Nintendo has shut down a Super Smash Bros online tournament over its use of a mod intended to improve online play. The Big House was to host its annual Smash Bros tournament online for the first time due to COVID-19, but will no longer be able to do so.
Why was this Super Smash Bros tournament shut down?
This year's The Big House tournament was due to feature both Super Smash Bros Melee and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. In order to stage the tournament entirely online, the organizers were planning to use emulated versions of the games in conjunction with Slippi, a mod for emulators designed to provide rollback netcode and dedicated matchmaking. However, Nintendo issued a cease-and-desist letter to the organizers of the tournament, primarily due to its use of Slippi (which would have been used to facilitate online Super Smash Bros Melee play).
Writing to Kotaku, Nintendo said that it "appreciates the love and dedication" of the fighting game community. However, the company says The Big House would have required the use of "illegally copied versions" of Super Smash Bros games, leading Nintendo to issue the cease-and-desist letter. The wording here is interesting since emulation in and of itself is not illegal. Additionally, if you legally own the game you're emulating, then playing that game on an emulator is perfectly legal and permissible. Nintendo has absolutely no proof that participants in the tournament would have been using "illegally copied" games.
It's worth remembering that Nintendo has traditionally been somewhat hostile towards the online streaming and content creation community. Naturally, The Big House would have been streamed to its audience due to being entirely online. This is, in essence, the legal sting in Nintendo's tail. The company has control over streams of its games and content, and so could easily take down The Big House's stream while remaining perfectly within their legal rights to do so with the stricter Japanese laws in the area, to our understanding, while Western laws are at best murky and would cost the small tournament thousands to millions to litigate their right to maybe broadcast the event. The Big House organizer Robin Harn says Nintendo's cease-and-desist letter was sent "primarily due to usage of [Slippi]", so it could be that the custom netcode is the sticking point, although Slippi interfaces with the emulator, and is game agnostic.
What does this mean for The Big House?
Organizer Robin Harn says he's "disappointed" that Nintendo has shut down the tournament's only means of going forward during the pandemic. However, Harn is optimistic that the tournament "will find a way...we always have and we will again". The hashtag #FreeMelee has cropped up on Twitter in response to Nintendo's decision, with streamer and Smash announcer Ludwig Ahgren announcing a new online tournament entirely utilizing Slippi technology alongside the hashtag.
NOW ANNOUNCING LACS 3: CHARITY EDITION— ludwig (@LudwigAhgren) November 20, 2020
A $10,000 EVENT WITH THE WINNER PICKING WHICH CHARITY THE MONEY GOES TO
ALL PLAYED THROUGH SLIPPI ONLINE
COMING TO YOU NEXT MONTH#FREEMELEE
It remains to be seen what will come of that tournament and whether Nintendo will issue the same cease-and-desist letter that it did to The Big House. We'll bring you more on this story as it develops.
What do you think of Nintendo's decision over The Big House? Let us know in the comments below!