I love Nintendo, I always have. My first console growing up was the Wii, but before then I would dedicate my life to my GameBoy Advance SP. When I was around 7 or 8 I beat Super Mario World 100% after grinding for what felt like forever. When I was 15 I remember discovering Super Metroid and becoming absolutely fascinated with the game. Around the time I was 16 I decided I wanted to attend Super Smash Bros. Melee tournaments. Though Smash to many people is a casual party game, to others it’s a competitive game with a lot of nuance to it.
Nintendo is part of the crowd that considers it a party game – which is totally fine – but not when they actively try to kill the competitive scene.
Super Smash Bros. Melee came out 20 years ago and in those 20 years has developed into one of the most intense, deep, and high level games to be played on the competitive level. Sounds great right? What company wouldn’t want their game to have the success, longevity, and loyal fanbase? Nintendo wouldn’t. Melee, as well as the Smash community as a whole, has been able to thrive and succeed without ANY help from Nintendo. Nintendo has not given the community any money, hosted any tournaments, or anything of that sort. If Nintendo does involve themselves in tournaments all they’ve done is roll ads and post their logo everywhere. Free promotion.
For the past 20 years they’ve continued to dangle the promise of support, but always take it away. Even worse than that, they’ve even gone out of their way to destroy the community who asks them for nothing, just loves the game that they’ve created.
How Nintendo has tried to kill Melee.
At a time when Melee was at its least popular, the Melee community managed to raise 94,000 dollars for breast cancer. Through this donation drive, the game earned its spot in the most prestigious fighting game tournament in the world, Evolution Championship Series. Any other company would be proud, not only do they have a community that is so passionate about their game 13 year old game, but they are doing events for charity. How does Nintendo respond? They tried to cancel the stream of Super Smash Bros. Melee. This effectively would have killed the game right there and then. The backlash from the community was so intense that Nintendo eventually backed down after 5 hours and let the stream happen.
While Nintendo tries shady stuff behind the scenes, for their public image they act like the embrace the community. When Nintendo release Smash 4 and Smash Ultimate they held invitational tournaments that featured prominent figures in the Smash community. Melee players likes Mang0 and Armada were invited to compete in these tournaments. So why would Nintendo go out of their way to kill a scene, but then involve them in their events? Free marketing. Nintendo does have the power to kill the smash community if they want, but they keep it alive for the free marketing. People will want to buy the game and they don’t have to spend a dime.
It’s no secret that tournaments cannot be hosted right now. With the global pandemic going on, hosting a tournament with thousands of people would be problematic. The Melee community, like it always does, has adapted to changing times by creating a software the allows Melee to be played online. Now that Melee could be played online in an effective manner, this meant that tournaments could play out in a safe way during a pandemic. The Big House is the biggest Smash tournament of the year. It’s essentially The Super Bowl for the game, a celebration of the game.
A month before the tournament was supposed to take place, Nintendo delivered a cease and desist. Let me emphasis this again – We are in the middle of a pandemic, this is the only way to play the game in a safe way. Nintendo is taking advantage of the fact that we cannot meet in person to kill the Smash community once and for all. Of course the community responded negatively to this cease and desist, which prompted the #FreeMelee #SaveSmash to rise to number one trending on twitter. Nintendo has addressed the backlash and stated that the reason for the cease and desist was because of the software slippi, which modifies Melee to be played online. Again, though, Melee is 20 years old. This is natural. You can find this to be the case with most games. Nintendo is going out of their way to kill the game because it does not align with their vision of it. Art is subjective and everyone is going to interpret the piece differently, regardless of what the author’s intent was.
Another game the got stifled by Nintendo recently was Splatoon. Splatoon is a popular strategy game that revolves around capturing land and maintaining control of the stage. In early December, Nintendo was to hold a tournament for Splatoon. Some of the Splatoon teams in support of the Smash community, made their team names along the lines of #FreeMelee and #SaveSmash. This was to bring awareness to how Nintendo was killing the game. Any rational company would’ve taken the hint by now that people aren’t happy with how they conduct themselves. Instead, Nintendo CANCELS the Splatoon stream to suppress their poor decision making.
Nintendo is the only gaming company to act like they’re still in the 1980’s. Every other company embraces, understands, and helps their communities scenes. Catherine is a game that was never designed to be played competitively, just like Smash, but when tournaments began to happen for the game, the developer behind the game green lit the scene. Atlus completely embraced the community and fully supported it.
Regardless of whether or not Nintendo will help, the community will survive just like it has the last 20 years. The survival of Smash can be credited to one thing – the community loves the game more than Nintendo ever could.