By Timothy Geigner
If you’re one of what I assume are zillions of folks who come here for my rants about Nintendo, I owe you an apology. While I’m usually pretty good about bringing you every instance of Nintendo doing the Nintendo all over itself and its fans, one such instance from last month slipped through the cracks. The Big House is a high profile Super Smash Bros. tournament series and host. Unfortunately, Nintendo shut down what was supposed to be the latest tournament and broadcast of The Big House via a C&D notice. At issue appears to be the use of a mod called “slippi”, a fan-made mod that basically unbroke the nearly two decades old game when it came to online play. Without getting too technical, the mod simply made the game perform well over internet connections, whereas it was previously essentially unplayable. Given that The Big House tournament was rendered virtual this year due to you-all-know-what, the mod was essential to running the tournament. From Nintendo:
Unfortunately, the upcoming Big House tournament announced plans to host an online tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee 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 cannot condone or allow piracy of its intellectual property.
Which is a misleading statement at best. While The Big House confirmed most of those details, it’s also true that digitizing one’s own video game collection is not “illegal copying”. Unless Nintendo has reason to think players in the tournament were simply pirating the game, which would be insane, given the high profile nature of the tourney, that part of its statement is nonsense.
Nintendo does, however, meticulously control its image, how its games are broadcast, and any modifications to its games, a la the slippi mod.
And, apparently, it may also play authoritarian when it comes to how the players of its games choose to express their displeasure at Nintendo’s actions. That’s the speculation, given that just this past weekend, Nintendo pulled the broadcast for a Splatoon 2 tournament that was notable pretty much solely because a healthy chunk of the participating teams chose team names protesting the cancellation of The Big House.
Word of an issue broke to the public at large on Saturday evening when a gamer who goes by the name Slimy Tweeted that “the Splatoon community, in support of the Smash community, has 30% of the top teams in this weekend’s Spl2 NA Open with Team names in support of Melee and Smash.” They then noted that Nintendo then canceled plans to livestream the event. The tweet went viral.
Was it really the existence of team names such as InC #FreeMelee, Melee Nation, and #FreeMelee 227 that made Nintendo drop the stream? The company isn’t saying and hasn’t responded to Kotaku’s requests for comments.
Notably, when gaming sites asked Nintendo whether this was the reason, the company responded: “La, la, la, I can’t heeeeaar you!” Battlefy, the company hosting the event on Nintendo’s behalf, issued a vague statement saying the broadcast had to be cancelled due to “unexpected executional challenges.” Few in the Splatoon community appeared to believe this.
A fan-run streaming organization, however, had no issues taking over… and taking a shot at Nintendo at the same time, with more clever naming of this replacement tournament.
On Sunday morning, EndGameTV, a fan-run Splatoon and Smash streaming organization not connected to Nintendo, announced that the group, with the help of fans, would hold its own Splatoon 2 finals. The event would be called “The Squid House” a direct reference to The Big House. The Splatoon 2 teams who were supposed to play that day in the official Nintendo event dropped out of the tournament just hours before they were supposed to play, leading to the event not being held. On the Battlefy page for the event, the top four section seems to have been removed.
The Squid House competition, which was organized overnight, was held as planned on December 6, with team FTWaveDash winning the event and the prize pool of $25,000, which had been raised by fans during the tournament. The competition also raised over $3,000 for charity. According to Slimy, The Squid House prize pool was the largest seen in any western-held Splatoon 2 tournament.
And so, in an effort simply to play Grand Moff Tarkin and squeeze its fist around its own community, Nintendo instead allowed a fan-run streaming site to put on what might be the most successful Splatoon 2 tournament in our hemisphere. Success, it would seem, just not Nintendo’s.