In a statement to Polygon, Nintendo explained that the tournament “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.”
What did you think?
Have you played Splatoon 2?
The wider Smash Bros. community took issue with the decision, particularly as Big House had been forced to cancel its in-person events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, making the online solution the only safe way to play out the event. Since that decision, the #freemelee hashtag has been widely used on Twitter and other social media services to protest Nintendo’s decision.
Cut to this weekend, and the Splatoon 2
North America Open. The official event was due to get a livestream, but the broadcast was cancelled the day before the show was due to go out. On the tournament’s official Discord server, an admin explained that the decision was due to “unexpected executional challenges”.
However, rumours quickly spread regarding the fact that multiple teams competing in the tournament had been entered with names that directly referenced #freemelee, and that this may have resulted in Nintendo pulling the broadcast. Nintendo has not yet released a public statement – IGN’s contacted the company for comment.
Kind of funny that they’ll sever their own “support” that they love to parade around as something so fantastic, just because the Splatoon community wanted to stand in solidarity with the other scenes that Nintendo outright harms.#freemelee #savesmash pic.twitter.com/3F77b19pDE
— Slimy (@SlimyQuagsire) December 5, 2020
The rumours quickly gained traction, with both #freemelee and #freesplatoon beginning to trend on Twitter, alongside a tidal wave of memes targeting Nintendo’s perceived anti-consumer practices.
That negative sentiment has brought to light another of Nintendo’s recent cease-and-desists. Custom controller designer CptnAlex had created Joy-Con shells themed to commemorate popular YouTuber Etika, who died by suicide last year (with proceeds going to the JED Foundation, a suicide prevention charity). However, the designer was served a cease-and-desist in September, seemingly due to his use of the trademarked term “JoyCon” as part of the design. The story has now been picked up across Reddit and Twitter, causing further criticisms of Nintendo’s approach to fan creations and events.
In another unfortunate twist for Nintendo, a fan-run Splatoon 2 tournament, The Squid House was subsequently organised, and took donations towards its prize pool. As organisers EndGameTV point out, those donations led to a $25,000 pool, with another $3,000 given to charity – making it reportedly the largest ever prize given for a Splatoon tournament, official or unofficial.
So that community funded Splatoon tourney is now the highest prize pool in the history of the game
Massive L for Nintendo
Massive W for the Splatoon community
— IntroFestive (@IntroSpecktive) December 6, 2020
This weekend marks the latest in a very long line of fraught interactions between Nintendo and fan communities built around its games and products. Smash Bros. has been a particularly long-standing issue, with tournaments, mod use, and Nintendo’s stand-offish nature towards its own fighting game community all provoking criticism.