Nintendo Shuts Down ‘Smash World Tour’ Over Licensing At The Last Possible Second
from the nintendon't dept
It will come as no surprise to any regular reader here when I say that Nintendo is roughly the most annoyingly draconian protector of IP in the video game space. At this point, Techdirt posts discussing Nintendo’s copyright and trademark antics are legion. Notable among those posts for the purposes of this discussion are several online gaming tournaments that Nintendo has allowed to exist, often without a license, but which Nintendo has still been willing to shut down over the use of 3rd party tools that make it possible to stream older games on current hardware and over the internet better. Those shutdowns over the use of tools that have nothing to do with copyright infringement might seem ridiculous to you, but then you simply don’t know just how iron-fisted Nintendo likes to be when it comes to controlling anything that has to do with their products.
But what Nintendo just did to the Smash World Tour is a whole different animal. SWT has always operated as an unlicensed tournament with hundreds of events, at which Nintendo has averted its legal gaze. In 2021, Nintendo announced that a company called Panda Global had become Nintendo’s officially licensed partner for Super Smash Bros. tournaments. SWT reached out to Nintendo asking if that meant it had to shut down, but were told last year that the Panda Global deal was not exclusive. With that, SWT attempted to apply for its own license to continue its tournament.
While licensing discussions continued in early 2022, organizers say the 2022 Smash World Tour was launched without an official license, partly because “we did not have the full scope of our proposal sorted with Nintendo in advance.” But the organizers say they did seek a license for the December championships, submitting an application in April.
Meanwhile, Smash Tour organizers say the CEO of Panda Global started trying to undermine their tour by “tell[ing] organizers we were definitely not coming back in 2022, and if we did, we’d get shut down shortly after announcement.” After Panda Global initially demanded exclusivity for any individual events associated with them, many tournaments operated jointly as part of both the licensed Panda Cup and the unlicensed Smash World Tour in 2022 (Panda Global has not responded to a request for comment from Ars Technica).
During most of this year, while all of that was happening, SWT was still attempting to get licensed through Nintendo, but the talks hit a wall when Nintendo basically stopped responding. Finally, the two sides got back together this past Fall and continued talks about getting licensed.
And then, well…
Then, last Wednesday, they said Nintendo told them in no uncertain terms that they would not be getting a commercial license and that the days of Nintendo tolerating their operation without one “were now over.”
In a statement provided to Kotaku late Tuesday, Nintendo said that despite “continuous conversations” and “deep consideration,” the company was “unable to come to an agreement with SWT for a full circuit in 2023.” That said, Nintendo contends that it “did not request any changes to or cancelation of remaining events in 2022, including the 2022 Championship event, considering the negative impact on the players who were already planning to participate.”
That 2022 championship was slated to take place in December. SWT has since canceled it. As part of the communications around the cancellation, SWT organizers are also calling bullshit on Nintendo’s claims that no requests to shut down the 2022 championship event were even discussed.
In a follow-up statement, though, Smash World Tour cites a written statement from Nintendo saying that tournaments are “expected to secure such a license well in advance of any public announcement” and that the company “will not be able to grant a license for the Smash World Tour Championship 2022 or any Smash World Tour activity in 2023.”
So, where does that leave us? Well, to be clear, Nintendo can keep unlicensed tournaments from happening if it so chooses. It can also make decisions on when to let unlicensed tournaments slide as capriciously as it likes, from year to year.
But as always seems to be the case with this company, Nintendo also went about it in roughly as haphazardly as possible, and with a completely blind eye towards the timeline and the people it was impacting with its decisions. It could have licensed 2022 for free or for very cheaply, just to get this one tourney off as a farewell. It could have communicated better with SWT and gotten further down the licensing route than it did. It could have offered clear guidance to any tourney organizers on what it takes to get licensed.
But Nintendo didn’t do any of that. Instead, they simply told SWT out of the blue to shut it all down and then said publicly that it didn’t really do that. And that’s about as Nintendo as it gets.