Super Smash Bros. is one of the most unique and recognizable fighting game series currently available, and yet, it has almost never received the kind of developer support typical for games of the size.
According to an anonymous fan letter, Nintendo has been directly responsible for stopping, delaying, or confusing organizers who attempted to incorporate the Super Smash Bros. titles into their esports events.
While the accusations were delivered from an anonymous source, the general sentiment has been shared by many well known competitive Super Smash Bros. players.
How Nintendo stifles the competitive Super Smash Bros. community
It’s no secret that Nintendo has been very controlling regarding where and how Super Smash Bros. titles can be featured at competitive events.
They even went as far as issuing a cease and desist letter against The Big House, the “longest running major Smash tournament in the US,” for using a modified version of Super Smash Bros. Melee, that featured an updated netcode and online support.
According to the anonymous letter, Nintendo’s iron-grip over the Super Smash Bros. titles extends beyond independent tournament organizers.
“For years, we had the viewership, the engagement, and the fanbase to say that we were a top esport, but we lacked official sanctioning from our developer.”
Apparently, MLG, ESL, Eleague, Redbull, and Twitch have all attempted to establish a partnership with Nintendo. These partnerships were reportedly very one sided, with Nintendo offering no support and being offered full ownership and control.
Despite these very generous terms, Nintendo still either refused to answer requests, backed out of partnership deals, or outright blocked organizations from establishing their own long-running league.
Nintendo’s restrictions on competitive Smash have a history
Without ever outright stating their disapproval of the Super Smash Bros. community, Nintendo’s actions have been responsible for limiting Smash in the past.
While the cease and desist against The Big House might have been the latest instance of Nintendo trying to shut down a competitive Super Smash Bros. event, it wasn’t the first, nor the highest profile.
Nintendo publicly pushed to have Super Smash Bros. Melee removed from the EVO 2013 stream lineup, prompting massive fan backlash that led to Nintendo reversing their decision. According to the anonymous Smash player:
“They famously reversed their reprehensible decision to shut down Melee’s stream at EVO 2013 after we raised close to $100,000 to fight breast cancer. We caused a ruckus on the internet, and 5 hours later, we were back on stream at EVO.”
This kind of adversarial relationship between a competitive community and the company responsible for making the game is unique, with most fighting game companies being very supportive of their competitive communities.
There has never been a clear reason as to why Nintendo has taken such an oppositional approach. However, it’s obvious that this negative relationship has shaped the Smash community into what it is today, for better and for worse.
Without corporate support, the Super Smash Bros. community has largely been responsible for organizing their own events, irrespective of Nintendo’s opinion.
While it can’t be said whether or not Nintendo will start fully supporting the Smash community any time soon, at the very least, this could galvanize the Super Smash Bros. community into taking matters into their own hands.