Nintendo’s involvement in the Super Smash Bros. competitive scene has always been distant at best and detrimental at worst, and that hasn’t changed in 2023. After a new set of Nintendo tournament guidelines and a leaked docket of data for the now-defunct Panda Cup, players don’t know what to think of the changes set to happen starting later this year.
Throughout Oct. 24, an update to Nintendo’s Community Tournament Guidelines was released in various regions, sharing new requirements and restrictions that will go into effect starting on Nov. 15. This included limitations on how tournaments without an official Nintendo license can monetize their events, how many players can compete, and overall prizing.
This was met with immediate uproar from Smash and other Nintendo communities that are concerned with what these new guidelines will do to their events, especially locals or smaller regional events. And, even though the Panda Cup isn’t coming back, some TOs who were in the know on that circuit are sharing cautionary tales—including a leaked overview of what Panda was planning.
Using a burner account on Twitter, a “Tournament Organizer whose event was originally scheduled for Panda Cup 2023” shared a full pitch deck of the event when Panda entered negotiations with them at some point in 2022 before things went under. This featured an overview of production tools, dates for 2023 events that never happened, and a deep dive into offerings like sponsorship details and Nintendo licensing limitations.
You can see in the presentation that Panda offered TOs two different packages depending on whether the event wanted to run the broadcast and certain elements themselves or would allow Panda to have exclusive broadcast rights and proceed as a “Nintendo Friendly” event. That second option, which was called the Partnership Package, would also include what looks to be a, still confidential, five-figure payment within 30 days of the event’s completion.
This is the first time details for Panda Cup opt-in and partnership offers have been shown publicly for the 2023 circuit that was canceled when Panda went under. Dot Esports has also confirmed with former Panda employees that this information is accurate and was shared with various TOs.
Additionally, this anonymous account mentioned that the new Nintendo tournament guidelines were likely “always going to be implemented” and certain factors may have led to an escalation recently. They noted Super Smash Con, a major tournament that concluded its 2023 iteration on Aug. 13, could have played a part by ignoring a cease and desist from Nintendo this year.
Based on the updated guidelines, SSC could have been handed a C&D based on its tournament name since Nintendo specifically brought up not using company IP or names in branding or marketing. Despite these claims, multiple sources were unable to concretely confirm to Dot Esports that a C&D was handed to the SSC organizers from Nintendo—though rumblings of a “C&D going through legal” at Nintendo for the event were mentioned by one source.
Additionally, SSC staffer and TO Roflfox spoke out saying he has it “on good authority that the alleged SSC C&D didn’t actually happen.”
As for the continued reaction from top players and other community members, there are two camps divided between this being another instance of Nintendo meddling that could kill the scene and a more patient party waiting until more info drops in mid-November to make a judgment call.
“I guess we will see when the licensing comes out,” Cody Schwab said. “[People] are like ‘What are you going to do, just be blindly hopeful?’ What do you want to do, be depressed for two weeks or have some kind of optimism and figure some shit out? If you do the first you’re not going to do shit and be a depressed angry fucker for weeks. But if you do the second one, something good might come out of it. Stop having a shit mindset.”
This was backed by long-time TO Vayseth who spoke on Hungrybox’s stream about the positives they have encountered working with Nintendo for events like Frostbite, noting they “think this is good” and a lot of the wording scaring the community is only included to “protect against potential bad actors.”
Both Vayseth and Cody, along with other people who actively read the guidelines, said that established tournaments or commercial events won’t see much change since this is explicitly targeting individual or not-for-profit events with no license. Additionally, Nintendo is unlikely to act against unlicensed events unless something egregious happens, with Vayseth stating “the vast majority of people who run events within the community will be unaffected.”
Currently, several different individuals with a background in law such as Esports Bar executive director Harris Peskin have been delving into the wording and breaking things down. His initial thoughts have already been shared in a thread, with more detailed breakdowns and thoughts on ramifications for the community coming at a later date.
About the author
Lead Staff Writer for Dota 2, the FGC, Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and more who has been writing for Dot Esports since 2018. Graduated with a degree in Journalism from Oklahoma Christian University and also previously covered the NBA. You can usually find him writing, reading, or watching an FGC tournament.