In a community shattering move, Nintendo is partnering with Panda Global for the first officially licensed series of Super Smash Bros. eSports tournaments in North America. Nintendo not only supports official Super Smash Bros. tournaments, but also events for the GameCube fan favorite Super Smash Bros. Melee.
Nintendo of America today announced the new Smash Bros tournament series. In a tweet, the company said, “Prepare your A-game, great #SmashBros Competitors. We have teamed up with @PandaGlobal to launch the first officially licensed Super Smash Bros. Championship track in North America in 2022! “
Confirmed. Prepare your A game, great #SmashBros Competitors. We have a partnership with @PandaGlobal to open the first officially licensed Super Smash Bros. championship course in North America in 2022! #SmashBrosUltimate #SmashBrosMelee https://t.co/3WKbEYrMH2
– Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 18, 2021
In a press release, Nintendo’s senior director of product marketing, Bill Trinen, called the partnership with Panda Global “the next step in Nintendo’s efforts to create a more consistent, fun and inviting competitive environment for our gamers and fans”.
To describe the Smash community’s relationship with Nintendo as “shaky” would be an understatement. Professional gamers who dedicate their lives and careers to being the best at Smash have come to grips with Nintendo many times over the years, making today’s announcement a giant leap in healing those wounds.
The most famous example dates back to 2013 when Nintendo tried to shut down Melee from an appearance at Evo. When that failed, Nintendo tried to block live streams of the event. After the outrage of the fans, Nintendo immediately reversed the decision and the Melee event took place as planned. However, many gamers believed that Nintendo had played their cards, and from that day onwards, much of the Smash community believed Nintendo was against them.
Over the years Nintendo tried to officially support Smash events. From the Smash Invitation at E3, where pro gamers were invited to try out the new Smash game before it was released, to Nintendo’s sponsorship of smaller tournaments and online events. However, the Smash community didn’t think this was the support they were looking for.
“From the public looking in, we had some game demos or Nintendo booths at some of the events, and maybe a few tweets about the events. There aren’t any huge prize pools or any kind of organization, ”said Christina“ Chia ”Korsak, a longtime member of the Smash Bros. community, in an interview with IGN last year.
Korsak went on to say that Nintendo sponsored events created various problems, such as:
In 2020, the gap between Nintendo and the smash community only seemed to widen as the fighting game community broke into allegations of sexual misconduct involving gamers, organizers, and commentators.
At the time, Nintendo made a statement to IGN saying, “At Nintendo, we are deeply concerned about the allegations made against certain members of the competitive gaming community. They are absolutely inadmissible. We want to make it clear that we condemn all acts “of violence, harassment and exploitation against everyone and that we stand by the side of the victims.”
Later in 2020, several Nintendo gaming communities spoke out against Nintendo and loudly criticized the company’s approach to canceling events with games like Smash Bros. and Splatoon. The backlash came after Nintendo banned the Smash Bros. Melee ‘Big House’ tournament, which is one of the biggest events for the scene. The omission centered on the use of Melee’s unofficial Slippi mod that allows players to play Melee online. At some point the big house the event completely canceled. The cancellation led to the #freemelee movement, a social media movement protesting Nintendo’s decision.
As tensions continued to boil, it seemed like some hardcore Smash players were preparing to jump off Smash and cling to Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, a recently released Melee-inspired platform fighter. The new game was attractive because it came with a fresh developer and publisher, free of the baggage associated with Nintendo and the notoriously strained relationship of the Smash community.
Controller layouts for Pro Smash Bros. Ultimate Players
It remains to be seen how this officially licensed stretch will differ from other events Nintendo has sponsored in the past, but the simple fact that Nintendo recognizes Melee in the first place is already a big change. In general, Nintendo only supports the scene from the newest Smash game which is currently Super Smash Bros. Ultimate from 2018.
Panda Global is a professional esports organization and Nintendo’s decision to work with them could be a more serious attempt to support the competitive scene rather than organizing everything itself. In a press release, Nintendo and Panda Global announced that further details such as official rules, event dates and prices will be announced in the future.
While we wait for official details on this partnership, the Smash pros are already responding to the bomb’s announcement. In response to Nintendo’s tweet, Melee player Juan ‘hungrybox’ called Debiedma “the first day of a bright future” today.
“Thank you for recognizing the competitive hand-to-hand combat and supporting both scenes,” wrote Hungbox. “I look forward to what can be achieved through the cooperation of both parties. It will be very special.”
Today is the first day of a bright future.
Thank you for recognizing the competitive hand-to-hand combat and supporting both scenes.
I am excited to see what can be achieved together with both sides.
It will be something very special. 🙌
– hungerbox (@LiquidHbox) November 18, 2021
Still, some gamers are skeptical of the announcement, given that Nintendo has had a rocky relationship with the community over the years.
“I trust Panda Global has the best interests for the community at heart,” Melee player Hugo ‘HugS’ Gonzalez wrote in a statement to IGN. “Nintendo has proven otherwise over the years. It’s good news if done correctly, but I’m waiting for more details.”
We’ll have to wait and see how Nintendo’s officially licensed circuit develops. For example, there could still be disagreements over melee mods like Slippi and 20XX, or rule set decisions that the community may not agree with. Still, Nintendo is expanding the olive branch to a community with which it has been constantly at odds, which is sure to make for a fascinating chapter in Smash Bros. history.
Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN. You can find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.