Super Smash Bros. Fans Freak Out About New Nintendo Rules

Nintendo’s relationship with the grassroots competitive scene around its Super Smash Bros. games has never been great, But today it may have hit an all-time low. Fans of the company’s enormously popular fighting game franchise are collectively freaking out about a new set of tournament guidelines that some believe would essentially destroy the existing Smash esports scene.

Posted on October 24 on Nintendo’s UK, Japan, and North America websites, the rules set strict limits on all “community” tournaments. According to the new guidelines, in addition to being nonprofit events, Smash tournaments would also be limited to 200 participants, unable to set prizes above $5,000, unable to have sponsors, and forbidden from using modified versions of Nintendo games, like the popular “Project M” hack of Super Smash Bros. Melee. Tournament organizers wouldn’t even be allowed to sell food, beverages, or merchandise.

While the guidelines don’t ban all commercial tournaments outright, they do require the companies behind those events to get special licenses directly from Nintendo. However, the company states that it’s “up to Nintendo’s sole discretion whether or not a licensee will be granted to a corporation or organization.” Given Nintendo’s track-record, many fans are worried this will lead some of these restrictions to trickle down to bigger esports events, or make holding a Smash Bros. tournament too much of a headache to even bother with in the first place.

“Ah yes, it is that time of the year where Nintendo remembers to ruin the day of every Smash player,” tweeted Samuel “Dabuz” Buzby, one of the top-ranked players in the world. “Fuck Nintendo, they are like a 5 year old screaming for attention at all times when it comes to competitive Smash,” tweeted Adam “Armada” Lindgren, long considered one of the “five gods” of Smash Bros. Melee.

Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, one of the other “five gods,” threatened to continue running his own tournaments until Nintendo’s lawyers reached out to him in person. “I’m running Coinbox,” he said during a recent livestream. “I’m gonna keep running it in January, I’m gonna keep running it in February, March, and April, I will run it every fucking week until I receive word from them directly. I’m not going to stop out of fear. They have to come to me directly with the document. Until then I’m calling their fucking bluff.”

DeBiedma has long criticized Nintendo for failing to back its competitive community the way other video game companies do, most notably Capcom with Street Fighter. Nintendo famously tried to ban the Melee finals from being broadcast at Evo 2013 before eventually backing down in the face of a massive backlash. But that neglect has been turning hostile in recent years, with Nintendo accused of shutting down various tournaments over their inclusion of third-party, fan-developed services and modifications to its games. Then after Sony bought Evo in 2022, organizers of the biggest fighting game tournaments of the year, Nintendo pulled Smash Bros. from the event entirely.

The company was supposed to have its own Smash Bros. league organized by Panda Global. However, following a drama-filled cancellation of Video Game Boot Camp’s Smash World Tour event in 2022, many accused Nintendo and Panda Global of colluding to squash competing tournaments. An ensuing boycott of Panda’s league eventually led it to disband at the start of 2023. After Nintendo announced its new tournament guidelines today, someone allegedly leaked a Panda Global pitch deck for its Smash Bros. league, and it appeared to point toward a generous collaboration between Panda Global and Nintendo—the type of competitive circuit pros have long asked for, with sizable payments to host organizers to help with costs.

Nintendo’s new guidelines into effect beginning November 15, 2023. That happens to be right after the dates for Port Priority 8 in Seattle, Washington, one of the many tournaments that would be banned under these new rules. Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update 10/25/2023 8:20 a.m. ET: Added a link to the North American guidelines which are identical to the European and Japanese sets.



Super Smash Bros. Got YouTuber Ludwig In Trouble With Nintendo

Gaming YouTuber Ludwig Ahgren, widely known as Ludwig, has claimed that Nintendo came for his throat with a “baby cease-and-desist” letter a few months ago. The move was prompted by modifications he wanted to make to the company’s supremely popular crossover fighter Super Smash Bros. Melee for the sake of a tournament he was running.

Read More: Nintendo Says It ‘Cares’ About Smash Bros. Fans As Tournament Dispute Continues [Update]

In an October 25 video titled “I Got Sued by Nintendo,” Ludwig revealed that a few months prior, Nintendo had sent him a Notice of Infringement of Intellectual Property, a formal document stating the person in question is using an IP without proper authorization by the copyright owner. At the time, Ludwig was considering using a version of Super Smash Bros. Melee’s Pokémon Stadium stage in his tournament—the Ludwig Ahgren Championship Series—that had been modified so that it didn’t randomly transform.

“I’d show you the paperwork and verify it, but [Nintendo] did post my address in, like, ink in the background of every single piece of paper in this notice of infringement, so I can’t actually show you,” Ludwig said. “But to my very, very small understanding—I am a YouTuber after all—it’s basically like a baby cease-and-desist. Because rather than saying, ‘Hey, you must stop and never do this,’ [Nintendo’s] like, ‘Hey, you must stop and then follow our rules. You cannot use your rules.’”

Mogul Mail

On October 24, Nintendo announced a slew of new restrictions that fundamentally change Super Smash Bros. tournaments. Now, any event connected to the game must have a maximum of 200 participants, a $5,000 prize pool cap, no sponsors, and make use of an unmodified version of the game. Commercial tourneys by larger organizers, such as Video Game Boot Camp (VGBC), must get a special license from Nintendo to happen. This has led the community, from casuals to pros, to mourn what could be the end of the game’s esports scene.

It makes sense that folks feel some type of way about this. Nintendo doesn’t have the greatest track record of supporting the grassroots efforts of the Super Smash Bros. community. Late last year, in fact, the company was caught in a tense dispute with pro players and tournament organizers over the canceled Smash World Tour event. Things got so heated that folks began boycotting events with partnered Nintendo orgs like professional esports outfit Panda Global. It’s hard to say what the future of Smash Bros. events will look like.

Kotaku reached out to Ludwig and Nintendo for comment.

Read More: Nintendo Shuts Down Smash World Tour, Organizers ‘Losing Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars’ [Updates]

One thing is for sure, though: Nintendo can’t kill people’s love of the game. As pro player Joseph “Mang0″ Marquez says in a quote Ludwig plays at the end of his video: “I’ll play Melee in my fucking mind. As long as Melee lives, I will play [it], and if you take it all, we’ll fucking play [it] in a garage.”