If you’ve been following the dizzying dramatics around the Smash World Tour, you may have seen Nintendo’s new statement regarding the tournament’s sudden cancellation. The Mario maker has said it “cares about Super Smash Bros. fans,” expressly stating that esports organization Panda Global had no influence whatsoever on Video Game Boot Camp shuttering the $250,000 event. It’s all a bit confusing and hard to keep up with. So, let’s break it down to see just where we’re at with one of this year’s biggest Smash tournaments.
On November 29, it was announced that Smash World Tour was canceled. Right off the rip, the event’s organizers, Video Game Boot Camp, slammed both Nintendo and Panda Global for the tournament getting tossed. In its initial Medium statement, Video Game Boot Camp said the cancellation came “without any warning,” despite the organizers being in contact with Nintendo for “the past twelve months.” The reason for the unceremonious shuttering? Video Game Boot Camp wasn’t licensed through Nintendo like Panda Global’s Panda Cup tournament was. This caused plenty of headaches for Video Game Boot Camp, and the organizers pointed fingers at Panda Global’s CEO Dr. Alan Bunney for his “attempts to undermine the Smash World Tour” by threatening it and other tournaments with cancellation, as well as “wanting exclusive broadcasting rights.” Essentially, a monopoly on the Smash Bros. scene.
After Video Game Boot Camp dragged Nintendo and Panda Global for the Smash World Tour no longer happening, Nintendo told Kotaku in an emailed statement that the two parties—Nintendo and Video Game Boot Camp—just couldn’t come to an agreement on licensing. The company said it “did not request any changes to or cancellation of remaining events in 2022, including the 2022 Championship event.” Nintendo seemed to suggest that Video Game Boot Camp, while it couldn’t host any events in 2023, could still finish this year’s tournament “considering the negative impact on the players who were already planning to participate” if the event were to be cancelled.
Video Game Boot Camp said Nintendo’s statement on how the two “were unable to come to an agreement” was totally bogus. In a short Google document, Video Game Boot Camp expressed confusion over the company’s backpedaling, saying that despite asking to run as an unlicensed event next year with the hopes of renegotiating a licensing agreement in 2024, the organizers were told “those times were now over.” Video Game Boot Camp was also told that because the Smash World Tour neither “met expectations around health & safety guidelines” nor “adhered to internal partner guidelines,” Nintendo wouldn’t “grant a license for the Smash World Tour Championship 2022 or any Smash World Tour activity in 2023.” Never mind that, according to Video Game Boot Camp, the organizers submitted a license application in April to no avail.
Kotaku reached out to Panda Global for comment.
With the drama rapidly unfolding, the Super Smash Bros. community of casual fans, pro players, and long-time commentators come out in protest of both Nintendo and Panda Global. Folks across the community, including other tournament organizers such as AITX eSports and Beyond the Summit, are now boycotting the two entities. Captain Falcon main Jas “Fizzi” Laferriere and Falco player Shephard “Fiction” Lima both told Kotaku over Twitter messages that they won’t attend any Panda Global events going forward, with copious other people sharing the same sentiment online.
Nintendo came back with another statement, telling Kotaku over email it “cares about Super Smash Bros. fans and its community very much.” The company explained its rationale for declining to license the Smash World Tour. It said the decision was “solely based on our assessment of the proposals submitted by the Smash World Tour and our evaluation of their unlicensed activities,” clarifying it had nothing to do with Panda Global or any other external parties. Despite what Video Game Boot Camp has said about the cancellation, Nintendo expressly stated that the organizers were not required to “cancel the 2022 finals event because of the impact it would have on players.” As such, according to Nintendo anyway, the unceremonious shuttering of this year’s Smash tournament “was, and still is, [Video Game Boot Camp’s] own choice.”
The company also said it’s open to partnering with other organizations for major events outside of Panda Global’s Panda Cup as long as it “meets the high standards we require.” This includes following health and safety protocols, adhering to brand and IP guidelines, and upholding professional and organizational best practices.
“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,” the company told Kotaku.
In a separate Google document, Video Game Boot Camp addressed Nintendo’s latest statement, saying it’s “struggling to understand why Nintendo contacted us at all last week if they truly wanted us to continue operating.” The organizers reiterated what they claim Nintendo said, that this year’s Smash World Tour couldn’t happen and that no other Smash World Tour events would take place in the future, clarifying that it’s confused by the company’s actions. Video Game Boot Camp also shared disappointment over Nintendo calling Panda Global a key partner considering the “countless corroborating testimonies from other community leaders and organizers” about Panda Global’s behavior.
“We stand by our initial conclusion of our original statement,” Video Game Boot Camp said in its post. “We urge Nintendo to please reconsider how they are proceeding in their approach to the Smash community, and to please re-evaluate their relationship with key partners who are causing so much damage.”
After days of silence, Panda Global tweeted a statement touching on everything that’s been happening. The organization said it was just “as surprised as the public” to see both the Smash World Tour get canceled and Video Game Boot Camp’s attacks on “the hard work and ethics of those behind the Panda Cup.” It reiterated Nintendo’s comments, saying Video Game Boot Camp was under no obligation to scrap this year’s tourney, as well as clarified that “any implication that the Panda Cup team had any influence in [the alleged cancellation of the event] is false.” According to Nintendo and now Panda Global, the decision to end the Smash World Tour was Video Game Boot Camp’s and theirs alone.
However, Panda Global acknowledged that its CEO, Dr. Bunney, engaged in some unbecoming behavior when interacting with other tournament organizers. The organization said that while Dr. Bunney “has been one of the more vocal supporters” of the game’s community and Smash World Tour specifically, he had “spoken [to Beyond the Summit] in a manner which did not reflect either guidance from Nintendo or our own standards.” As such, Panda Global has “[taken] efforts to rectify the situation” by assembling a dedicated team to manage Panda Cup activities to, at least in theory, “remove the possibility of future miscommunications from occurring.”
That’s the long and short of it. Video Game Boot Camp pointed fingers at Nintendo and Panda Global, while Nintendo pointed fingers back at Video Game Boot Camp and the Smash World Tour. And now, Panda Global has pointed fingers at Video Game Boot Camp. It’s like a soap opera at this point. Who knows what the next development will be in this never-ending saga?
Update, 12/02/22, 4:05 p.m. ET: Added a statement from Panda Global.