Nintendo’s rapport with the Super Smash Bros. competitive community has always been touchy, and recent events suggest it may have deteriorated further. The gaming community is in an uproar following the unveiling of Nintendo’s new tournament regulations, which many fear could be the death knell for the vibrant Smash esports landscape.
On October 24, Nintendo’s UK and Japan websites showcased a new rulebook for “community” tournaments. The updated rules dictate that these events must be nonprofit. Furthermore, they cap participant numbers at 200 and restrict prize values to a maximum of $5,295. But there’s more – these tournaments can’t have sponsors, nor can they feature altered versions of Nintendo games, such as the widely played “Project M” mod for Super Smash Bros. Melee. The list of restrictions also extends to forbidding the sale of food, drinks, or any merchandise during these events.
Commercial tournaments aren’t completely barred, but they come with their own set of hoops to jump through. Organizers of these larger events will need a special license from Nintendo. Yet, procuring this license is at “Nintendo’s sole discretion.” Given the company’s history, fans express concerns that these stringent conditions might influence major esports tournaments. Some believe it might deter organizers from hosting a Smash Bros. event altogether due to the associated complexities.
This decision by Nintendo was met with strong reactions from prominent figures in the Smash community. Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, a globally recognized player, aired his frustrations on Twitter, likening Nintendo’s actions to a child craving attention.
Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, boldly announced his intention to continue his own tournaments until directly confronted by Nintendo’s legal team. In a passionate livestream declaration, he voiced his defiance, vowing to run his “Coinbox” tournament consistently, challenging Nintendo’s decision until they formally engage with him.
DeBiedma has previously expressed his dissatisfaction with Nintendo for not supporting its competitive scene as other gaming giants, like Capcom with Street Fighter, do. In 2013, Nintendo’s attempt to prohibit the broadcasting of Melee finals at Evo was met with significant pushback, forcing them to retract. This tension escalated in subsequent years, with accusations against Nintendo for actively shutting down tournaments due to third-party mods. Following Sony’s acquisition of Evo in 2022, Nintendo made a bold move by entirely withdrawing Smash Bros. from the grand event.
There were plans for an exclusive Smash Bros. league by Panda Global. However, the cancellation of Video Game Boot Camp’s Smash World Tour in 2022 drew speculation of a possible collusion between Nintendo and Panda Global to suppress rival tournaments. The discontent led to a boycott of Panda’s league, which eventually disbanded in 2023. In the wake of Nintendo’s controversial rule announcement, an alleged Panda Global presentation deck leaked. This document hinted at a promising alliance between Panda Global and Nintendo, aligning with what professionals have desired – a competitive framework with substantial payouts to organizers.