Y'know, I've actually thought about this a lot, and I think at the end of the day it honestly wouldn't have saved them.
I think initial sales would have been a lot higher but once the character hype died down, so would the community like it is now because characters can't solve fundamental gameplay flaws.
People might have gotten into Smash because of the iconic characters but they stuck around for the gameplay.
Yuh, this is pretty much what happened. When I was a young'un, the original Smash came out, and my brother and I went to Big Top (LOL, does that place still exist?) to get a copy the day it came out.
From that point on, whenever friends came to our house, we'd always play Smash with them. A couple of our friends had it, but most didn't - after playing for a few hours, though, they'd go back home and beg their parents to let them buy it.
That's the gradual effect of a really well made game. It's why Smash 64, with an install base on the N64 of 32 million, sold 5 million Smash copies, but Melee, with an install base on the Gamecube of only 21 million, somehow managed to sell 7 million copies. And then Brawl sold 11 million!
It's because the Smash fanbase has grown and grown and grown. There are people who play Smash obsessively who don't even care about Nintendo characters - they just love dat gameplay.
PSASBR is never gonna work people over that way. There's so much the devs need to change before it can, and sadly I don't think they know how.
If I haven't mentioned Trivio in my post, it's because she is so beautiful and precarious that I just wanted to show her how much she means to me.