Nintendo rolled out a new set of tournament rules for its games and while there were fears of it killing the Super Smash Bros. scene for good, that may not actually be the case.
In a statement released on October 24, 2023, Nintendo announced new rules for fan tournaments involving Nintendo-owned properties. While this affects a long list of games, likely including Pokemon, the Smash Bros. franchise is the most affected by these new rules. Nintendo has made several moves in the past that have undermined the viability of competitive Smash Bros.
While the latest rule changes were met with panic and frustration, some key figures in competitive Smash are indicating that things might be better off after these changes. Early skepticism has given way to some positivity regarding the future of the scene.
What are the new rules Nintendo has set for fan tournaments?
Nintendo’s new rules for community tournaments have restricted the number of participants, significantly lowered the prize pool, and have strict rules limiting monetization.
The new rules set by Nintendo for fan tournaments put some heavy restrictions on revenue potential for many tournaments and give the company broad authority to shut down any event it wants. Here are the highlights of the rules:
- Community tournaments are not allowed to generate any commercial revenue unless permitted by Nintendo’s guidelines
- Only 200 participants are allowed for in-person tournaments and 300 for online tournaments
- Organizers must not be compensated by any third-party sponsors, nor generate any revenue from the sale of food, beverage, or merchandise
- Tournament prizes must not exceed $5,000 USD nor include any items prohibited by Nintendo’s guidelines
- Accounting for the event must be promptly publicized by the organizers
These new rules were met with backlash from major figures in competitive Smash, who voiced worry about the future of the game. However, these rules apply to tournaments that are not licensed by Nintendo. Commercial tournament organizers have the ability to apply for a license that allows them to continue putting together large, for-profit events.
Is the competitive scene for Smash Bros. dead?
Competitive Smash Bros. is not dead with Nintendo’s new tournament rules, but the changes limits who can run tournaments and how they are organized.
While it’s too soon to make any claims about the future of the Smash Bros. competitive scene, it’s not looking good for those who have run afoul of Nintendo. Tournaments that use Slippi, a modded version of Super Smash Bros. Melee, are likely doomed with these rules. For-profit tournaments run by individuals, like Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma’s Coinbox series, are also in a precarious position regardless of what game they’re playing.
Individuals in and around actual established tournament organizers have expressed optimism about the move, however.
“Though inconvenient, if managed openly and for the mass benefit of organizers across the entire scene, this process will actually grant legitimacy to organizers…For investors and partners, this has always been a massive red flag inhibiting sustainable monetization in the scene,” Harris Peskin of esports-focused law firm ESG Law said on Twitter.
Nintendo’s previous hostility towards Smash tournaments has many worried, however.
Nintendo famously tried to shut down a Melee tournament at Evo in 2013 after fans of the game won a charity drive to have it added to the event. Since then, the company has taken a number of aggressive measures against major events related to Smash.
In November 2022, the Smash World Tour was unexpectedly shut down mere days before its championship matches. The organizers said this sudden cancellation cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars and left many players who had already spent money on travel and hotel reservations suddenly without a reason to be there. These new rules could be the nail in the coffin for community tournaments.