Nintendo Community Tournament Guidelines

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The Nintendo Community Tournament Guidelines are a series of regulations raised by Nintendo, placing restrictions on the operation of unlicensed, not-for-profit, small-scale tournaments, run by individuals, involving Nintendo games and media, including competitive Super Smash Bros. tournaments. The guidelines were first published on the Nintendo of Japan website in Japanese on October 24, 2023, and were released on the company's European and American websites the same day, as well as the Australian one on October 25, 2023; they went into effect on November 15, 2023. The announcements were quickly spread on social media shortly following their publications and received mixed reception, with many in the competitive Smash community being critical of the guidelines due to the controversies surrounding Nintendo's past involvement in the competitive scene,[1][2] while others believe them to be a positive step forward in regulation.


Nintendo has historically rocky relationships with those that play their games competitively, but this dynamic is considered especially cumbersome with the competitive Smash community, due in part to series creator Masahiro Sakurai disliking the high skill floors that many fighting games are known for. Nintendo has offered scant support for competitive Smash players, only sponsoring and licensing a select few events throughout the years. As such, the community has developed a decentralized, grassroots approach to running tournaments, allowing them to run high profile events on their own. However, this decentralized approach has also meant that regulating the community and setting standards is extremely difficult, with attempts to do so, such as with the Unity Ruleset Committee, the SSB Code of Conduct Panel, and the Global Ban Database, causing significant controversy and ultimately failing at their intended goals.

The grassroots nature of the scene has led to skepticism about Nintendo's potential involvement with it. This relationship grew confrontational when Nintendo issued a shutdown of EVO 2013's Melee tournament livestream, which was itself a compromise made with EVO's organizers when Nintendo attempted to cancel the tournament entirely. Other incidents include the numerous legal issues that led to the shutdown of Project M in 2015, cease and desist notifications that resulted in the cancellation of The Big House Online in 2020, and their direct involvement in the cancellation of Smash World Tour 2022. In November 2020, an anonymous "informed Smash insider" published a Twitlonger explaining Nintendo's history of inhibiting the Smash community, further galvanizing those that did not desire Nintendo's involvement.

Despite these issues, some welcomed Nintendo's involvement due to the belief that the community cannot regulate themselves without direct oversight. The decentralized nature of administration has allowed bad actors into the scene undetected, which has led to behavior and actions like substance abuse,[3] and murder investigations,[4] as well as a wave of sexual misconduct allegations during 2020, and the aforementioned attempts and regulatory bodies have never worked out. Furthermore, some in the community felt that Nintendo's involvement would become an inevitability if the tournament scene continued to grow bigger, as companies for other competitive video games have published guidelines for their tournament scenes since 2019 in response to their significant growth,[5][6] especially with Nintendo releasing the competitively oriented Splatoon games.

All of these incidents have resulted in Nintendo's potential involvement with competitive Smash becoming a divisive issue in the community. While many believe direct involvement would help in making tournaments sustainable and is to some extent required to avoid being associated with controversy and bad actors, especially when players have proven unable to self-regulate, others believe it will only create more problems than it would solve, and prefer the decentralized scene that the lack of Nintendo support has facilitated.


New regulations applying to unlicensed tournaments include the following:

  • Tournaments must be capped at 200 entrants for in-person events, and 300 entrants for online events.
  • Entry fees must be capped at US$20/£18/€20/ZAR360/CHF28/AU$30/NZ$33/¥2,000 per person.
  • Prize pools are capped at US$5,000/£4,500/€5,000/ZAR90,000/CHF7,000/AU$7,500/NZ$8,250/¥500,000 for a single event, or US$10,000/£9,000/€10,000/ZAR180,000/CHF14,000/AU$15,000/NZ$16,500/¥1,000,000 for a single tournament organizer across an entire year.
  • Spectator fees must be capped at US$15/£14/€15/ZAR270/CHF21/AU$22.50/NZ$24.75/¥1,500 per person.
  • Tournament organizers may not receive goods, services, money, etc., from third parties as sponsors.
  • The names of Community Tournaments may not contain Nintendo trademarks or IP.
  • Pirated or modified versions of Nintendo games may not be used.
  • Only online servers officially provided by Nintendo may be used.
  • Tournament organizers must publicly acknowledge that the event is not sponsored by or affiliated with Nintendo.
  • Tournament organizers must publicly post a URL linking to "Terms for participating in and viewing Community Tournaments using Nintendo Games."
  • Tournament organizers must obtain separate rights for the usage of any intellectual property rights from third parties.
  • Tournaments may not involve the sale of food, beverages, and other merchandise.
  • The usage of game consoles and accessories not produced by or officially licensed by Nintendo is prohibited.
  • Any content or practice deemed "inappropriate" by Nintendo not already mentioned is punishable in type and severity at their discretion.

