After years of railing against the Super Smash Bros. competitive scene, from Super Smash Bros. Melee up to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo reversed course and is now partnering with esports organization Panda Global to host the first officially licensed competitive circuit in the game's history. The announcement came via a Twitter press release on Thursday, with the unnamed tournament series planned for 2022 complete with cash prizes.
Nintendo and Panda's competition will support the two biggest games in the series' competitive landscape, Melee and Ultimate, for North American players. Players from the region will compete in online qualifying rounds before the in-person events take place. Although it includes all of North America, as of now, only U.S. players are eligible to enter as the two companies try to determine whether or not to allow international travel for the tournament. Additional information for the tournament, including the official ruleset and prize pool, will be revealed at a later date.
It's a shocking announcement given Nintendo's long history of ignoring or outright undermining the Super Smash Bros. competitive scene. As recently as 2020, the company slammed the Big House Online tournament, one of the scene's largest and longest-running competitions, with a cease-and-desist order for using the Slippi emulator to allow for remote play of Melee during the pandemic. Their most infamous attempt at stopping high-level competitive play, however, came in 2013 when they attempted to shut down the Melee tournament at EVO, the biggest event in the Fighting Game Community (FGC), at the height of one of the game's most popular competitive eras. Only once intense fan backlash came in did Nintendo finally decide to relent.
Bill Trinen, the senior director of product marketing at Nintendo of America, touted the partnership as a new era for the company in a press release, stating:
This partnership with Panda Global is the next step in Nintendo’s efforts to create a more consistent, fun and welcoming competitive environment for our players and fans. We are proud to stand with an organization like Panda Global to celebrate and support the ever-growing competitive Super Smash Bros. community and create a space where all players can test and hone their competitive skills.
This marks the first time Nintendo has ever partnered with an esports organization for any of their properties. Panda Global, a Detroit-based organization with competitors and influencers around the fighting game, speedrunning, and chess communities, represents some of the largest Super Smash Bros. competitors including Marss and ESAM, two of Ultimate's top-ranked players, and Plup, a Melee veteran with a long history of competing at the game's biggest tournaments.
Rhimes will also serve as a writer on the series.
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