The Smash World Tour has announced that both the upcoming championship tournament and the 2023 Smash World Tour have been canceled after Nintendo demanded the event organizers cease operations “without any warning.”
As reported by Kotaku, the third-party event was one of the largest fighting game competitions in the esports scene. “In 2022 alone, we connected over 6,400 live events worldwide, with over 325,000 in-person entrants, making the Smash World Tour (SWT, or the Tour) the largest esports tour in history, for any game title,” said Smash World Tour in a statement addressing the shutdown. “The Championships would also have had the largest prize pool in Smash history at over $250,000.”
The championship was due to take place between December 9th and 11th, with tournament organizers receiving notice of the shutdown the night before Thanksgiving — despite Nintendo having allegedly offered the event a licensing agreement in November last year. The offer came just after the Japanese gaming giant announced the Panda Cup, its only officially licensed tournament circuit for Super Smash Bros. in partnership with esports brand Panda.
Nintendo “made it clear that Panda’s partnership was not exclusive”
“They made it clear that Panda’s partnership was not exclusive, and they said it had ‘not gone unnoticed’ that we had not infringed on their IP regarding game modifications and had represented Nintendo’s values well,” says the open letter from SWT, which claims “Nintendo was being consistently straightforward, transparent, and direct” in answering the team’s questions at that time. The statement goes on to accuse Alan Bunney, Panda CEO and co-founder, of sabotage, claiming he discouraged Smash World Tour 2022 tournament organizers by falsely informing them that the event was being shut down and that any events that participated in the Panda Cup would not be allowed to be on the Smash World Tour.
In a statement to Kotaku responding to the SWT team’s open letter, Nintendo said, “Unfortunately after continuous conversations with Smash World Tour, and after giving the same deep consideration we apply to any potential partner, we were unable to come to an agreement with SWT for a full circuit in 2023. Nintendo did not request any changes to or cancellation of remaining events in 2022, including the 2022 Championship event, considering the negative impact on the players who were already planning to participate.”
This has since already been disputed by the SWT team, who claim to have “asked Nintendo multiple times if they had considered the implications of canceling the Championships as well as next year’s Tour” and that Nintendo “affirmed that they had considered all variables.”
Given the company’s aggressive copyright enforcement, this isn’t the first time that Nintendo has forced grassroots competitions using its games to stop operating, having similarly shut down a Super Smash Bros. tournament in 2020. Nintendo also notably ordered Evo — the world’s largest fighting game tournament — to shut down a planned Melee event in 2013 before reversing the decision.
The Smash World Tour said it will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the shutdown but reassures all attendees of the canceled events that they will be issued full refunds.