License application form[edit]

An update on the guideline was released soon after its appliance, showing a form for hosting tournaments meant for corporate entities or individuals hosting tournaments that exceed 200 in-person entrants or 300 online entrants. All tournaments announced after October 23, 2023 (North America)/October 24, 2023 (Europe) that meet the aforementioned requirements must apply for a license. The available games to receive a tournament license for include the following:

An "Other" category is selectable for any Nintendo-owned game not previously listed. A notice explains that Nintendo is not at liberty to issue licenses to any Pokémon-related content, and instructs anyone wanting such a license to contact The Pokémon Company instead.

Other specifications include the purpose of the tournament, such as who is hosting and if it is for-profit or not, as well as whether the tournament is online or in-person. The individual filling out the application must also provide information about the tournament, its format, official rules, if commercial vendors are being hosted, and if the event will be livestreamed, as well as the information of the tournament organizer or equivalent party. The organizer can also specifically apply for exceptions to any of the regulations previously mentioned. The organizer must agree to all terms and conditions for applying. Filing an application does not guarantee that a license will be received, as that is up to the sole discretion of Nintendo.


The guidelines were immediately met with division upon their release. Detractors viewed them as another reflection of Nintendo's anti-competitive stance, in a similar manner to its attempted cancellation of Smash World Tour 2022 a year prior, and would lead to the curtailing of local and regional tournament scenes. The Melee scene in particular feared that the guidelines would have a significant blowback on running events, as the Japanese website only allowed organizers to apply for licenses to host Nintendo Switch games[7]. Furthermore, the ban on hardware and software mods led to fears that online tournaments using Project Slippi (such as Coinbox), as well as the usage of box controllers and Universal Controller Fix, would be banned.[8][9][10][11]

Other concerns include tournaments having a hard limit on the amount of revenue they can earn and sponsors effectively being forbidden will lead to some no longer being able to financially break even, a prohibition on food and drink vendors potentially being illegal under certain circumstances, and the ban on inappropriate content being a catch-all that means Nintendo can go after anyone for any reason regardless of how well the other rules are being followed.[12][13]

Many community members (including Hungrybox) did a live read-through of the guidelines on stream.[14] Montana State Representative Zooey Zephyr (and competitive Smash player under the tag Cazcom) posted a tweet criticizing the new regulations, saying, "Imagine Bicycle Playing Cards insisting your home poker games be played a certain way or they'll sue you."[15][16]

The same reaction occurred outside of the Super Smash Bros. competitive community,[17] as the guidelines applied to any intellectual property owned by Nintendo; whether released on Nintendo Switch such as Splatoon 2 and Splatoon 3, Pokken Tournament DX, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, or on unsupported Nintendo hardware.[18] YouTube commentator Omni said this case "looks like the end" for any non-profit tournaments, soon after he uploaded a video reading the guidelines.[19][20]

Supporters of the guidelines, however, believe they were a necessary and inevitable measure given the community's issues with safety and security that led to events such as the aforementioned cancellation of Smash World Tour 2022 and the sexual misconduct allegations.[21][22] YouTuber Technicals notably reacted with pride, claiming it was "his perfect victory",[23][24] which caused strong reactions from the community. In addition, many tournament organizers within the Japanese Smash community reacted with less skepticism. Within hours of the announcement, many prominent Japanese TOs came up with several solutions on how to deal with the guidelines.[25]

Alex Jebailey, the founder of CEO Gaming, responded positively to the guidelines,[26] noting that it finally gives tournament organisers direct paths to obtaining licensing. That in mind, he inferred that large-scale established events should have no issues going forward. This reaction accompanied a video on the topic.[27]

Moon Channel, a lawyer-run YouTube channel, released a video[28] giving some legal analysis regarding the guidelines. Moon Channel speculates that rather than necessarily "cracking down" on events, the guidelines are more of an olive branch adopting to how U.S. copyright laws largely extend worldwide through trade agreements, resulting in legal grey areas and thus less certainty and more regulation by the company. To illustrate this point, Moon Channel cites Nintendo's hands-off approach with its fanbase in Japan. With Nintendo's uniformity in guidelines, Moon Channel posits that this was less of a crackdown à la fan games, but more of an IP protection measure. Moon Channel goes on to mention that while third-party controllers are listed as banned in the guidelines, this is actually a commonality in guidelines for most other game companies, and in Nintendo's own End User License Agreements, and is enforced as a general policy to protect their intellectual property rights. Furthermore, Moon Channel argues that these guidelines are for community tournaments rather than supermajor events, as stated in the guideline's introduction, and that by following these rules, it could aid in reconciliation between Nintendo and the Smash community at large. Thus, Moon Channel infers that they could result in a more stable community, criticizing big content creators for wanting to run unlicensed tournaments in protest, noting that while the full license agreement has not been published, said licenses being provided are discretionary.


Shortly after the announcement, organizers behind GENESIS X and Battle of BC 6 announced they would continue as scheduled,[29][30] while organizers behind the Umebura and Sumabato series announced that they had secured licenses for their events, with Sumabato head Nojinko notably announcing that he had secured licenses for the next ten Sumabato events within a day of the guidelines releasing.[31][32] In addition, the release of the licensing form accompanying the guidelines assuaged fears from the Melee community that Nintendo was disallowing them from playing the game. Despite neither version of Super Smash Bros. 4 being eligible for a license per the guidelines, there has been little to no response from the community in regards to it, continuing the post-Ultimate disinterest in the game from players and spectators alike.

