Nintendo has shared a lengthy statement in response to recent claims it told organisers of the unofficial Smash World Tour that the popular fan competition, including this month's concluding Smash World Tour Championships, could "no longer operate".
The Smash World Tour, an "international tournament circuit in which competitors for both Ultimate and Melee can qualify for the Smash World Tour Championships", is described by organisers as the "the largest esports tour in history, for any game title". This year's event, which ran between March and November, incorporated 6,400 live events around the world, attracting 325,000 in-person entrants.
With the tour now concluded, this year's Smash World Tour Championships was due to beheld between 9th-11th December, but organisers announced on Tuesday (as reported by Kotaku) they had "received notice the night before Thanksgiving from Nintendo that we could no longer operate". As such, December's Championships and the entirety of next year's Smash World Tour have been cancelled.
At the time of its announcement, organisers said Nintendo's actions meant it would be "losing hundreds of thousands of dollars". It added the move was also something of a surprise, given that Nintendo had last year reached out "to see if [it was] interested in working with them and pursuing a license as well".
Further complicating matters, Smash World Tour organisers accused the CEO of esports company Panda Global, which does have an official license to hold Smash Bros. competitions as required by Nintendo, of attempting to "sabotage" its World Tour efforts in 2022. More on that can be found in the full SWT statement.
In response to organisers' initial claims, Nintendo released a statement acknowledging it was "unable to come to an agreement with SWT for a full circuit in 2023". However, it denied requesting the cancellation of any remaining events in 2022, including December's Championship event, "considering the negative impact on the players who were already planning to participate."
Organisers went on to rebuff Nintendo's version of events, citing a written document in which the company had said it would "not be able to grant a license for the Smash World Tour Championship 2022 or any Smash World Tour activity in 2023." However, Nintendo has provided Eurogamer with a second, far lengthier statement, further stressing it was happy for this year's Championship to go ahead as planned.
"When we notified the SWT that we would not license their 2022 or 2023 activities," the company wrote, "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."
Expectedly, organisers have now released another follow-up statement, writing, "We are struggling to understand why Nintendo contacted us at all last week if they truly wanted us to continue operating. 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 event."
The statement is less clear-cut in disputing Nintendo's claims a verbal agreement was made to specifically allow December's Smash World Tour Championship to proceed, instead referring to a previously mentioned call in which organisers say they asked the company "if we could continue to run the upcoming Championships and the 2023 Tour with the 'unofficial' mutual understanding that we would not be shut down." To which it's claimed, "We were told directly that those 'times are over.'"
The full SWT statement once again highlights concerns around Panda Global's behaviour and goes on to question "what Nintendo's statement means for tournament organisers in general, and the potential implications made about unlicensed events". It ends with organisers insisting they "stand by [their] initial conclusion of our original statement" and "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."
It's clearly a messy and difficult situation, but hopefully, with Nintendo having twice now given public approval for this year's Smash World Tour Championship to go ahead, organisers can still find a way to hold the event and bring the 2022 competition to a close.
Here's Nintendo's latest statement in full:
Nintendo would like to explain to all Super Smash Bros. fans and interested parties the background and rationale related to our decision to not grant a license to the Smash World Tour (SWT) for their upcoming activities.
Nintendo’s decision was solely based on our assessment of the proposals submitted by the SWT and our evaluation of their unlicensed activities. This decision was not influenced by any external parties such as Panda Global. Any partner that we grant a license to has to meet the high standards we require when it comes to the health and safety of our fans. It’s also important that a partner adheres to brand and IP guidelines and conducts itself according to professional and organisational best practices. We use this same approach to independently assess all partners. If we discover that a partner is doing something inappropriate, we will work to correct it.
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.
We are open to partnering with other organisations and will continue to offer licenses for major tournaments outside of the Panda Cup. Panda Global will continue to be a key partner and we look forward to receiving proposals from other groups for tournament licenses. In the meantime, Panda continues to advocate on behalf of the Super Smash Bros. community, even to the point that Panda has advocated for other organisations and tournaments to work with Nintendo, such as The Big House and the organisers of the SWT to benefit the larger Super Smash Bros. community.
Nintendo cares about Super Smash Bros. fans and its community very much, and we hope to continue to hear their passionate feedback. We are committed to working hard to bring joy and fun to the community through tournaments while also ensuring we and our partners are operating in a manner that is positive and responsible.