Super Smash Bros. series

Cancellation of Smash World Tour 2022

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Logo for the cancelled Smash World Tour 2022.

Smash World Tour 2022 was a cancelled Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament circuit. The sudden cancellation of the event, along with the allegations that arose in its aftermath (particularly towards CEO Alan Bunney), resulted in a widespread boycott of Panda within the Smash community, as well as the end of Panda's involvement with the competitive Smash scene.


In 2022, two separate Smash tournament circuits were being held simultaneously. The first was the annual Smash World Tour circuit that is entirely independent and grassroots with no direct support from Nintendo. The second was the brand new Panda Cup operated by Panda. This particular circuit was noteworthy for being the first ever North American Smash circuit to be directly supported by Nintendo. The news of this partnership was met with positive reception by the community, who generally saw the partnership as opening the door to more direct support from Nintendo in the future. However, some were skeptical with Nintendo's involvement, particularly with how their involvement would affect the operations of Panda Cup as well as how competing tournaments would be treated. Nevertheless, both circuits managed to coexist and operated smoothly with no major issues until November, when the SWT organizers suddenly announced that the entire circuit and all remaining tournaments would be canceled.


On November 29th, 2022, Smash World Tour released a document detailing actions behind-the-scenes that eventually led to its cancellation.

Prior to the Smash World Tour 2021 Championships, members of VGBootCamp, the SWT organizers, were invited to a meeting with Nintendo and its legal team. During the meeting, Nintendo discussed how they had no plans on shutting down the championship, but were in fact open to the possibility of having the Smash World Tour licensed by them in the future, noting that their partnership with Panda was not exclusive. Discussions continued throughout the first few months of 2022, however during this time SWT organizers learned that many other organizers were hesitant on joining the circuit due to statements from Panda's CEO Alan Bunney, who had told the organizers that SWT was not coming back. Despite Nintendo reassuring them otherwise, Bunney continued to sow doubt on the circuit's longevity and went against Nintendo's words by both preventing other organizers from joining the SWT and pressuring tournaments on the SWT to drop out of the circuit, stating that tournaments that do will not be allowed to join the Panda Cup. As a result, several tournaments decided not to take part in the SWT circuit as, from what Bunney had told the organizers, they feared legal action from Nintendo. Eventually, due to the lack of events who wanted to participate in the Panda Cup as well as failure to secure broadcasting rights from Beyond the Summit, the Panda Cup lifted their exclusivity rule.

During this time, communications between Nintendo and SWT started to slow down. After SWT ran out of time to get an official license for the year's circuit, Nintendo recommended the group to apply for a license solely for the championship tournament at the end of the year, in hopes that it could lead to a full license for the 2023 iteration. However SWT saw little communication from Nintendo in the following months, which led SWT to push back the championship's announcement until August, after which Nintendo apologized to them for the slow communication. The following month, Nintendo told them that while nothing has been decided yet in regards to their license, Bunney's conduct and the behind-the-scenes drama with the Panda Cup were coming under evaluation. Despite SWT requesting for one, Nintendo declined to have its decision makers discuss the license with the SWT organizers.

SWT's last few discussions with Nintendo came in November, a month before the championship. Nintendo confirmed that they were still figuring out the license while noting that people they were discussing with have advocated for the SWT, community, and grassroots organizers; despite this, Nintendo still declined to have their decision makers discuss with the SWT organizers. The following and final conversation came with a verdict: Nintendo would not license both the championship and any tournament activity from the SWT in 2023, with Nintendo citing the reasons as being that SWT had not met their health & safety guidelines and was not adhering to their internal partner guidelines,[1] and according to the SWT organizers Nintendo also refused to allow SWT to run the circuit without a license, effectively changing their view a year prior and forcing the team to cancel the championship. The shutdown cost VGBootCamp hundreds of thousands of dollars and led VGBootCamp to release a statement on their uncertainty for the organization's future, as well as the cancellations of Glitch: Duel of Fates and Double Down 2023.[2]


