The esports scene surrounding Super Smash Bros. Melee is in dire straits right now, and Nintendo looks to be committed to keeping it that way.
The gaming company shut down an upcoming online Melee tournament organized by The Big House due to its use of third-party online infrastructure. As a result, the organizer announced the event’s cancellation in a post on Twitter.
“The Big House is heartbroken to share we’ve received a cease and desist from Nintendo of America, Inc. to cancel our upcoming online event. We were informed we do not have permission to host or broadcast the event, primarily due to the usage of Slippi. Sadly, all our competitions are affected,” the Big House announced.
As mentioned, this stems from the usage of Slippi. Slippi is a netcode system based on GGPO which is designed for Gamecube emulators. It’s stable enough to allow for professional play and is widely regarded as the best online gaming experience in the Smash Bros. series, besting even Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch.
While many fighting games suffer from issues with dropped inputs that prevent combos from being completed or precise attacks from being made, GGPO’s rollback netcode anticipates how inputs fit together while competing online. This makes it an ideal system for fighting games, and its quality has seen it adopted by a number of major fighting game publishers.
Nintendo issued a statement of its own to Polygon, acknowledging that the use of Slippi is what triggered the takedown.
“Unfortunately, the upcoming Big House tournament announced plans to host an online tournament…that requires use of illegally copied versions of the game in conjunction with a mod called “Slippi” during their online event. Nintendo therefore contacted the tournament organizers to ask them to stop. They refused, leaving Nintendo no choice but to step in to protect its intellectual property and brands,” Nintendo said.
Alongside the cancellation of the Big House tournament, Smash Bros. star Juan “HungryBox” DeBiedma stated that he believes Nintendo is making a larger push to get rid of Slippi entirely. Content created using Slippi by Beyond the Summit, host of the Smash Summit event series, has vanished without explanation. That could be a death sentence for Melee esports.
Though video game publishers such as Riot Games and Capcom have a strong degree of control over the esports scenes of their titles, Nintendo’s relationship with Smash Bros. esports has historically been either frosty or outright hostile. The most infamous example of this was Nintendo trying to shut down Evo 2013’s Melee tournament, which was one of the biggest of the year.
Though the company backpedaled after receiving significant backlash, it has done little to improve that relationship in the years since. Nintendo has been accused of orchestrating a number of strange decisions by tournament organizers in the past, including bans on “Smash Box” third-party controllers and the removal of Melee from Evo in 2019. One of Nintendo’s few direct acknowledgements of the Smash pro scene came in July when it condemned the alleged sexual misconduct of several prominent personalities.
Just incredibly sad that they would do such a thing. Nintendo is going out of its way to hurt our community yet again while trying to play nice and invite us to market their new games. Its baffling how stupid and greedy they are.
— Leffen (@TSM_Leffen) November 19, 2020
Nintendo’s lack of cooperation with Smash Bros. tournament organizers has always been troublesome, but it’s potentially ruinous in 2020. Hosting live events remains untenable. Super Smash Bros. Melee was released in 2001 and has no built-in online support of any kind. Meanwhile, Smash Bros. Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch has such poor netcode that serious competition is nearly impossible.
With many pro Smash players relying on tournaments to stay afloat financially, it’s no surprise they’d be frustrated with Nintendo shutting down one of the few opportunities out there.