The organizers of a large Super Smash Bros. tournament series, the Smash World Tour, say Nintendo denied their request for an official license, cutting off months of negotiations “without any warning”. The decision led to the cancellation of next year’s season and next month’s Smash 2022 World Championships, although Nintendo now says it “has not requested” any changes to the championship. Either way, it’s the abrupt end to a massive tour that drew 325,000 attendees across thousands of events in 2022, organizers say.
“We are incredibly devastated that all of this has happened, and given Nintendo’s trajectory, we truly hoped meaningful and positive change would come,” Smash World Tour organizers said in a lengthy open letter detailing the factors. which led to the cancellation. “However, the way the last few weeks have unfolded, we are extremely concerned that all of this progress has been abruptly reversed.”
As we’ve discussed in the past, US copyright law gives Nintendo the right to shut down any Smash Bros. tournaments, referred to as “public performances” of one of the company’s games. Nintendo has exercised this right many times in the past, usually to stop tournaments that use “unauthorized” mods for the base. Smash Bros. Games.
Last November, however, Nintendo ushered in a new era of official tournament approval, announcing Panda Global as “the first officially licensed Super Smash Bros.. championship circuit in North America. In their open letter, Smash World Tour organizers said they initially assumed the move would result in the cancellation of their scheduled 2021 championships. Instead, they say Nintendo told them that the license for Panda wasn’t exclusive and started working to officially license the Smash World Tour as well.
Confirmed. Prepare your A-game, Super #SmashBros competitors. We collaborated with @PandaGlobal to launch the first Super Smash Bros. championship circuit. officially licensed in North America, coming in 2022! #SmashBrosUltimate #SmashBrosMelee https://t.co/3WKbEYrMH2
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 18, 2021
While licensing discussions continued into early 2022, organizers say the Smash World Tour 2022 was launched without an official license, in part because “we didn’t have our entire proposal sorted through forward with Nintendo”. But organizers say they have applied for a license for the December championships, submitting an application in April.
Meanwhile, Smash Tour organizers say the CEO of Panda Global began trying to undermine their tour by “saying[ing] organizers, we were definitely not returning in 2022, and if we did, we would be closed shortly after the announcement. Panda Cup and the unlicensed Smash World Tour in 2022 (Panda Global did not respond to a request for comment from Ars Technica).
A new era
After months of silence from Nintendo, Smash World Tour organizers said they were able to meet with representatives again in September and again in November. Then, last Wednesday, they said that Nintendo had told them in no uncertain terms that they would not be getting a commercial license and that the days of Nintendo condoning their unlicensed operation “are now over.”
In a statement provided to Kotaku on Tuesday evening, Nintendo said that despite “continuing conversations” and “thorough consideration”, the company was “unable to reach an agreement with SWT for a full circuit in 2023”. That said, Nintendo says it “has not requested any changes or cancellations to the remaining events in 2022, including the 2022 Championship event, given the negative impact on players who were already planning to participate.”
In a follow-up statementhowever, Smash World Tour cites a written statement from Nintendo saying that the tournaments are “expected to obtain such a license well in advance of any public announcement” and that the company “will not be able to license the 2022 Smash World Tour Championship or any Smash World Tour activity in 2023.”
Over the past few months, Smash World Tour organizers have said they believe Nintendo is making progress in emulating other game makers’ “accessible and transparent” guidelines for tournament licensing. But they say the company has now “reverted to being top secret, with no clear guidelines, and a willingness to abruptly halt community efforts even after giving many hints that wouldn’t happen.”
The news comes just weeks after Nintendo used the DMCA request to remove fan-made Steam icons for certain Switch games emulated from a popular online clearinghouse. And over the years, Nintendo has used copyright law to shut down everything from fan games to modern Game & Watch hack videos to Mario. Minecraft videos.
“In the realm of corporations working ruthlessly to control their own narrative at the expense of search and reference, Nintendo ranks up there with Monsanto, the coal companies, and the crowd,” Internet Archive’s Jason Scott told Ars in 2018. “You expect emotions when people talk about old video games, but one of them shouldn’t be fear.”
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