Author Topic: Smash World Tour Tournaments Cancelled One Week Before Championships; Nintendo's Involvement Disputed  (Read 674 times)

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Offline Grimace the Minace

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The facts so far.

Smash World Tour, an unofficial Super Smash Bros. circuit run by the eSports team VGBootCamp, announced yesterday that they would be ceasing operations. The tournament series was nearing the end of its 2022 season with championships set to take place during the weekend of December 9th, and the planned 2023 season has also been cancelled. In an open letter shared on Twitter, SWT said that they had been contacted by Nintendo the night before Thanksgiving and told that they would no longer be allowed to run their tournament circuit.

According to the open letter, SWT's organizers were shocked to hear this since they had been in talks with Nintendo over the previous year to acquire a license to operate as an official Nintendo-sponsored event. After the announcement of PandaGlobal's officially-sponsored Panda Cup, Nintendo assured SWT's leadership that their tournaments were not at risk of being shut down and "had represented Nintendo's values well." A key takeaway of the meeting was that Nintendo's primary concern in shutting down tournaments was whether the event made use of unauthorized game modifications, which controversially led to them issuing a cease & desist order to The Big House Online in 2020 due to the use of an online netplay mod for Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Nintendo explained that their partnership with PandaGlobal was not exclusive and allowed SWT to apply for a license, with SWT saying they submitted their application in January of 2022. SWT alleges that after this, PandaGlobal's CEO Alan Bunney began advising tournament organizers not to partner with SWT, claiming that the tournament circuit was going to be shut down. SWT explains that Nintendo dismissed Bunney's claims when asked about them and promised to talk to him about his comments, which continued as both circuits got underway.

Smash World Tour 2021's Grand Finals, screenshot from VGBootcamp.

SWT explains that this back-and-forth continued through 2022 with their license application being delayed several times and tension between the SWT circuit and the Panda Cup continuing behind the scenes. This culminated in a meeting last week where a representative from Nintendo informed SWT that the tournament would not be granted an official license, and that Nintendo would no longer be allowing them to continue operating without one. According to the open letter, Nintendo also denied a request for SWT to be allowed to run their 2023 season with the intention of obtaining a license for a potential 2024 season, with Nintendo's representative telling them that "those times were now over." SWT said in their original letter that they had received Nintendo's notice both verbally and in writing.

After the story broke last night, Kotaku received a statement from Nintendo confirming that SWT's license had not been granted, however Nintendo claimed that they did not request that the 2022 championships be cancelled. SWT quickly followed up by sharing the written statement they received from Nintendo, which said the following:

“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.”

While Nintendo's statement does not directly order SWT to cease and desist, it does clarify that they require a license for any commercial activity featuring their IP. The statement additionally clarifies that they will not be granting that license to SWT for either the 2022 championships or any activities in 2023. This contradicts Nintendo's statement to Kotaku unless Nintendo is trying to capitalize on the technicality that they didn't say SWT had to stop, they just described a situation identical to SWT as one that they do not approve of.

Panda Global CEO, Alan Bunney

There has also been some discussion regarding Nintendo's statement that SWT's health and safety guidelines are not up to Nintendo's standards, since SWT has stricter requirements for the COVID-19 vaccine than the officially-licensed Panda Cup. SWT requires all attendees provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, while the Panda Cup merely recommends attendees follow CDC guidelines that recommend a vaccine. However, the Panda Cup has stricter rules requiring the use of masks indoors, which SWT only recommends attendees do.

At time of publication, SWT's response to Nintendo's statement to Kotaku is the most recent official comment on the matter, so it's likely that there are still developments to come before we know what really happened. However, something that is less disputed is the role PandaGlobal's CEO had in attempting to undermine SWT. A number of representatives from prominent eSports organizations such as Beyond the Summit's David Gorman and Golden Guardians' Tracy Parkes have corroborated SWT's version of events, with Gorman describing Bunney's behavior as "basically running a protection racket." Additional allegations against PandaGlobal have also surfaced, with pro player Niko claiming not to have received his tournament winnings for placing 7th in a Panda-run tournament last month, and Spanish commentator Toon Laguna alleging he has not been paid for translation work for the Panda Cup dating back to July.

After SWT's letter was posted, several players sponsored by Panda Global spoke up against Panda, with Justin "Plup" McGrath saying he believed the Panda Cup should be cancelled. Cody "iBDW" Schwab said that he felt blindsided and betrayed, while Eric "ESAM" Lew simply stated "This is f**ked." Terrence "TKbreezy" Kershaw spoke at length about the news on his Twitch channel where he began jokingly updating his resume to apply for a new job.

At time of publication there has been no official statement from Panda Global or Alan Bunney regarding SWT's letter.

Offline Khushrenada

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Having not paid any attention to the Smash scene, I had a hard time following a lot of what this article was describing or trying to relate. That said, I saw a comment today from someone about the situation summing it up as this:

been catching up on the latest Smash Bros tournament disaster. what a ride
some big one was cancelled mere days before it was due to start, after people had already gotten on planes to fly to it from all over the world

everyone immediately blamed nintendo, called for boycott, pirate their stuff etc., the usual

but it was all because of some OTHER smash tournament doing fake legal threats and ****. nintendo had actually backed this one, but had no idea what was going on

now their CEO has stepped down for harassing people

Is that the actual situation? The rival Smash tourney made up a fake document pretending that Nintendo was cancelling the other tourney? I came to see if there was an update to the article but nothing here to confirm that.
Whoever said, "Cheaters never win" must've never met Khushrenada.

Offline Evan_B

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There might be a bit more to it. Considering “health and safety” definitely has a broad connotation, there have been some recent “safety” violations and a pretty dedicated Twitter campaign organized by banned community members that might have also contributed to Nintendo wanting to distance themselves from both sides of this narrative.
I am a toxic person engaging in toxic behavior.

Offline Khushrenada

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Well, it's like Sakurai always says, "Smash Bros. was a mistake. It's nothing but trash."
Whoever said, "Cheaters never win" must've never met Khushrenada.