Nintendo has a complicated history with its grassroots competitive scenes, but the company has never sunk this low before. The Japanese developer behind some of the biggest mascots in all of video gaming released a new set of community tournament guidelines on Tuesday that goes into effect on Nov. 15.
According to these new rules, tournaments including Nintendo games can’t generate revenue, can only have 200 in-person or 300 online players, entry fees can’t be more than $20, and prize pools can’t be higher than $5,000. If that wasn’t restrictive enough, tournaments can’t accept “goods, services, money, etc” from sponsors or sell “food, beverages, or merchandise.” Modified versions of games, like Project M or Slippi — which update the highly popular but outdated “Super Smash Bros Melee” — are entirely banned. If you want to advertise your event, you also can’t put the names or logos of any Nintendo brands on your flyer, so people are just going to have to infer what they will be playing.
Though the tournament guidelines apply to all of Nintendo’s properties, Smash Bros is the only one that really has a thriving esports scene. “Splatoon,” the Nintendo shooter where you control a squid-person, does have a small collegiate scene, and Nintendo has put minimal effort into their own “Splatoon” championship tournament, but it’s never reached anywhere close to the same level.
For tournament organizers that want to run bigger events, like Super Smash Con and Genesis, which offer more than a $10,000 prize pool in 12 months, they’ll need to fill out a license form and get Nintendo’s approval. The forms won’t be available until November, and what parameters Nintendo will be looking for is still unclear.
Some fans and online creators have been quite vocal about their disdain for these new rules across social media. YouTuber FawfulsMinion wrote, “They just killed Smash Bros as an esport.”
YouTuber PapaGenos wrote, “The future of Smash Bros tournaments is in jeopardy.”
“I have legitimately never seen a game so successful yet so hated by its developers that the simple act of enjoying the product is an act of defiance against its creators,” wrote one X user.
Not everybody has jumped straight to thinking that this is the end of Nintendo esports. Alex Jebailey, founder of events organization CEO Gaming, wrote that he’s “confident all established events are fine and now have an easier avenue to apply for licensing.” Head of esports organization Luminosity Alex Gonzalez shared, “Nintendo’s new ‘Community Tournament’ guidelines aren’t significantly different than what we see from publishers and esports.”
These new rules do share some similarities with other esports, though they don’t nearly go as far. EA’s “Apex Legends” only allows an entry of $20 and a maximum prize pool of $10,000. Riot Game’s “League of Legends” caps out their maximum prize pool at $12,000 non-cash prizes. Neither limit the concession stand or completely ban sponsorship.
Nintendo has notoriously been very difficult to collaborate with for tournaments, only partnering for the first time with any organizer in 2021. They’ve even shut down large-scale tournaments, like the Smash World Tour, which had over 325,000 in-person entrants at their last 2022 event. In late 2022, “without any warning,” the convention organizers could “no longer operate” at the request of Nintendo.
Outside the esports space, Nintendo has been notorious for targetting creators it sees as infringing on its intellectual property rights. In April, Nintendo gave 28 channel strikes to YouTuber Eric “PointCrow” Morino after he posted videos with modified versions of “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” In the wake of that news, creators urged Nintendo to hold the creators who contribute to the hype cycle around game releases in higher regard.
“It will be difficult for any content creator to post creative concepts,” PointCrow argued, “without having the fear of Nintendo exercising their copyright over their video.”
Nintendo is one of the most powerful brands in gaming and can do whatever it wants with its intellectual property. But even in the face of insurmountable defeat with the new tournament guidelines, the Smash Bros community will continue to hold on.
Juan “HungryBox” DeBiedma, one of the best “Super Smash Bros Melee” players who runs his own CoinBox event, said on stream after the announcement that he doesn’t plan on stopping.
“I will run it every fucking week until I receive word from them directly, I’m not going to stop out of fear,” DeBiedma said.
What are your thoughts on Nintendo’s new tournament guidelines? Email [email protected] to let us know.