The news spread rapidly across the internet, with prominent figures criticizing Panda's and Nintendo's actions, including top players Sparg0 and Hungrybox as well as notable streamers such as Cr1TiKaL and Ludwig. The announcement led to an outcry from the community, particularly those who had qualified for the tournament. Many players once again accused Nintendo for hurting Smash's grassroots scene and criticized the company for continuing their out-of-touch behaviors with the community. Esports organizations such as beastcoast[3] and Paragon[4] released statements urging Nintendo to reverse their decision. Many in the community accused Bunney of using the Panda Cup's partnership with Nintendo to undermine and shut down the Smash World Tour in order to promote the Panda Cup and intimidate other tournaments to exclusively join the Panda Cup. The allegations in the document were supported by many well known figures in the Smash community, chief among them LD, the co-founder of BTS.[5] He would personally verify that Panda and Bunney were aggressive and difficult to work with during negotiations.

Others in the community have instead focused on VGBC's role in the situation, as despite Nintendo initiating the dialogue and offering them the chance to get licensed, the SWT proceeded without a license and was ultimately cut short as a result. This has been commonly attributed to how VGBC gave Nintendo only two months to evaluate their licensing application before announcing SWT 2022 without their approval (something that took the Panda Cup, an exclusively North American circuit, three years to accomplish). They also point to Nintendo's own statements on the matter over health & safety concerns by accusing VGBC of not having provided sufficient security at their events, such as how Technicals, a player who was banned from Double Down 2022, was allowed to enter the venue unimpeded due to a complete lack of security presence at the time of the incident,[6][7] an issue that GimR, president of VGBC, would acknowledge but deny responsibility for.[8]

Nintendo released an official response on the matter to Kotaku, stating that although a partnership with the Smash World Tour did not come to fruition, they did not request the cancellation of the 2022 circuit nor the cancellation of the championship, as they knew that it would have negatively impacted those who had already qualified. Nintendo also stated that their decision to not license SWT was not influenced by Panda Global, and they reiterated that the reasons being was instead due to SWT having not met their guidelines pertaining to health & safety and branding. [9] Smash World Tour released a follow-up statement holding onto their claim that Nintendo sent to them in writing that they would not grant their license to run the Smash World Tour 2022 Championships or any SWT activity in 2023. This was without them applying for a 2023 license at all, and despite applying for the championships' license seven months prior in April, Nintendo wanted them to secure a license well in advance of any public announcement. When asked if they were able to operate without a license like past years, Nintendo stated that those "times are over."

Panda also made two responses on the matter. The first statement, released on December 2nd, remarked that, while Panda held regret over the manner of interaction between Bunney and BTS and sought to fix the situation quickly, they held zero influence in the SWT's cancellation.[10] Following this statement, Plup, iBDW, and WaDi announced their resignations from Panda. The second response was released on December 5th; it announced that Alan had been removed as CEO, the Panda Cup would be postponed due to security concerns, and that Panda would undergo "an internal restructure and a rededication to our values as members of this community."[11]

On December 6th, Alan himself released a personal response detailing his side of the story. In his response, he claimed that he never meant to harm VGBC, and even defended them at points, while also claiming that members of Beyond the Summit were difficult to work with, and members of the community were conspiring to turn on Panda. He also touted the theory that the Smash World Tour Championships were never actually planned to be held and that the "cancellation" was only a front to be perceived as a martyr by the community. This response was met with backlash from the community, with many prominent figures, including many large tournament organizers, speaking up to challenge and debunk his claims. boback, head TO of the GENESIS series, posted a Twitter thread recounting his experiences with Alan,[12] as did Ken Chen, creative director of Beyond the Summit, who was a main target in Alan's response.[13] SWT released their final statement as a response to Alan's later in the night on December 7th, detailing their communications with Nintendo and disproving the false cancellation theory.[1] Some commenters on his Medium post pointed out that Bunney may have actually had good intentions, but it was ruined by his poor communication and behavior.[citation needed]


The allegations and subsequent fallout led to calls to boycott Panda and the finale, and many players in the Panda Cup Finale or the Last Chance Qualifier dropped out of the event, which contributed to the Finale's eventual cancellation. Beyond the Summit also reopened Mainstage 2022 registration for a day and gave free entry to SWT participants who had yet to register for Mainstage. All entry fees paid during this time were donated directly to SWT.[14]In addition, the tournament was not used for the OrionRank 2022,[15] while the event and all future Panda events were blacklisted from ΩRank.[16]

On January 10th, 2023, Bunney held an interview where he admitted to knowing how Nintendo was going to shut down SWT ahead of time.[17] He claims that he was directly told by representatives that SWT would be canceled well before it happened, backing up what SWT initially claimed and what Nintendo denied in the Kotaku interview. He specifically claims that cease and desist letters were considered several times.

