Nintendo has instituted strict new guidelines that will significantly limit the scope and scale of fan-run tournaments for its games. The surprise move seems likely to generate backlash among competitive gaming communities.
Announced via Nintendo of Japan and Europe earlier this week, the “Community Tournament Guidelines” outline extensive restrictions on tournaments held without an official license from Nintendo. With these new regulations taking effect November 15, organizers of informal competitive events for games like Super Smash Bros. now face hard caps on participation, revenue sources, and much more.
Tournament Size and Prize Restrictions
For in-person tournaments, the daily limit on entrants is now just 200 participants. Online events can register slightly more at 300 daily participants before breaching the rules. Both spectators and competitors face price ceilings, with tickets capped at £18/€20 and entry fees maxing out at £14/€15 per person.
Total prize money is firmly restricted too. Pools can’t exceed £4,500/€5,000 and must derive entirely from entry fees rather than spectator tickets. These stringent limits on scale and prizes could make it hard for fan events to attract top players.
No Game Names or Food Allowed
Nintendo’s guidelines also prohibit tournaments from using official game names in their own titles. So an event couldn’t be branded as a “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Tournament,” for example. However, game names are permitted in descriptions for the competitions.
In a surprise limitation, the sale of food and drinks is banned outright at tournament venues. This restricts revenue streams and may complicate logistics for multi-day competitions.
School Events Only For Students
For tournaments organized by schools, Nintendo now mandates they be closed to the general public. Only students from the hosting educational institutions can participate. Events are further restricted to competitions between no more than two schools.
Nintendo’s Tumultuous History With Fan Tournaments
The newly announced guidelines represent an extension of Nintendo’s tight control over fan-run gaming events. Last year, the company blocked finals for the popular Smash World Tour series from occurring just a day before the tournament was scheduled to start.
Nintendo claimed safety issues as the reason for cancellation at the time, but has since admitted no license would be granted for the Smash World Tour’s 2022 or 2023 seasons. Long-running fighting game event Genesis also needed last-minute licensing from Nintendo to proceed earlier this year.
Community Backlash Expected
Many competitive gamers believe Nintendo historically showed indifference towards fan tournaments, only to become adversarial recently. The perception is that the company now sees events like the Smash World Tour as rivals encroaching on its turf.
By instituting hard caps that limit tournaments to a fraction of the size of current majors, Nintendo risks significant backlash from grassroots communities built around games like Smash Bros. The amateur competitive scene drives ongoing interest and engagement with many of its titles.
Some tournament organizers may proceed without licensing and test Nintendo’s willingness to legally enforce the new restrictions. But most will likely comply, creating a major contraction in the third-party competitive ecosystem.
What Nintendo Stands to Gain
In the short term, Nintendo may benefit from organizers having no choice but to pursue official branding and licenses if they want to operate large-scale tournaments. This could increase revenues.
But the community response is sure to be negative overall, with accusations of attempting to stamp out grassroots gaming scenes. Long term, Nintendo risks severing its connection to dedicated competitive players that help keep franchises relevant.
Only time will tell whether strict control over fan tournaments proves to be a profitable strategic move for Nintendo. For now, however, the competitive community is sure to be up in arms over limits that could decimate the unofficial tournament scene.