Nintendo’s relationship with the grassroots competitive scene around its Super Smash Bros. games has never been great, But today it may have hit an all-time low. Fans of the company’s enormously popular fighting game franchise are collectively freaking out about a new set of tournament guidelines that some believe would essentially destroy the existing Smash esports scene.
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Posted on October 24 on Nintendo’s UK and Japan websites, the rules set strict limits on all “community” tournaments. According to the new guidelines, in addition to being nonprofit events, Smash tournaments would also be limited to 200 participants, unable to set prizes above $5,295, unable to have sponsors, and forbidden from using modified versions of Nintendo games, like the popular “Project M” hack of Super Smash Bros. Melee. Tournament organizers wouldn’t even be allowed to sell food, beverages, or merchandise.
While the guidelines don’t ban all commercial tournaments outright, they do require the companies behind those events to get special licenses directly from Nintendo. However, the company states that it’s “up to Nintendo’s sole discretion whether or not a licensee will be granted to a corporation or organization.” Given Nintendo’s track-record, many fans are worried this will lead some of these restrictions to trickle down to bigger esports events, or make holding a Smash Bros. tournament too much of a headache to even bother with in the first place.
“Ah yes, it is that time of the year where Nintendo remembers to ruin the day of every Smash player,” tweeted Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, one of the top-ranked players in the world. “Fuck Nintendo, they are like a 5 year old screaming for attention at all times when it comes to competitive Smash,” tweeted Adam “Armada” Lindgren, long considered one of the “five gods” of Smash Bros. Melee.
Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, one of the other “five gods,” threatened to continue running his own tournaments until Nintendo’s lawyers reached out to him in person. “I’m running Coinbox,” he said during a recent livestream. “I’m gonna keep running it in January, I’m gonna keep running it in February, March, and April, I will run it every *** week until I receive word from them directly. I’m not going to stop out of fear. They have to come to me directly with the document. Until then I’m calling their *** bluff.”
DeBiedma has long criticized Nintendo for failing to back its competitive community the way other video game companies do, most notably Capcom with Street Fighter. Nintendo famously tried to ban the Melee finals from being broadcast at Evo 2013 before eventually backing down in the face of a massive backlash. But that neglect has been turning hostile in recent years, with Nintendo accused of shutting down various tournaments over their inclusion of third-party, fan-developed services and modifications to its games. Then after Sony bought Evo in 2022, organizers of the biggest fighting game tournaments of the year, Nintendo pulled Smash Bros. from the event entirely.
The company was supposed to have its own Smash Bros. league organized by Panda Global. However, following a drama-filled cancellation of Video Game Boot Camp’s Smash World Tour event in 2022, many accused Nintendo and Panda Global of colluding to squash competing tournaments. An ensuing boycott of Panda’s league eventually led it to disband at the start of 2023. After Nintendo announced its new tournament guidelines today, someone allegedly leaked a Panda Global pitch deck for its Smash Bros. league, and it appeared to point toward a generous collaboration between Panda Global and Nintendo—the type of competitive circuit pros have long asked for, with sizable payments to host organizers to help with costs.
Nintendo’s new guidelines have only been announced for Europe and Japan so far, but many believe it’s only a matter of time until a similar set is posted for North America. The European and Japanese rules go into effect beginning November 15, 2023. That happens to be right after the dates for Port Priority 8 in Seattle, Washington, one of the many tournaments that would be banned under these new rules.
Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.