold on, let me get a third tinfoil hat on…
Sora in Smash
My personal theory is that Sora from Kingdom Hearts was meant to be the final DLC character. Not only is it a character that fans have been asking for but using data compiled through responses to Nintendo tweets, Reddit user Zelcf determined that Sora is one of the most desired characters across Japan, America, and Europe. Smashboards held a popularity poll that had Sora at third while Eventhubs’ poll had him at fourth.
A character that is fairly evenly requested across all major regions? Sure does seem like a great way to close out DLC pack 1. Not to mention, the last DLC character release would have lined up perfectly with the release of Kingdom Hearts III’s major DLC, Re:Mind. It’s all perfect… except for that whole “needing to sell you DLC pack 2” thing.
So Nintendo pulls the old switcheroo. Byleth is yanked from DLC pack 2 toward the beginning of planning and stuck at the end of DLC pack 1. Meanwhile Sora (or whoever) is moved to the first slot of DLC pack 2, in order to entice you to purchase the whole pack before all the characters are done. Byleth still gets to release close to the release of Cindered Shadows, taking advantage of the Fire Emblem buzz, Nintendo wins from all angles.
All that it costs them are a few upset fans, but barely any money, because let’s face it: all those upset fans will be throwing their money at Nintendo if DLC pack 2 starts with Sora or Dante or Minecraft Steve or something. No one is going to boycott Smash over Byleth’s inclusion.
See, that’s the thing: the more you care about Smash and its DLC characters, the more likely you are to spend money on the DLC, regardless of the inclusion of an eighth DLC character. All the people rambling about what a horrible pick Byleth was, Nintendo already knows that they have your money. You’ll be back in the fold as soon as the next third party DLC character hits.
But you know whose money they want? The money in the pockets of anyone in the millions of people who bought Three Houses who hasn’t also purchased Smash. Byleth’s inclusion gives them a pretty good chance at getting that money, while securing some extra purchases of Cindered Shadows at the same time.
That’s just some wild speculation, though.