Nintendo Continues to Battle an eSports Community Over its Use of Their Video Game

Brian Uhler

For those that read my previous JLA blog post back in October, you’ll remember that Nintendo has had a less than amicable relationship with an eSports community centered around one of their most popular games, Super Smash Bros.[1] Nintendo has been reluctant to allow streaming rights when the Smash Bros. community has wanted to run professional tournaments, and Nintendo has retained a firm grip on its IP rights over its game and how the game may be used. Since the last post, things for the Smash Bros. community have only worsened. On November 29, 2022, the Smash Bros. tournament series “Smash World Tour” announced that it had to not only shut down its end-of-the-season Smash World Tour Championship event which would have taken place in December of 2022, but also its upcoming 2023 Smash World Tour.[2] Smash World Tour’s circuit featured over 6,400 tournaments across the world in 2022, with over 325,000 entrants in total across the tournaments.[3]

Smash World Tour’s event series was one of two different Smash Bros. circuits, the other being the Panda Cup run by Panda Global. In November 2021, after the Panda Cup was first announced, Nintendo contacted the Smash World Tour team and requested a call. This was shortly after Nintendo and Panda had announced the first officially licensed circuit for Smash Bros., and given this timeline, the Smash World Tour team thought that its days were numbered.[4] However, just the opposite seemed to be the case. Nintendo told Smash World Tour that Panda Global’s partnership was not exclusive, and that Nintendo was thankful that Smash World Tour had not infringed on Nintendo’s IP by using game modifications.[5] Smash Bros. tournaments typically use a modification called “Universal Controller Fix,” a slight coding modification that fixes two small glitches in the 2001 Nintendo game’s software which are virtually imperceptible to all but the seasoned, professional Smash Bros. player.[6] In the coming months, Nintendo would be very responsive to Smash World Tour’s communications during the planning stages of its tour. However, when Alan Bunney, the CEO of Panda Global, told many organizers of tournaments on the circuit that they would be shut down if they did not sign up with the Panda Cup, the Smash World Tour team was stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Nonetheless, Nintendo reassured Smash World Tour that Bunney did not speak for Nintendo, and that the license with Panda Cup was not exclusive. Nintendo recommended that Smash World Tour apply for an official license for its circuit, and it did so. Seven months after applying for the license, Smash World Tour had still heard nothing from Nintendo. Then, on November 23 (the day before Thanksgiving), a call from a Nintendo representative delivered the message that Smash World Tour would not be granted a license for the 2022 Championship nor for the 2023 season. Smash World Tour, feeling strung along yet still trying to save its final event of the year, asked whether they could run their tournament without a license (as they had done the year before, seemingly without issue), as to avoid widespread community backlash as well as losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Nintendo stated that they were aware of the waves that this cancellation would cause, and said nothing more on the matter.[7]

On December 2, 2022, Nintendo issued an official response to Smash World Tour’s statement. Nintendo stated that its decision to deny a license to Smash World Tour was based solely on its assessment of the proposals submitted and its evaluation of Smash World Tour’s unlicensed activities. Despite Smash World Tour’s allegation that Nintendo’s actions were done without any warning, Nintendo reiterated that it did not explicitly order Smash World Tour to cancel its event.[8] However, in light of Nintendo’s other actions which seem to give the short end of the stick to the Smash Bros. community, it’s hard to read Nintendo’s actions as anything other than an implied order to shut down the tournament. After all, if it’s illegal to run the tournament without a license and Nintendo explicitly did not grant that license, there’s no realistic scenario in which the small, grassroots Smash Bros. community wins that battle in court against a resource-heavy juggernaut like Nintendo.

Unfortunately, neither the Smash World Tour controversy nor the EVO 2013 streaming permission controversy I wrote about in my last post are isolated incidents.[9] In late 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, popular annual Smash Bros. tournament series “The Big House” sought to host the tenth iteration of its tournament series online, as an in-person event was obviously out of the question. However, because the Smash Bros. game was released in 2001, it has no online capability. Thus, the community developed a software called “Slippi” which allows their beloved game to be played online. The Big House’s 2020 tournament was set to use Slippi to run its tournament during the pandemic, that is, until Nintendo stepped in yet again. Nintendo of America issued a cease-and-desist order forcing the cancellation of The Big House’s tournament during a global pandemic. Nintendo’s reach also applies to players as well as tournament series; top Japanese Smash Bros. player Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto revealed that he is not allowed to livestream himself playing Smash Bros. on Slippi due to Nintendo rules.[10] Similarly, the fan-made “Project M” Smash Bros. game is de facto banned due to Nintendo’s actions. Project M is a modified version of one of the Super Smash Bros. games which modifies the game’s mechanics to become competitively viable like the 2001 Smash Bros. game, Super Smash Bros. Melee. While Nintendo has never formally recognized the game despite its (former) popularity, mentioning “Project M” on Nintendo online forums will result in a ban from those forums, and livestreaming Project M on streaming sites is blocked.[11]

Despite Nintendo’s decisions which continually hamper the Smash Bros. community’s dream of ascending to the status of a top-tier eSport like League of Legends, Fortnite, or Rocket League, the Smash Bros. community remains enthusiastic. Notable streamer Ludwig Ahgren, who began his career in the Smash Bros. community, is now the most recognized individual streamer in the world and had the most subscribers on Twitch before switching to Youtube.[12] Despite him having a following which is likely larger than the entire Smash Bros. community, Ludwig gives back – most recently in the form of a tournament of his own. On December 18, 2022, Ludwig hosted and funded the “Scuffed World Tour,” a tournament bearing the same “SWT” acronym frequently associated with the now-dead Smash World Tour, with all proceeds going to VGBootCamp, the organization behind the Smash World Tour. This tournament was coincidentally won by the aforementioned Masaya “aMSa” Chikamoto.[13] Even with Nintendo stopping the fanatical Smash Bros. community at every turn, it seems that the community will continue to push onward – with or without the support of the creator of their favorite game.



[1] Brian Uhler, Nintendo Clashes with eSports Community Over Streaming Permission, JLA BEAT (Oct. 3, 2022), [] [].

[2] Smash World Tour, Smash World Tour Official Statement, Medium (Nov. 29, 2022), [] [].

[3] Smash World Tour 2022, [] [].

[4] Panda Global (@PandaGlobal), Twitter, (Nov. 18, 2021), []


[5] Smash World Tour, Smash World Tour Official Statement, Medium (Nov. 29, 2022), [] [].

[6] Universal Controller Fix, (Sept. 13, 2020), [] [].

[7] Id.

[8] Matt Kim, Nintendo Issues Full Statement Over Smash World Tour Cancellation, IGN (Dec. 2, 2022), [] [].

[9] Uhler, supra note 1.

[10] Dylan Tate, The Big House Online Canceled Due to Nintendo Cease and Desist, Upcomer (Nov. 19, 2020), [] [].

[11] Jasmin Osman, Super Smash Bros.: The History of Project M, GameRant (Apr. 10, 2022), [] [].

[12] Ludwig, (Jan. 23, 2023), [] [].

[13] Scuffed World Tour, (Dec. 20, 2022), [][].