With competitive play being largely unchanged since the guideline's release, fear and uncertainty on them have since dissipated. However, a few events were nonetheless affected. Most notably, due to the rule on using modified copies of Nintendo games, Melee's online competitive play, which used the modded client Project Slippi, was effectively shut down, with Hungrybox discontinuing The Coinbox series for Melee. In addition, a few tournaments, including NRW Cup - Rise of Germany, had to unban Steve due to the license.[33]

Currently, it is unknown if these guidelines will be applied to Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, mainland China or other Asian countries outside of Japan. It is also unknown whether these guidelines apply to countries in the Americas other than the United States, Canada and Mexico, to African countries besides South Africa, or to countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

On November 16, 2023, the Norwegian Consumer Council filed a formal complaint against Nintendo over these guidelines. This council, who previously won two legal battles against Nintendo that respectively forced Nintendo to let customers cancel pre-orders and send in Joy-Con drift repairs for free, claims that changing the terms of service in this manner for products customers purchased years prior violates consumer protection laws around the world. This legal battle is still ongoing.[34][35][36]

On November 22, 2023, Alan Bunney on the podcast Lights Out shared some insight on how these guidelines came to be, specifically with how the Panda Cup was involved.[37] Nintendo wanted to become more involved in the Smash community in 2019 when negotiations with Panda first started. The plan was for the Panda Cup to be a bubble where the community can exist unfiltered with little involvement from Nintendo, who would then have time to come up with their own plans outside this deal. After the Panda Cup fell apart and the unprecedented intense harassment from the community, the IP licensing department of Nintendo shut down in 2023, which is why they stopped issuing licenses for an extended period of time until the department was restructured and the guidelines were published.


  1. ^ "Nintendo Shocks Competitive Fans With Strict New Community Tournament Guidelines". IGN. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  2. ^ New Nintendo Rules Cause Massive Smash Bros. Fan Freakout. Kotaku. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  3. ^ Z on X. Twitter (November 14, 2018). Archived from the original on June 26, 2021.
  4. ^ Dylan Horetski (July 1, 2022). Smash Bros player banned from tournaments after being arrested over mother’s murder. Dexerto.
  5. ^ Capcom Pro Tour Community Licence Guidelines. Capcom.
  6. ^ FIFA 2021 Tournament Guidelines. Electronic Arts.
  7. ^ DarkGenex on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 26, 2023.
  8. ^ Nintendo of America has also posted tournament guidelines in line with other regions. Reddit. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  9. ^ Nintendo of America has also released "Tournament Guidelines" in line with other regions. Reddit. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  10. ^ Nintendo of Japan Releases General Competitive Guidelines. Reddit. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  11. ^ Nintendo of Europe Releases Community Tournament Guidelines. Reddit. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  12. ^ wuhu on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 26, 2023.
  13. ^ wadsm on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 26, 2023.
  14. ^ Hungrybox (October 25, 2023). Nintendo's new guidelines WILL destroy tournaments. YouTube.
  15. ^ Rep. Zooey Zephyr on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  16. ^ Representative Zooey Zephyr is on our side. Reddit. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  17. ^ Mightykeef (October 25, 2023). Nintendo Hates Competitive Super Smash bros.. YouTube. Retrieved on October 29, 2023.
  18. ^ Steve Bowling (October 24, 2023). Nintendo Is Killing Tournaments. YouTube. Retrieved on October 28, 2023.
  19. ^ Omni on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 26, 2023.
  20. ^ Omni (October 25, 2023). Cheesecake Factory Drama. Youtube. Retrieved on October 28, 2023.
  21. ^ NVR | Deathspade @ BLM on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 27, 2023.
  22. ^ Jon Cartwrighton on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 24, 2023.
  23. ^ Technicals on X. Twitter.
  24. ^ Technicals on X. Twitter.
  25. ^ Sean from School's Tweet on Japanese TOs. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 28, 2023.
  26. ^ Alex Jebailey on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  27. ^ Alex Jebailey (October 25, 2023). New Nintendo Community Guidelines and how they affect the Smash Scene. My thoughts!. YouTube.
  28. ^ VG Law Review (October 27, 2023). A Lawyer Analyzes Nintendo’s Tournament Guidelines. YouTube.
  29. ^ GENESIS on X. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 25, 2023.
  30. ^ Battle of BC 6's announcement. Twitter. Archived from the original on November 4, 2023.
  31. ^ Umebura announces their license. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 27, 2023.
  32. ^ Nojinko's announcement. Twitter. Archived from the original on October 28, 2023.
  33. ^ NRW Cup unbans Steve due to Nintendo license.
  34. ^ Norwegian Consumer Council interview with PressFire
  35. ^ Dexerto article about Norwegian Consumer Council complaint
  36. ^ Partially translated PressFire interview
  37. ^ Dr Alan Reveals EVERYTHING That Happened w/ Panda! | Lights Out Episode 36

External links[edit]