Panda ultimately released all of their remaining professional Smash players on January 16th, 2023, ending with Marss.[18] As a result, all Smash-related operations at Panda were effectively shut down, with only eight core members remaining on the team and no new content on any front released since the controversy. However many players have since criticized the community's handling of the controversy, specifically how it ruined a chance for the community to have a positive relationship with Nintendo, destroyed a prominent Smash organization despite only its CEO being under fire, and affected Panda staff that had no part in the controversy. Following a Tweet from Alphicans which did just that,[19] former Panda staff member Chris Okamura confirmed that many players in Panda wanted to stay on the team but were pressured to leave due to the controversy,[20] with the claim eventually supported by WaDi and TKbreezy.[21][22]

Although content creation from Panda has remained dormant, operations within the company continued and a few updates on their properties have been released. First, the previously named "Panda Fighting Games" YouTube channel and its directly affiliated outlets came out of dormancy on May 5th, 2023, after content creators previously signed to Panda claimed that they had acquired the rights to the channel, running it independently under the new name Fighting Game Select.[23] In addition, Panda released an update on December 4th, 2023, announcing the shutdown of due to a lack of funding and offered their guidance to the community following the release of the Nintendo Community Tournament Guidelines.[24] This decision was reversed following community support for the database and funds received from the sales of the bomber jackets meant for the Panda Cup.[25]

This controversy has also added more strain on the relationship between Nintendo and the Smash community. While their actions in the controversy were not unprecedented, as they have shut down several high-profile tournaments in the past, many in the community alleged that Nintendo was manipulated by Panda into shutting down their competition and forcing smaller events to join them or be shut down. Since then, others believe the shutdown was the result of VGBootCamp's own failure to abide to Nintendo's health and safety standards due to their lack of security, and giving Nintendo a small window to approve of a license to run the Smash World Tour circuit while publicly announcing the circuit while said license was still pending, despite Nintendo stating to wait for approval before attempting to run the circuit. Discussions once again flared up over what the future of competitive Smash will look like, with some players being worried as to whether Nintendo would shut down other tournaments that they did not license. This fear was alleviated following the successful runs of several majors not licensed by Nintendo, but attention to it was brought up once again with the release of the Nintendo Community Tournament Guidelines.

Despite VGBootCamp's uncertainty on their future, they continued to stream and host tournaments into the new year. On March 17th, 2023, VGBootCamp released an update on their future where they stated how they were focused on rebuilding their brand and thanked the community for their support.[26]

On November 22, 2023, the podcast Lights Out had Alan Bunney as a guest, who shed some light on topics related to this incident.[27] He would reiterate that many players were reluctant to leave, but were essentially forced to after sustained harassment towards themselves, their families, individuals tangentially related to the company, and even unrelated individuals with the same last names as employees. Nintendo and other law firms have also commented to Bunney that the sheer amount of hate and vitriol towards them at the time was unprecedented. Bunney also confirmed that the Panda Cup Finale was canceled, and the final nail in the coffin for the tournament and the company was the Scuffed World Tour taking place on the same day as the initial date, as Panda simply could not compete with that or any other major tournament in their condition. It is worth noting, however, that many top players had already boycotted the Panda Cup Finale after Panda's first statement and before the announcement of the Scuffed World Tour, including Hungrybox, Sparg0, KoDoRiN, MkLeo, Maister, Axe, Dabuz, and others. With the cancellation, Panda had to refund the reportedly millions of dollars in sponsor money for not upholding their end of the contracts. Although Panda as a corporation and all planned projects have shut down, the brand could come back some day as a smaller-scale operation. Bunney also revealed he has evidence to debunk many of the claims levied against himself and Panda during the initial backlash, but has no plans to release this evidence due to himself viewing the action as futile.