Two weeks before the Smash World Tour (SWT) was set to leap into the global limelight for the first time, its wings were cut – and now Nintendo and SWT organizers are pointing fingers. But amid the infighting, there’s a community that has been sidelined and disappointed yet again.
If you’ve been following the news around Smash Bros Ultimate and the World Tour cancellation, then you might be feeling confused. I, for one, found it quite difficult to get my head around the dumpster fire of bickering, finger-pointing, and legions of upset fans.
In a statement to IGN, Nintendo said that it had “notified the SWT that [it] would not license their 2022 or 2023 activities”; this is where the problem began. The reasons remain unclear, with both sides claiming different realities.
Nintendo says that it “was not requiring [SWT] cancel the 2022 finals event because of the impact it would have on players”. However, in an open letter, the organizers of SWT claimed that “it felt as though Nintendo simply did not want the Smash World Tour to continue to exist,” and that they “had been strung along this entire time”.
Whatever the truth is, the result of this misalignment was that merely two weeks before the tournament was due to start, it was canceled. This resulted in thousands of players and fans being disappointed again, so I talked to some Smash Bros players about what it’s really like to play a game that doesn’t want to be played.
Press X to doubt
A lack of official Nintendo support isn't new for the competitive Smash community. “I can think of a similar experience that happened before”, Smash Bros player Trillbi tells me, saying how Nintendo shut down a modified version of Super Smash Bros Brawl called Project M.
Project M was intended to modify the fighting mechanics in Brawl to better reflect those in the previous game, Super Smash Bros. Melee A lot of competitive Smash Bros players were disappointed with Brawl, saying its battle systems had been altered to appeal to more casual gamers. Project M was made to have a version of the Super Smash Bros. Brawl that could be played on the competitive scene.
“Nintendo didn’t like modifications with their games, so they asked community figureheads to try and clamp down on this adaptation,” Trillbi explains.
While Project M developers denied that their decision to leave behind the fan-made game was due to direct pressure from Nintendo, there are still players like Trillbi that associate the death of competitive Smash with Nintendo’s involvement, be that direct or indirect. “Every time we have done something with [Nintendo], it’s done nothing but blow up in our face,” Trillbi says. “It happened with Project M, the modification, and now it’s happened with the Smash World Tour”.
Last year, Nintendo of America shut down the highly anticipated Riptide Smash Bros event as the organizers planned to feature a variant of Project M known as Project+. The event's organizer took to Twitter to explain that “Riptide was contacted recently by a Nintendo of America, Inc. representative regarding our Project+ events”. This decision was made despite the event taking place completely offline and the mod requiring disc copies to work, so this was not a case of piracy. “For a game that’s nearly 15 years old and, for the most part, [that] you can’t buy anymore, it seems strange,” Trillbi says, adding that Nintendo “needs to get with the times”.
Nintendo in 2013: Tries to shut down EvoNintendo from 2014-2019: Consistently blocks sponsorship chances for the sceneNintendo in 2015: Shuts down PM at ApexNintendo in 2017: Reason we can't have UCF Nintendo in 2020: Shuts down TBHNintendo in 2021: Shuts down P+ at Riptide https://t.co/QfM3X2fMLAAugust 27, 2021
What to do?
“They have the right to shut down tournaments, but their excuses make no sense”, Scottish Smash Bros player Octave says.
The problem encountered by all the players I interviewed is that they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Nintendo won’t license formal tournaments, but when fans try to take matters into their own hands, it can come back to bite them. The biggest disincentive and obstacle to competitive Smash Bros is Nintendo itself; commenting on this, Trillbi points out that “there’s no money in this game because of its creator, and that’s heartbreaking”.
Many professional Smash fighters have been forced to leave the community and venture elsewhere to make a living. Japan’s highest-ranked Smash player announced in a Youtube stream earlier this year that he was leaving the game to join Pokémon Unite. He noted that the Pokémon Tournament season has more impressive cash prizes, with $1 million / £818,500 / AUD$1,478,800 in Championship prizes and a US$500,000 / £409,000 / AUD$739,3000 prize at Worlds.
The Super Smash Bros Ultimate European Circuit was the closest we’ve seen to a professional Smash circuit. This was the first time Nintendo of Europe openly collaborated with DreamHack, which was a great step forward. Unfortunately, these tournaments are few and far between.
Octave summarised his feelings on the situation by simply explaining how he “would like to either see them [Nintendo] give us more support or just leave us alone”. The Smash community doesn’t seem to be asking for much; they just want to play the game in peace.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.