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Nintendo shuts down third-party Super Smash Bros. tournament

Update: Both Nintendo and Panda Global have issued separate statements on the end of Smash World Tour.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

November 30, 2022

5 Min Read
Cover art for Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

An upcoming third-party fighting game tournament for the Super Smash Bros. franchise has abruptly been canceled. In a lengthy blog post, the organizers behind the Smash World Tour event explained that the event (which was scheduled to begin next week on December 9) and 2023's Smash World Tour circuit would no longer be happening. 

Organizers for Smash World Tour claimed that the sudden end was due to Nintendo, saying the publisher informed them shortly before Thanksgiving that "without any warning...we could no longer operate." 

In addition to larger fighting game tournaments such as EVO, there are isolated events for specific franchises. Smash World Tour was intended to bring together players from the competitive scene of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and the event's cancellation will allegedly cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Nintendo, historically, has been quick to shut down events in Smash Bros.' competitive scene. In some cases, it has actively restricted or sent a cease and desist to tournaments that required online play to function. 

Smash World Tour comes to a messy end

As the SWT team were waiting for Nintendo's approval, they allege that their efforts were being undermined by esports company Panda. In 2021, Nintendo entered a non-exclusive partnership with Panda to hold licensed Smash Bros. tournaments, and Panda's own Smash Bros. tournament is expected to take place on December 16, a week after when Smash World Tour would've occurred.

The SWT team claims that Panda's CEO Alan Bunney was repeatedly telling organizers that Smash World Tour would be shut down, and their own events would be put at risk if they partnered with SWT. Nintendo, when contacted by SWT about Bunney's behavior several times, said it would evaluate its relationship with Panda. 

Nintendo, according to SWT, had also been inconsistent with communication. After months of inconsistent updates, it told the SWT team on November 23 that going forward, SWT's championship wouldn't be allowed to operate. Further, the organization wouldn't be allowed to have any activity in 2023. 

"It felt as though Nintendo simply did not want the Smash World Tour to continue to exist," wrote SWT. "At this point, we now felt we had been strung along this entire time." And when they asked if the Smash World Tour could continue in 2024, the group claimed that Nintendo informed them that "those times were now over." 

"We asked Nintendo multiple times if they had considered the implications of canceling the Championships as well as next year’s Tour," they wrote. "They affirmed that they had considered all variables."

Following the SWT team's post, Nintendo refuted the organization's claims, telling Kotaku it "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."

Shortly after, the organizers provided Nintendo's full statement that said it wouldn't grant SWT a license to operate its 2022 championship or have any 2023 activity, which they claim to have not even applied for yet.

In its closing statement, the SWT team wrote that it is genuinely unsure how much Nintendo is aware of the situation, and just wants the publisher to reconsider its approach to "how it is currently proceeding with their relationship with the Smash community, as well as its partners."

"We are always open to continuing the conversation, and we hope we can be a part of the solution."

Update: Both Nintendo and Panda Global have issued separate statements regarding the end of Smash World Tour. 

Nintendo wrote that its decision to end the tournament wasn't influenced by its relationship with Panda, saying "it’s also important that a partner adheres to brand and IP guidelines and conducts itself according to professional and organizational best practices."

Further, it stated that its call was "solely based on our assessment of the proposals submitted by the SWT and our evaluation of their unlicensed activities. [...] The decision to cancel the SWT 2022 was, and still is, their own choice."

In Panda's statement, it denies that it or CEO Alan Bunney had a hand in SWT's end, calling it a disappointment that the event was cancelled. "Any implication that Panda had any influence in that regard is false."

However, the organization did acknowledge that Bunney previously "spoke in a manner which did not reflect either guidance from Nintendo or our own standards. Panda took efforts to rectify the situation immediately." 

Nintendo confirmed that Panda would "continue to be a key partner," adding that Panda "continues to advocate on behalf of the Super Smash Bros. community, even to the point that Panda has advocated for other organizations and tournaments to work with Nintendo."

Smash World Tour later issued a response to Nintendo's statement, repeating that Nintendo told the organizers the SWT 2022 finals and 2023 events couldn't take place.

"We are struggling to understand why Nintendo contacted us at all last week if they truly wanted us to continue operating," wrote the SWT team. "We are struggling to understand why they would not simply reach out to us after our event, rather than rush to meet with us before the Thanksgiving holiday break, just two weeks before our Championships."

Regarding Nintendo's decision to stand by Panda, SWT wrote that it was "concerning...Nintendo has been aware of Panda’s behavior for quite some time, so much so that they directly told us on multiple occasions that it would be addressed."

"We stand by our initial conclusion of our original statement: we urge Nintendo to please reconsider how they are proceeding in their approach to the Smash community, and to please re-evaluate their relationship with key partners who are causing so much damage."

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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