Smash World Tour in jeopardy after Nintendo reportedly refuses to grant licence

30 November 2022


 Smash World Tour
Image credit: Smash World Tour

The upcoming Smash World Tour Championships, as well as the entirety of the 2023 Smash World Tour, has been cancelled, the organisers shared via a statement.

The cancellation is due to a notice sent by Nintendo, the developer of Super Smash Bros, to the organisers of the Smash World Tour. As a result, there will be no Smash World Tour tournaments going forward, but the organisers did plea to Nintendo to reevaluate its decision.

The Tour, as it’s known, was one of the largest FGC tournament series in esports and has helped dozens of organisers create Super Smash Bros tournaments. The tournament series also had the highest prize pool of any Super Smash Bros tournament and planned to increase it from $250,000 (~£208,000) to over $350,000 (~£291,000) for 2023. However, in a statement shared via Medium, the organisers of the Tour announced that they will no longer be able to create events.

The news comes after the largest fighting game tournament in the world, EVO, also didn’t feature Super Smash Bros. The company said that the decision was made by Nintendo earlier this year.

Super Smash Bros esports recently had its first official licensed tournaments through Nintendo’s partnership with esports company Panda Global. The aim of the partnership, first signed in 2021, was to create better Smash tournaments in North America and to improve the quality of the competitive landscape.

According to the Smash World Tour organisers, the partnership between Nintendo and Panda Global saw Panda Global make moves towards tournament organisers to convince them to join the Panda Cup, the flagship tournament series organised by both parties. Panda Global CEO also allegedly reached out to tournament organisers that were part of the Tour, saying that the Tour will be shut down. According to Smash World Tour, Nintendo assured the company that is not the case.

Another allegation comes in the form of a relationship between Beyond The Summit, a tournament organiser, and Panda Global. According to Smash World Tour, the CEO of Panda Global “wanted broadcasting rights to be included as part of the deal of the events joining the Panda Cup.”

BTS declined, and according to a tweet from David Gorman, the Managing Partner at Beyond The Summit, “Alan (Alan Bunnay, Panda CEO) spent several months basically running a protection racket telling TO’s including BTS ‘it’d be a shame if your event got shutdown for being unlicensed’ in an effort to scare them into signing onto the Cup.”

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After a number of events declined to participate in the Panda Cup, the company, according to Smash World Tour, started recruiting events which were part of the Smash World Tour. However, due to rules from Nintendo, a single event could not count towards two tournament series, so organisers mostly stayed with the Smash World Tour, since the tournament was already underway.

After the Panda Cup was announced in May 2022, communication between Nintendo and Smash World Tour reportedly slowed. Smash World Tour shared via Medium: “Nintendo expects us to only operate with a commercial license, and that we would not be granted one for the upcoming Championships, or any activity in 2023.”

This meant that the Tour can no longer go on, and according to Smash World Tour, Nintendo did not explain the reasoning behind it which is unusual given the importance of the Tour to the Smash community.

In a statement to Kotaku, 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.”

The Smash World Tour then detailed that the company did, in fact, receive written notice that 2022 events are also cancelled, and expressed wonder why Nintendo took this approach.

The community backlash against the shutdown was felt immediately. Esports organisations FlyQuest and BeastCoast, as well as Beyond the Summit were among those who characterised the move as unfair and unreasonable.

Ivan Šimić
Ivan comes from Croatia, loves weird simulator games, and is terrible at playing anything else. Spent 5 years writing about tech and esports in Croatia, and is now doing it here.