Organizers of the Smash World Tour announced this week that the upcoming Smash World Tour Championships and the 2023 Smash World Tour have been canceled because Nintendo has told the organization that it is not allowed to operate events related to its series of Super Smash Bros. games.
“Without any warning, we received notice the night before Thanksgiving from Nintendo that we could no longer operate,” an official statement on Medium reads. “This was especially shocking given our discourse with Nintendo the past twelve months. Since then, we have been working around the clock to take the proper steps logistically, as well as to prepare this statement with proper legal guidance.”
The statement went on to say that the number “tournament organizers, competitors, and fans” that this will affect on a global basis can not be overstated and that the organization will lose “hundreds of thousands of dollars” as it issues refunds to fans and tries to deal with contractual obligations with sponsors and other stakeholders.
As for why this happened, the Smash World Tour claims that Panda Global, which signed a partnership with Nintendo in 2021 for the Panda Cup, had a lot to do with the situation. In November of 2021 after the Panda Cup was announced, SWT claims that it spoke with Nintendo, who assured them that “Panda’s partnership was not exclusive” and that its primary concern was related only to “game modifications.”
But while SWT was having positive conversations with Nintendo, Panda Global and its CEO Alan Bunney were allegedly telling tournament organizers that the SWT would be shut down and taking part in it could put their events in jeopardy because they were not officially licensed, instead urging them to join the Panda Cup. Bunney and Panda Global have denied these allegations, but do acknowledge a regrettable conversation with Beyond The Summit on the subject. Beyond the Summit’s LDeeep claims that Bunney spent months pushing TOs to join the Panda Cup:
“Alan [Bunney] spent several months basically running a protection racket telling TOs including BTS ‘it’d be a shame if your event got shutdown for being unlicensed” in an effort to scare them into signing onto the Cup,'” he wrote on Twitter.
Both Nintendo and Panda Global have since issued statements denying SWT’s accusations. Panda Global issued a statement on Friday denying that it had any involvement or influence in the SWT December event being canceled or trying to squeeze out SWT in favor of its own Smash events. The organization said that it was as supsried as anyone else that SWT had canceled its event taking place this month, and denied accusations that it had an part in its cancelation.
Speaking to Kotaku, a Nintendo rep. told the publication that it was ultimately unable to come to an agreement with SWT, but did not force the TO to abandon this year’s competition:
“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.”
This was challenged SWT, who responded by saying that Nintendo told them the following in writing:
“It is Nintendo’s expectation that an approved license be secured in order to operate any commercial activity featuring Nintendo IP. It is also expected to secure such a license well in advance of any public announcement. After further review, we’ve found that the Smash World Tour has not met these expectations around health & safety guidelines and has not adhered to our internal partner guidelines. Nintendo will not be able to grant a license for the Smash World Tour Championship 2022 or any Smash World Tour activity in 2023.”
Nintendo reponded by saying that it verbally told SWT that it did not have to cancel its 2022 event:
“When we notified the SWT that we would not license their 2022 or 2023 activities, we also let them know verbally that we were not requiring they cancel the 2022 finals event because of the impact it would have on players. Thus, the decision to cancel the SWT 2022 was, and still is, their own choice.”
All of this has created a public outcry in the Smash competitive community, but there appears to be some solidarity among fans and TOs in opposition of Panda Global, Nintendo, and the Panda Cup, at least on social media. It should be noted that Nintendo has been at odds with its own community for years, doing things that have made it very difficult to create and foster an esports ecosystem around its IPs.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops.