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Nintendo cancels Smash World Tour, organisers accuse Panda Global of "sabotage"

UPDATE: Nintendo says Panda had no influence over decision, and that it did not tell SWT organisers to cancel 2022 finals

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Original story, November 30, 2022: The organisers of the Smash World Tour, a grassroots Super Smash Bros esports competition, says that Nintendo has shut down its next two events.

It also alleges Panda Global, Nintendo's chosen partner for the first official Super Smash Bros tournament, had a hand in the closure.

Both the 2022 Smash World Tour Championship, which was due to run from December 9 to 11 in San Antonio, Texas, and 2023 Smash World Tour have been cancelled.

In a Medium post, the team said it is still working out the logistics but plans to issue full refunds and help with travel arrangements for those affected.

The team claims it was told by Nintendo that SWT "could no longer operate" and that the shutdown came "without any warning."

They also claim the decision was "especially shocking" given the ongoing conversations and reassurances it had received from Nintendo over the past year.

Smash World Tour said that it's "hard to measure" the number of organisers, competitors and fans that will be affected by this, but claimed it will be "losing hundred of thousands of dollars due to Nintendo's actions."

However, the organisers do not entirely blame Nintendo; instead, they claim that Panda Global had been telling potential partners that Smash World Tour was going to be shut down.

SWT says it approached Nintendo about Panda's "attempted sabotage" and was offered repeated reassurances that the official partnership was not exclusive, with the platform holder adding that there was still opportunity for the grassroots tour to operate.

But, the post added, "the attempts from Panda to undermine the Smash World Tour did not stop, as the CEO continued to tell organisers we were definitely not coming back in 2022."

GamesIndustry.biz has reached out to Panda Global for comment.

A Nintendo spokesperson told Kotaku: "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 SWT organisers said they requested to operate without a license as it had previously, with the hopes of working directly with Nintendo again in 2024, adding, "We were told directly that those times were now over."

Smash World Tour was one of the largest Smash Bros esports tournaments in operation, with over 6,400 live events and 325,000 entrants across its 2022 activity alone.

The team claims December's championships would have had the largest prize pool in Smash Bros history at over $250,000 with plans to increase this to over $350,000 for the 2023 tour.

Nintendo has previously clamped down on grassroots esports tournaments using its games, especially if those titles have been modified in any way – something Smash World Tour says it did not get involved with, which aided its relationship with Nintendo.

Earlier this year, Nintendo pulled Smash Bros out of long-running esports tournament Evo.

Update, December 2, 2022: Nintendo has released a longer statement that further explains why it ended its partnership with the organisers behind Smash World Tour.

Issued to IGN, the statement emphasises this decision was "solely based on our assessment of the proposals submitted by the SWT and our evaluation of their unlicensed activities."

"This decision was not influenced by any external parties such as Panda Global," Nintendo wrote.

"Any partner that we grant a license to has to meet the high standards we require when it comes to the health and safety of our fans. It’s also important that a partner adheres to brand and IP guidelines and conducts itself according to professional and organizational best practices. We use this same approach to independently assess all partners. If we discover that a partner is doing something inappropriate, we will work to correct it."

While it did not offer any more detail on how Smash World Tour failed to meet its standards, Nintendo stressed that it informed the team the lack of a licence did not mean the 2022 finals would need to be cancelled.

"The decision to cancel the SWT 2022 was, and still is, their own choice," the statement added.

Nintendo said it remains open to partnering with other organisations and is willing to licence major tournaments outside of the Panda Cup.

"Nintendo cares about Super Smash Bros. fans and its community very much, and we hope to continue to hear their passionate feedback," the statement concluded.

"We are committed to working hard to bring joy and fun to the community through tournaments while also ensuring we and our partners are operating in a manner that is positive and responsible."

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James Batchelor avatar

James Batchelor

Editor-in-Chief

James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He is based in Essex and has been a B2B games journalist since 2006