Cancellation of Smash World Tour 2022
Smash World Tour 2022 was a cancelled Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament circuit. The reasons for this circuit shutting down are mired with controversy that have ruined the reputations of many individuals and have potentially destroyed multiple businesses.
On November 29th, 2022, Smash World Tour released a document detailing actions behind-the-scene 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 giving little reason as to why, 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.
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 and Paragon released statements urging Nintendo to reverse their decision. Many others also criticized Panda, more specifically Bunney, for 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. He would personally verify that Panda and Bunney were aggressive and difficult to work with during negotiations.
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. 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 would also make two responses on the matter. The first released on December 2nd and was largely criticized for lacking substance, leading to the departure of Plup, iBDW, and WaDi. The second response was released on December 5th, which was more well received due to the CEO Bunney stepping down and the team's commitment to helping team members with their departure.
On December 7th, Bunney himself released a personal response detailing his side of the story. The main points were that he and Panda never meant to harm VGBC and even defended them at points, members of Beyond the Summit were difficult to work with, and members of the community were conspiring to turn on Panda, as well as the theory that Smash World Tour was never going to happen and 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, even ones not mentioned in any response up to that point, speaking up to challenge and debunk his claims. Others pointed out that Bunney may actually had good intentions, but it was ruined by his poor communication and behavior.
The allegations and subsequent fallout has 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 postponement. 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.In addition, the tournament was not used for the OrionRank 2022, while the event and all future Panda events were blacklisted from ΩRank.
Despite Bunny's resignation as CEO, he remained as an owner of the company, which some believed was not enough as he should be fully removed from the company. On January 10th, 2023, Bunney held an interview where he admitted to knowing how Nintendo was going to shut down SWT ahead of time. 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.
Due to resignations in the organizations, Panda ultimately released all of their remaining professional Smash players on January 16th, 2023, ending with Marss. The resulting brain drain and severe lack of talent on staff has effectively shut down operations at Panda, with no new content on any front released since the controversy. However, since the shutdown several players have criticized the community's handling of the controversy, specifically how it affected Panda staff that had no part in the controversy. Following a Tweet from Alphicans which did just that, 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, with the claim eventually supported by WaDi and TKbreezy.
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 were surprised that they were seemingly manipulated by Panda into shutting down their competition and forcing smaller events to join them or be shut down, effectively becoming a protection racket. 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 has since waned following the successful runs of several majors not licensed by Nintendo.
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.
- ^ VGBootCamp's statement on the future.
- ^ beastcoast's statement on the cancellation.
- ^ Paragon's statement on the cancellation.
- ^ LD on Panda.
- ^ Plunkett, Luke (2022-11-29). Nintendo Shuts Down Smash World Tour, Organizers 'Losing Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars'. Kotaku. Retrieved on 2022-11-30.
- ^ Panda's first response.
- ^ Panda's second response.
- ^ BTS reopening Mainstage registration.
- ^ The Panda Cup will not count for OrionRank 2022.
- ^ Panda events blacklisted from ΩRank.
- ^ Alan Bunney admitting to knowing Nintendo will shut down SWT
- ^ Marss leaves Panda.
- ^ Alphicans criticizing the reaction.
- ^ Chris Okamura's response to Alphicans's statement.
- ^ WaDi's reaction.
- ^ TKbreezy's reaction.
- ^ VGBootCamp's Path Forward.
|Significant events in competitive Smash history|
|2010s||Leffen vs. Chillin (Apex 2015)|
|2020s||Sexual misconduct allegations · Cancellation of The Big House Online · Cancellation of Smash World Tour 2022|