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'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate' outlines Byleth, next two years

The 80th fighter joining the wildly popular "SSBU" is Byleth from "Fire Emblem: Three Houses," the eighth such character from the lesser-known series.

[Super Smash Bros. Ultimate - Battling with Byleth: youtu.be/2aqVlLlKkcg]

From January 28, 2020, players of "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" will be able to choose between a male or female version of blue-haired hero Blyeth from "Fire Emblem: Three Houses," just as they could in the game.

Byleth is the fifth and final entry to the optional $24.99USD "SSBU" Fighters Pass and also available as a separate $5.99 digital purchase.

Yet the presence of "Fire Emblem" within "SSBU" is often considered disproportionate to the franchise's own successes.

It now supplies eight members of the 80-strong "SSBU" roster, outnumbered only by characters from the far better-known and better-selling "Pokémon" and "Super Mario" franchises (ten "SSBU" fighters each).

Conversely, Byleth widens the gap between "Fire Emblem" and world-famous Nintendo icon "The Legend of Zelda" (six characters).

Compared to those other series' commercial successes, "Fire Emblem" on the Switch lags well behind.

"Three Houses" sold 2.3 million copies worldwide between July and October 2019. By then, the Switch's top five "Super Mario" games were responsible for 50 million sales combined, and its two "Legend of Zelda" games some 17.5m copies, while its two sets of "Pokémon" releases notched 17m between them by December 2019.

So why the emphasis on "Fire Emblem"?

One widely suggested reason is its stock of realistically proportioned, reasonably similar human characters among the "SSBU" sea of unique and cartoonish mascots, a boon in terms of development costs.

Game director Masahiro Sakurai is also a huge, self-confessed fan of the strategy series.

And while "Fire Emblem" remains underappreciated -- "Three Houses" is one of the Switch's best-reviewed titles -- "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" is currently the console's second best-selling, a cross-promotion opportunity too good to pass up.

With the first Fighters Pass now complete, a further five characters are planned for introduction between Byleth's debut and the end of 2021, as part of the Fighters Pass Vol. 2.

After that, who knows? The Nintendo Switch will be four years old; the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Series X entering their second years of availability; game streaming services may be finding their feet and further reducing dependence on dedicated consoles in favor of ubiquitous mobile devices.