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Bandai Namco's Kazuya Mishima tangles with Nintendo's Super Mario in "Smash Bros. Ultimate." Image: Nintendo

For all the talk of "Fortnite" and its so-called metaverse of character crossovers, it is Nintendo and its "Smash Bros." fighting game series that has created the industry's biggest team of rivals.

The big picture: For "Smash," Nintendo flexes its strength as a successful video game company to rope in collaborators and occasional competitors in the service of making its own $60 game increasingly successful.

  • The current vehicle for this is 2018's "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate," which on Tuesday is set to receive another addition to its roster of combatants in the form of Kazuya Mishima from Bandai Namco's fighting game series "Tekken."
  • The paid update will also add crossovers with Capcom's "Devil May Cry," Microsoft/Bethesda's "Skyrim," and WayForward's "Shantae" series, all in the form of costumes for the game's most generic combatants, the doll-like Mii Fighters.
  • The "Tekken" addition gives "Ultimate" a roster of fighters from 39 franchises, more than a dozen not made by Nintendo.

Epic's approach with "Fortnite" is to wedge a wide array of pop culture icons — from gaming, movies, sports, music, etc. — into a format that is ostensibly a 100-player shootout but can be used as a social space.

  • That creates a multi-branded playground that can double as a marketing launch pad for any company's next game, movie, album or show.
  • Epic isn't selling more copies of "Fortnite," because the game is free. Instead, it's enticing players to log back in, maybe buy a new costume but also receive these crossovers as ads.
Screenshot: Nintendo

Between the lines: "Super Smash Bros." launched on the Nintendo 64 in 1999 as a fighting game featuring many of Nintendo's most famous characters, but it has morphed into a corporate barrier-breaking rumble.

  • Newer releases added characters from Sega's "Sonic The Hedgehog," Square Enix's "Final Fantasy" and "Dragon Quest," Konami's "Castlevania," and more.
  • One of Nintendo's most active collaborators is rival console maker Microsoft, which supported recent crossovers with "Banjo-Kazooie" and "Minecraft."

Big companies are Nintendo's favored partners, but it has also worked with indies.

  • Yacht Club Games' Shovel Knight, Toby Fox's Sans and WayForward's Shantae all appear in limited forms.

“Smash” is now also the medium’s biggest library of gaming music, thanks to aggressive additions of songs from the game’s many franchises. 

  • The addition of a “Tekken” character will add 39 songs from that series to the game.
  • A fan wiki for “Ultimate” lists over 1,000 songs from more than three dozen series, many of which are not Nintendo’s.

What’s next: Smash Bros. producer Masahiro Sakurai said Monday that Nintendo’s efforts to add downloadable characters to “Ultimate” will end later this year with one final character.

  • There’s a long list of characters fans have been begging for, including Sora from “Kingdom Hearts” and Nintendo’s own Waluigi.
  • Even if a fan’s dream pick doesn’t come true, maybe their character will at least show up as a Mii costume.

Go deeper

"Smash Bros" adds "Kingdom Hearts" hero Sora

Image: Nintendo

Nintendo’s mighty crossover game, “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” capped off three years of ambitious expansion with the announcement that “Kingdom Hearts” hero Sora will be added to the Switch fighting game’s roster on Oct. 18.

Why it matters: This wasn’t just the addition of a character that had secretly topped Nintendo’s official fan request poll six years ago. It was a stream watched by more than 500,000 people that demonstrated the convergence of some of the industry’s major trends.

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker