According to the tournament organizers for Smash World Tour, a grassroots esports circuit for Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate, Nintendo has shut down the upcoming championship as well as next year’s entire run. In a Medium post, the event’s organizers alleged that after months of attempting to get an official license from Nintendo, and after being assured that the series could operate, the company suddenly told them they wouldn’t be allowed to put on the upcoming championship tournament in December or the 2023 circuit.
The Smash World Tour unified numerous community-run tournaments that have developed naturally over the years into a single circuit, where players earn points by placing well in affiliated events. As the organizers wrote: ”In 2022 alone, we connected over 6,400 live events worldwide, with over 325,000 in-person entrants, making the Smash World Tour (SWT, or the Tour) the largest esports tour in history, for any game title. The Championships would also have had the largest prize pool in Smash history at over $250,000. The 2023 Smash World Tour planned to have a prize pool of over $350,000.”
In the post, the SWT team claimed that Panda Global, a prominent esports organization, put pressure on Nintendo and other tournament organizers to get the Smash World Tour canceled. Panda has a competing circuit, the Panda Cup, which is officially licensed by Nintendo but had fewer events in 2022 and a smaller championship prize pool. Specifically, they alleged that Panda’s CEO, Alan Bunney, attempted to scare tournament organizers from joining the Smash World Tour by saying they would have Nintendo shut down competing events entirely, including the popular series Beyond the Summit. They wrote: “We were told he made a variety of threats to Beyond the Summit, including shutting down their entire Smash operation in 2023 if they did not eventually join Panda Cup. After BTS held firm, the CEO of Panda warned that they would get Nintendo directly involved, putting broadcast rights for all tournaments in jeopardy.”
The Smash World Tour organizers were particularly disappointed because they were reassured by correspondents at Nintendo that this wouldn’t happen, and they stated they followed all the company’s guidelines for becoming officially sanctioned, including submitting for a license months in advance. They also claimed they had reached out to Panda to ensure that tournaments could count towards both circuits, meaning larger potential winnings for players. The organizers of SWT wrote that Nintendo canceling their event will be financially disastrous for them and that “We don’t know where everything will land quite yet with contracts, sponsor obligations, etc — in short, we will be losing hundreds of thousands of dollars due to Nintendo’s actions.”
Nintendo has clashed with the Super Smash Bros. competitive community many times in the past, including a high-profile incident where the company attempted to ban Super Smash Bros. Melee from appearing at Evo 2013, after the game’s community raised almost $100,000 breast cancer research so it could be featured at the event. While Nintendo eventually backed down, this kind of opposition is arguably emblematic of the company’s treatment of the scene.
In response to SWT’s allegations, Nintendo made the following statement to Kotaku: “Unfortunately after continuous conversations with Smash World Tour, and after giving the same deep consideration we apply to any potential partner, we were unable to come to an agreement with SWT for a full circuit in 2023. Nintendo did not request any changes to or cancellation of remaining events in 2022, including the 2022 Championship event, considering the negative impact on the players who were already planning to participate.”
SWT’s organizers responded to Nintendo’s statement by disputing this account and included written communication from the company about how they were not granting them a license for “Smash World Tour Championship 2022 or any Smash World Tour activity in 2023.” They alleged Nintendo said future events would not be allowed to operate without an official license, seemingly putting the entire grassroots Super Smash Bros. scene in potential jeopardy.